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Listening Room: The Eagles, Britney Spears and more...
The Eagles, “Long Road Out of Eden” (Eaglesband.com) ***
About a third of the way into this two-disc, 20-song set, Don Henley sings about “waiting in the weeds, waiting for my time to come around again” — an apt reflection of the 28 years between the Eagles’ last album, “The Long Run,” and “Long Road Out of Eden.” The gap certainly puts a bit of pressure on the band, whose 1976 greatest hits album alternates with Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” for status as the best-seller of all-time. But the Eagles rise to the challenge here, and they do so by sounding just like, well ... the Eagles. The years melt away as the album rolls forth with the harmony-laden “No More Walks in the Wood” and the familiar sounding country rock of “How Long,” a J.D. Souther song from the early ’70s that could have just as easily been the follow-up to “Take It Easy” as the first single from this set. The rest is more vintage Eagles — only more of it — cutting the usual wide stylistic swath from rockers (“Fast Company,” Joe Walsh’s Steely Dan-flavored “Last Good Time in Town”), country-flavored mid-tempos (“Do Something,” “You Are Not Alone”), heart-rending ballads (“What Do I Do With My Heart,” “I Love to Watch a Woman Dance”), funk (“Fast Company,” “Frail Grasp on the Big Picture”), brow-furrowing introspection (“Waiting in the Weeds,” “You Are Not Alone”) and the pointed sociopolitical commentaries of “Business As Usual” and the epic 10-minute title track. The Glenn Frey-Don Henley songwriting axis is good for a half-dozen contributions while Walsh and bassist Timothy B. Schmit reprise their respective roles in the mix — all of it sounding both familiar and fresh, a testimony to the durability of the Eagles’ footprint on the pop landscape.
Britney Spears, “Blackout” (Jive) **
Those expecting tearful self-realization and heartfelt mea culpas — or explicit scenes from the train wreck that has become Britney Spears — will be sorely disappointed by the embattled Spears’ first set of new material in four years. On these dozen songs, she defiantly basks in her role as “miss bad media karma” and “Mrs. oh-my-God that Britney shameless,” inviting us to hit her baby one more time as she bumps and grinds through these libidonous, synthesizer-heavy club tracks. If Madonna is still her career role model, this is Britney’s take on “Ray of Light” — but without the clever, cutting-edge beats or sonics. Though not a total washout thanks to the layered vocal arrangement of “Heaven on Earth” and a bit of soulful singing on “Why Should I Be Sad,” there’s nothing here to take our focus off Spears’ child custody battle and the other sordid details of her deteriorating personal life.
NEW AND NOTEWORTHY
Nicole Atkins, “Neptune City” (Columbia) — The first release from the New Jersey singer-songwriter pegged as one of Rolling Stone’s Top 10 Artists to Watch for 2007.
Avenged Sevenfold, “Avenged Sevenfold” (Warner Bros.) — The California hard rockers’ fourth studio album is off to a hot start with the first single, “Almost Easy.”
Baby Bash, “Cyclone” (Arista) — The Latino rapper’s latest joint is populated with guests such as T-Pain, Lil Jon, Keith Sweat, Paula DeAnda, Frankie J and others.
Backstreet Boys, “Unbreakable” (Jive) — The boysto-men group re-emerges for the first time as a quartet following Kevin Richardson’s departure.
Ian Ball, “Who Goes There” (Dispensary) — The first solo album from the Gomez member.
Blue Rodeo, “Small Miracles” (TeleSoul) — The Canadian group returns with another set of its usual blend of roots and pop styles.
Blues Traveler, “Cover Yourself ” (C3) — The veteran jammers re-cut some of their early material, with G. Love joining on the new “Just For Me.”
Enter Shikari, “Talk to the Skies” (Tiny Evil) — The U.S. debut from the lauded U.K. rock band seeking to make a name beyond its homeland.
Levon Helm, “Dirt Farmer” (Vanguard) — The former singerdrummer from The Band sings traditionals and covers on his first solo studio album in 25 years.
Insane Clown Posse, “Jugganauts: The Best of Insane Clown Posse” (Interscope) — A compendium from the Detroit rap duo’s short but eventful major label tenure.
Otep, “Ascension” (Koch) — The Los Angeles singer and her band brought in Mudvayne/Hellyeah guitarist Greg Tribbett to co-write three songs for this set.
The Pack, “Based Boys” (Jive) — The Bay Area teen rap troupe is still riding the success of last year’s hit “Vans” as it brings out its longawaited debut album.
Pucifer, “V is for Vagina (Dig)” (Pucifer Entertainment) — The debut release from Tool frontman Maynard James Keenan’s latest side project.
Saves the Day, “Under the Boards” (Vagrant) — The New Jersey punkers celebrate their 10th anniversary with the group’s sixth full-length album.
Soundtrack, “I’m Not There” (Columbia) — The two-disc companion album from Todd Haynes’ upcoming Bob Dylan film includes substantial covers by Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder, Jack Johnson, Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy, Willie Nelson and others, plus one contribution from Dylan himself.
Josh Turner, “Everything is Fine” (MCA Nashville) — The country singer lights a “Firecracker” with his third album, the follow-up to 2006’s double-platinum “Your Man.”
BeBe Winans, “Cherch” (Koch) — The Detroit-born gospel star spreads the good word on a new solo album, even as he prepares for a reunion with sister/musical partner CeCe in 2008.
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