THIS WEEK'S SINGLES
50 CENT FEATURING EMINEM & ADAM LEVINE
My Life (Interscope)
After New Day and First Date failed to do any business, the latest from Fitty's still-yet-to-be-released Street King Immortal looks to be the one. Banging beats and glowering guitars abound as Eminem shouts on about "sipping on revenge juice" and Adam Levine solidifies a pop-chart placement with a total sing-along chorus. Third time's a charm. 'Ö'Ö'Ö1/2
Figure 8 (Polydor)
North Americans' exposure to Ms. Goulding seems mostly limited to her radio smash Lights. While not nearly as immediate as that song, this latest effort from her Halcyon LP demands your attention with its wonderfully woeful lyrics and shiver-inducing blend of trip-hop and dubstep. 'Ö'Ö'Ö'Ö
Stella's Way (Ellum Audio)
Following up the excellent Regrets We Have No Use For, the up 'n' coming Brighton house producer's new one sports some hypnotic, swirling synths, understated vocals, and a rumbling bass effect that comes on like a freight train. 'Ö'Ö'Ö'Ö
-- reviewed by
-- POP & ROCK
Celebration Day (Atlantic)
THIS two-CD live set captures reformed classic rock legends Led Zeppelin during their headline gig for the 2007 Ahmet Ertegun Tribute Concert at London, England's O2 Arena. Filling in on the drum kit is son-of-a-gun Jason Bonham, and while there is any number of opinions on classic-rock band reformations, this hefty set falls handily into the win category, sort of. Assuming these cats won't gig again (at least according to born-again bluegrasser Bob Plant) the album represents a closure of sorts, and the set of songs is admirable in its breadth. They cover all the necessary bases with fan faves Kashmir, Black Dog, Dazed and Confused and a little number you may be familiar with called Stairway to Heaven. Robert Plant can no longer reach the screech from the days of old, but does a bang-up job representing himself, nevertheless. Guitarist Jimmy Page cranks out those old licks with guts and power. Volume helps, but when he is mashing thick notes together and missing more than he is hitting it sometimes sounds like a crunchy mess. File under coda. ***
DOWNLOAD THIS: Misty Mountain Hop
-- Jeff Monk
Girl On Fire (RCA)
Girl on Fire? Grabby title, and the song of the same name hangs its hat on a big, belted-out hook that demands attention.
It's a misleading sobriquet, though, for Alicia Keys' fifth album, a bounce-back from the mid-career rut of 2007's As I Am and 2009's The Element Of Freedom. Maybe marriage and motherhood have something to do with it -- her son Egypt shows up acting cutesy at the end of When It's All Over -- but Girl On Fire is marked more by confidently composed maturity than an effort to set the night ablaze.
Sure, there are some silly, de rigueur concessions to the marketplace, such as the Nicki Minaj rap appended to the title track, or the knotty reggae rhythm that Keys awkwardly navigates at the start of the clumsily titled Limitedless. But Keys mostly plays to her strengths here. She starts off with the piano-tinkling De Novo Adagio intro, teams up effectively with both Maxwell and blues guitarist Gary Clark Jr. on Fire We Make, digs into a gospel groove on Not Even the King, and, most effectively, delivers a just-right raspy soul vocal on Tears Always Win, a huge hit-to-be co-written with Bruno Mars. ***1/2
-- Dan DeLuca, The Philadelphia Inquirer
Lee Harvey Osmond
The Folk Sinner (Latent)
Call it "acid" folk, weird Canadiana, or just simply interesting and wide-ranging creativity, Lee Harvey Osmond's second album The Folk Sinner raises the bar estimably on this kind of music. Ostensibly a vehicle for former Junkhouse and current Blackie and the Rodeo Kings dude Tom Wilson, LHO creates a veritable mélange of spooky and fascinating sounds on these 10 radiant tracks. Forget Wilson the shaggy and wild and welcome Osmond the muted crooner. There are times here (especially on the moody Devil's Load and the low-slung rumble of Break Your Body) where Wilson sings with such a credible falsetto you think he's channeling some lost-to-the-ages spirit of a streetcorner doo-wopper. Mental pictures are painted throughout this album, and the music is a craftily rendered mix of near blues, swampy soul and cinematic revelations. This warm magic is created by a well-seasoned crew of Canuck stars like Margo and Michael Timmins, Hawksley Workman, Oh Susanna and Wilson's Blackie mate Colin Linden. A world-class effort that retains a humble edge worthy of respect. *****
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-- Jeff Monk
Neil Cowley Trio
The Face of Mount Molehill (Naim Jazz)
THIS trio led by pianist Neil Cowley is Britain's entry into the "but is it jazz?" category with the U.S.'s The Bad Plus and Sweden's E.S.T.
Cowley's fourth album adds strings and Brian Eno ambient guitarist Leo Abrahams to the mix of bassist Rex Horan and drummer Evan Jenkins without losing the pianist's trademark dynamic chordal approach; a confident, almost strident playing that defines the band's sound. Rooster Was a Witness is a good example of this.
The disc's dozen relatively short tracks (11 composed by Cowley, the 12th by all three) are generally hard-driving, but the opener, Lament, is surprisingly tender.
Cowley is known for his catchy hooks (and playing on Adele's 19 and 21 albums) and this tight band is worth a listen. ****
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-- Chris Smith