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ALABAMA SHAKES / BOYS & GIRLS (ATO/ROUGH TRADE)

THE buzz on this soul-rock group has been building to a deafening roar louder than any bee hives in a Winnipeg backyard ever could thanks to a four-song EP in September and a killer live show that has been selling out rooms across the United States. With so much expected from the Alabama Shakes debut, there were some doubts the album could ever live up to the hype.

Well, it does. Boys & Girls is a southern-friend gumbo of garage-soul, R&B, gospel and bluesy swamp rock fronted by main songwriter/howler Brittany Howard who sounds like the second coming of Janis Joplin. The bespectacled 23-year-old oozes passion and emotion, whether she's screaming at the top of her lungs or wallowing in despair.

The members of the Athens, Ala., quartet are all in their early 20s, but mine the 1960s and '70s to achieve their ragged, familiar sound. I Found You could be a lost Stax Records single; the fun Hang Loose rides a rubbery guitar line and piano to create its celebratory vibe; You Ain't Alone is a powerful gospel number; and Howard channels the aching soul of Amy Winehouse on Rise to the Sun.

No matter how you shake it, Boys & Girls won't do anything to dispel this band's buzz. 'Ö'Ö'Ö'Ö

-- Rob Williams

R. JOHN

Locked down (Nonesuch)

THE good doctor's latest may

have been recorded in Nashville

with the help of Black

Keys' singer and guitarist Dan

Auerbach, but the sound of a

Louisiana swamp is never far

away on one of the best in Mac

Rebennack's long night-trippin'

career.

The title track sets the tone

right away with swamp sounds

spun into ragged, almost garageband

instrumentals that capture

the funk (or fonk, as Dr. John

says) and soul of New Orleans,

and updates the voodoo persona

of Dr. John the Night Tripper for

a new generation.

There are messages in the

lyrics of the 10 songs here, but

the lo-fi production and Dr.

John's signature growl and

keyboard playing, surrounded

by crack musicians, are what

calls out to listeners. Auerbach's

guitar is a standout, and check

out the prodding baritone sax on

Revolution.

When Dr. John sings, "Ain't

never was, never gonna be/another

big shot like me," it's hard

to argue. 'Ö'Ö'Ö'Ö

-- Chris Smith

MINISTRY

Relapse (13th Planet Records)

IT took a near death experience to bring Ministry back to life. In 2008 Al Jourgensen announced the end of his longtime industrial metal band, but he seems to have had a change of heart following a ruptured ulcer in 2010 and here we have a new Ministry album that somehow finds Jourgensen sounding even angrier than ever.

The album's 10 tracks are a non-stop, full-throttled trip with almost every track a relentless speed metal assault with the drums -- both real and electronic -- set to warp speed and the riffs coming just as fast, interrupted only by Mike Scaccia's zillion-note-per-minute solos. Lyrically Jourgensen rails against record labels and mangers, drugs, corrupt governments and 99 per centers. He doesn't dabble in poetic metaphors, so the song Git Up Get Out 'N Vote is exactly what you think it's about. 'Ö'Ö'Ö1/2

-- RW

GOOD, PINSENT, KEELOR

Down And Out In Upalong (Warner)

IT doesn't get any more Canuck than this. Imagine if you will the combination of dusty spoken word poetry vocals of Canadian-to-the-bone actor Gordon Pinsent with the dark, folk-rock heart and voice of Blue Rodeo's Greg Keelor and a dollop of the sparkling guitar figures of Canada's Twangmeister General Dallas Good (the Sadies). Down And Out In Upalong is just that, and as odd as its contrasting elements sound, the collaboration works.

Pinsent's words are deftly written and moody, evoking images of turbulent Eastern Canadian waters and its shadowy allure. The particularly poignant On the Seagrass weaves a tale of watery graves and hearts floating away in sadness and lost love. Keelor and Good contribute songs that fit the overall foggy mood perfectly, adding a sturdy hardwood floor for Pinsent's poetry to dance upon.

The album definitely has the overall feeling of a wake for a dead East Coast fisher, and may be best avoided if you have depression issues, but if you have some Screech available and need to get in the mood this is undeniably your soundtrack. 'Ö'Ö'Ö

-- Jeff Monk

BONNIE RAITT

Slipstream (Redwing)

SEVEN years is way too long between visits, but at least Bonnie Raitt doesn't just drop in and run. On her first disc since 2005, she settles in for a while -- the album lasts just under an hour -- and reminds us why we missed her.

There are mainstream pop soothers, a stick-to-your-ribs helping of greasy blues and some solid rockers that sound like prime Stones and Faces. Hammond B3 action and Raitt's stinging slide are all over the place, supported by the no-nonsense snap of the rhythm section (bassist James Hutch Hutchinson and one-time Beach Boy Ricky Fataar on drums).

Four tracks produced by Joe Henry, featuring Bill Frisell on guitar and including two relatively recent Bob Dylan songs, are among the highlights. 'Ö'Ö'Ö'Ö

-- Bernard Perusse, Postmedia News

IRON MAIDEN

En Vivo! (EMI)

ANOTHER Iron Maiden tour, another Iron Maiden live album. Any Maiden fan worth his or her faded Eddie T-shirt knew to expect this live offering from the British metal legends since that's been their routine over the last decade: release studio album, tour, release live album and repeat (sometimes skipping the studio album in the equation).

The band's 10th live album is a 17-track double-disc set from the Final Frontier tour recorded in front of a typically wild crowd in Santiago, Chile, that goes equally crazy for new songs like El Dorado and When the Wild Wind Blows as they do for classics like The Trooper and Running Free. When frontman Bruce Dickinson orders the audience to, "Scream for me Santiago!" they do, of course, but fans should wait to scream along at home with the DVD version which includes the show and tour documentary. 'Ö'Ö'Ö

-- RW

COUNTRY AND ROOTS

JUSTIN TOWNES EARLE

Nothing's Gonna Change the Way You Feel About Me Now (Bloodshot)

AMERICANA Music Award winner Justin Townes Earle has issues: daddy issues (Am I That Lonely Tonight?), mommy issues (Movin' On) and addiction issues (Won't Be the Last Time), to name a few.

Earle recorded his latest, and most personal, album live at Echo Mountain Studios in Asheville, N.C. It's raw and real. You can hear the fingers on the (heart) strings. It feels like you're in the studio with the musicians and their instruments as guitars, upright bass, organ, piano, fiddle, steel guitar, harmonica, drums and especially the trumpet and saxophone come together to inject Earle's latest introspective folk-roots outing with an extremely healthy dose of vitamin Memphis resulting in a strong R&B & soul flavour.

Earle may have issues but that just might be what fuels his muse, assisting the son of Steve in his artistic growth all the while creating timeless music time and time again. 'Ö'Ö'Ö'Ö

-- Bruce Leperre

JAZZ

PETER APPLEYARD AND THE JAZZ GIANTS

The Lost 1974 Sessions (Linus)

CANADIAN vibraphonist Peter Appleyard took advantage of a rare opportunity to record some of jazz's best players, most of them then members of Benny Goodman's band -- pianist Hank Jones, saxophonist Zoot Sims, bassist Slam Stewart, cornetist Buddy Hackett, drummer Mel Lewis and trombonist Urbie Green -- after a concert in Toronto in 1974, and these are the results.

They swing over nine tunes, whose highlights include Sims and Appleyard on Tangerine; Hank Jones stealing the spotlight on Dancing on the Ceiling; Slam Stewart's signature scatting; and an Ellington medley that showcases the band's collective talent.

A 25-minute track of false starts, partial takes and studio chatter has some interesting moments, but will become tiresome after a couple of listens. 'Ö'Ö'Ö 1/2

-- Chris Smith

CLASSICAL

LUCIANO PAVAROTTI

A film by Esther Schapira (EuroArts DVD)

WITH an iconic voice, iconic wealth, diet, physical size, ebullience and star status, the late tenor Luciano Pavarotti is a one-off from Modena who not only made records but set them. You get a generally thorough overview of Pavarotti the man in this fast-moving documentary with enough clips of his singing to illustrate what the acclaim was about, though one wishes the bonus material contained complete scenes from operas rather than the generic comments from colleagues and managers.

We know the voice of course, and that animato face, but the hour-long film allows you to see the blemishes, as described by his first wife, Adua, who threw him out after 48 years together due to affairs, absentee parenting and general carrying on once his fame began to spread.

Soprano Mirella Freni grew up with Pavarotti and affectionately describes his formative years. Most rewarding are a few home movies, especially featuring baker-singer-father Fernando Pavarotti who would talk about how far Luciano might go if he had his father's voice! Hardly a definitive bio-pic, but worthwhile. 'Ö'Ö'Ö 1/2

-- James Manishen

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 14, 2012 G4

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