This week's singles
ARIANA GRANDE FEAT. ZEDD
Break Free (Republic/Universal)
Following up her enormous hit single Problem was always going to be, well, just that. But with a little help from German producer Zedd, Ariana Grande defies the odds and delivers another surefire smash. This is a fantastically upbeat synth-pop workout that comes across like an updated, EDM version of Kelly Clarkson's Since U Been Gone. HHH1/2
GRIMES FEAT. BLOOD DIAMONDS
Go (Mythryl Records)
Teasing her upcoming fourth album, Canadian electronic artist Grimes starts off teetering on the verge of trip-hop before erupting into spectacularly spasmodic synths that push the envelope of sensory overload. Irresistible. HHHH
BUSTA RHYMES FEAT. EMINEM
Calm Down (The Conglomerate Entertainment/Cash Money/Republic)
With two hip-hop heavyweights trading rapid-fire rhymes overtop of a sample of House of Pain's iconic Jump Around, you would expect this to be absolutely mind-blowing. Unfortunately, it's fairly underwhelming. The sample doesn't live up to its source material and at more than six minutes long, it gets a little monotonous. HH1/2
-- Steve Adams
World Peace is None of Your Business (Capitol/Harvest)
WHILE Morrissey's latest solo effort, his 10th overall and first in five years, has the odd misstep, the former Smiths frontman's pipes are still in fine form and his tongue still razor-sharp.
Musically, there's certainly more of an international flair to some tracks on World Peace -- the classical guitar and accordion give the peppy Earth Is the Loneliest Planet a Latin feel, while The Bullfighter Dies goes one step further, adding horns to the mix.
Morrissey is at his best lyrically when stepping into someone else's shoes (the haunting Istanbul), or when writing abstractly about romantic exploits/failures (Kiss Me a Lot, Staircase at the University). But he's also hilarious: "Neal Cassady drops dead," opens the raucous song of the same name, "and Allen Ginsberg's tears shampoo his beard."
There are missteps -- on the seven-minute I'm Not a Man, Moz's band builds things slowly and beautifully, but Morrissey's anti-macho diatribe is cringe-worthy, lacking much-needed poetic nuance.
Overall, World Peace is a far stronger outing than 2009's Years of Refusal, but won't likely win him many new fans. HHHH
DOWNLOAD THIS: Istanbul
-- Ben MacPhee-Sigurdson
Crosby Stills Nash and Young
CSNY 74 (Rhino)
In the now time-honoured tradition of finding and releasing anything of note by long-withered classic rock artists, Rhino Records, in conjunction with band member Graham Nash, has built a splendid multi-disc/multi-format set of tracks culled from various dates of CSNY's 1974 stadium tour -- and it's a good one. The three-CD set reviewed is sonically magnificent; whatever modern-day tricks were used to scrub these tracks into submission worked beautifully.
The set wanders from full band tracks to an all-acoustic instrument set, and back to the final knockout punch of longer, more expansive CSNY burners. At their best, CSNY represented the hippie dream of Laurel Canyon, Calif., folk-rockers gone right, and while this tour put paid to the conglomerate's continued existence at this level, the music stands as a testament to how good these four were when they had it all together, man.
Highlights are numerous and Neil Young fans will be especially interested in a few previously unreleased Shakey tracks. HHHH
DOWNLOAD THIS: Revolution Blues
-- Jeff Monk
ShutUp&Jam! (Frontiers Records)
MOST people think of Motor City Madman Ted Nugent as a Yankee Tea Party nut job/hunter who used to be some kind of '70s rock star. And that's largely true, except that if you subtract the belligerent, libertarian side of the Nuge and listen to his latest album front to back, it will become apparent that he can still kick out those jams. It could be his best set since his '70s heyday -- and that's saying a lot. The up-tempo rockers here have all the classic Nugent elements: memorable guitar riffs, chugging beats and hooks that catch immediately. And like his classic albums from decades ago, there is a ballad (Never Stop Believing (Blues)) and even a crazed, guitar-fuelled instrumental (Throttledown) on offer, making this a pretty comprehensive Ted experience. The lyrical content of some tracks (I Love My BBQ, Trample The Weak Hurdle The Dead) may bother the lily-livered few but in the end, ShutUp&Jam! delivers on its promise. HHH1/2
DOWNLOAD THIS: Do-Rags and A .45
Keith Jarrett and Charlie Haden
Last Dance (ECM)
THIS has become a bittersweet release, as bassist Charlie Haden died last week at 76.
Last Dance was recorded in pianist Keith Jarrett's home studio in 2007 by the two jazz greats who have collaborated since the late 1960s. It is a followup to the 2010 Grammy-nominated Jasmine from the same session.
They share a love of standards -- despite having pushed the limits of jazz in their careers -- and the disc is ripe with the likes of My Old Flame, My Ship, It Might As Well Be Spring and Everything Happens to Me. They play wonderfully on these tunes and lightly swing through Monk's 'Round Midnight and speed things up even more on Bud Powell's burner, Dance of the Infidels.
The last three tracks -- Where Can I Go Without You, Every Time We Say Goodbye and Goodbye -- take on an added poignancy. Haden has been weakened since last 2010 and unable to perform because of post-polio syndrome. Unless Jarrett has some more music in the can, this is the last we'll hear of this duo.
What we do have here is two musical masters, two old friends, making wonderful music together. HHHHH
DOWNLOAD THIS: It Might As Well Be Spring
-- Chris Smith
Harrington/Loewen Duo (Ravello Records)
WINNIPEG-BASED saxophonist Allen Harrington and pianist Laura Loewen's debut recording Metropolis takes listeners into a fearless world of ear-grabbing musical textures and colours not often heard.
The two acclaimed musicians formed their duo in 2002 and have since toured extensively throughout North America, Europe, Asia and South America.
The contemporary CD release also showcases local composers who have added their creative voices to the ever-growing body of works written for this particular combination of instruments.
The title track, composed in 2007 by Gordon Fitzell, kicks off with Harrington's piercing sax, which plunges into a sea of key clicks, scraped strings, explosive outbursts and quieter squawks and moans performed in response to the score's conventional and graphic notation. Michael Matthews' The Skin of Night (2006) is likewise taut with tension, as the two musicians frantically play off each other. The duo's synergy makes all these seven tracks ring with conviction.
The oldest work, Diana McIntosh's Dance for Daedalus (1990) shows the composer's skilful hand in exploiting these instruments' sonic possibilities.
For those hungry for greater tonality, Srul Irving Glick's Sonata for Saxophone and Piano Adio (1992) offers three melodious movements rooted in Jewish folk, popular and liturgical music. HHHH
-- Holly Harris