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Listening Room: Foo Fighters. will.i.am and more...
Foo Fighters, “Echoes, Silence, Patience and Grace” (Roswell/RCA) ***
Foo Fighters have covered lots of musical ground on their five previous studio albums, but on “Echoes, Silence ...” the quartet — led by Nirvana drummer-turned-frontman Dave Grohl — cover lots of ground, period. This is a wide-ranging 12-song set whose stylistic restlessness is its chief virtue, pulling us along on a dynamic ride that ranges from jagged rockers such as “The Pretender” and “Erase/Replace” to galloping anthems like “Long Road to Ruin” and “Cheer Up Boys (Your Make-Up is Running),” the Buffalo Springfield-referencing Southern-fried fair of “Summer’s End” and the finger-pickin’ acoustic pluck of “Ballad of the Beaconsfield Miners” with guest Kaki King. Incorporating lessons from the acoustic half of 2005’s “In Your Honor” and the unpluggedstyle tour that followed, Grohl and company fill out the sound with pianos and strings and craft arrangements that build from acoustic reverie into frenetic rock on “Come Alive” and “But Honestly.” Grohl sings most of “Echoes, Silence ...” singing obliquely about loss and longing, the latter particularly evident on the delicately arranged albumcloser “Home,” while a grim kind of resignation peeks out on “Statues” and “Stranger Things Have Happened.” “Let it Die ” however vents what are interpreting as anger towards his late Nirvana mate Kurt Cobain (“Heart of gold but it lost its pride ...Why’d you have to go and let it die?”), while some political underpinnings could be read into “Erase/ Replace.” Grohl laments at one point that “no one will believe me when I let these ghosts inside my head,” but if those poltergeists are helping to prompt music of this caliber, he’d be well-advised to keep that door open.
will.i.am, “Songs About Girls” (Interscope) **½
Unlike so many of his well-credentialed producing peers, Black Eyed Peas’ leader will.i.am doesn’t pack his third solo release with guest appearances by his famous clients — save for Snoop Dogg’s clever raps on “The Donque Song.” But that doesn’t keep him from appropriating their sounds. Actually, “Songs About Girls,” which is inspired by a real-life long-term relationship, is a somewhat circular affair, with will.i.am working within the styles he helped craft for others, with strains of Justin Timberlake, John Legend, Common and more slinking through these 15 tracks. The club songs are the album’s real calling card, whether will is mining old school disco (“Get Your Money,” “Impatient”) or grooving to more current electronic sounds (“Heartbreaker,” “The Donque Song,” “Make it Funky”), and there are some intriguing mash-ups — the Jackson 5’s “ABC” guitar riff pops up in “Fantastic,” while Prince’s “When Doves Cry” meets OutKast on “One More Chance.” There’s simply a lot going on here, which makes “Songs About Girls” far more than another producer’s vanity project.
NEW AND NOTEWORTHY
Cheetah Girls, “TCG” (Disney) — The “official” debut by the Disney trio — i.e., their first recording not tied to a Disney Channel film.
Keyshia Cole, “Just Like You” (Geffen) — The R&B singer’s sophomore album features collaborations with Missy Elliott and Lil’ Kim, among others.
Steve Earle, “Washington Square” (New West) — The veteran and outspoken troubadour’s first New York-produced album offers introspection tinged with the expected political overtones.
Melissa Etheridge, “Awakening” (Island) — The singer-songwriter makes no bones that her latest set is informed by the various enlightenments she experienced during her recent (and successful) battle against cancer.
Herbie Hancock, “River: The Joni Letters” (Verve) — The jazz legend leads an all-star band and guest vocalists through a set of Joni Mitchell songs.
PJ Harvey, “White Chalk” (Island) — The British singer-songwriter puts down her guitar for a set of piano-written songs on her eighth studio album.
Chaka Khan, “Funk This” (Burgundy) — The former Rufus singer’s first studio album in more than 10 years covers songs by Prince, Jimi Hendrix and Joni Mitchell and features guest turns by Mary J. Blige and Michael McDonald.
Bettye LaVette, “Scene of the Crime” (Anti-) — The Detroit-bred singer continues to work on her overdue legacy on a second “comeback” album, collaborating with Drive By Truckers among others.
Ky-Mani Marley, “Radio” (Aao Music) — This son of Bob Marley has been tapped to open for the Van Halen reunion tour — a daunting task for even an established reggae artist.
Joni Mitchell, “Shine” (Hear Music) — Mitchell follows McCartney to Starbucks for her first new album in five years, which includes a remake of “Big Yellow Taxi.”
Queen Latifah, “Trav’lin’ Light” (Verve) — The actress and rapper delivers her second sung album, touching on the Great American Songbook, some pop and R&B hits, and reprising “Hairspray’s” “I Know Where I’ve Been.”
Rascal Flatts, “Still Feels Good” (Lyric Street) — With the kind of sales they’ve had, including more than 4 million for last year’s “Me and My Gang,” one would expect the trio feels more than just good, eh?
Jill Scott, “The Real Thing: Words and Sounds, Vol. 3 (Hidden Beach) — The R&B diva’s second album of the year gives listeners a reason to do everything BUT hate on her.
Brian Setzer Orchestra, “Wolfgang’s Big Night Out” (Surfdog) — Setzer and his big band take on classical favorites this time out, including well-known pieces by Beethoven, Tchaikovsky and, of course, Mozart.
Ricky Skaggs & the Whites, “Salt of the Earth” (Skaggs Family) — The country/bluegrass veteran makes his first entire album with his wife Sharon’s equally noteworthy Christian vocal group.
Bruce Springsteen, “Magic” (Columbia) — His first album with the E Street Band since 2002’s “The Rising” comes out in vinyl first to make the Grammy deadline, with the CD version due Oct. 2.
Marvin Winans, “Alone But Not Alone” (EMI Gospel) — The solo debut by the Perfecting Church pastor and former leader of the celebrated Winans.
Wayne Wonder, “Foreva” (VP) — The reggae dancehall star reminds us “Again” why he’s one of the leaders in his field.
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