THIS WEEK'S SINGLES
JUSTIN TIMBERLAKE FEATURING JAY-Z
Suit & Tie (RCA)
When you've been absent from the musical landscape as long as Justin Timberlake has, fans demand a big splashy comeback. This isn't exactly it. That's not to say Suit & Tie is unlistenable, it's just underwhelming. Rather than FutureSex, it's RetroSoul - a light, breezy throwback to the more discerning days of R&B. And despite the superfluous intro and a rare throwaway verse from Jay-Z, it succeeds in being pleasant enough. Let's hope, however, the rest of his upcoming 20/20 Experience album is much stronger. 'Ö'Ö'Ö
You've got to go all the way back to 2004 for the last time the women of Destiny's Child released anything together. And similarly to Justin Timberlake, the expectations for their comeback single were incredibly high. Also similarly, this is a bit of a letdown. Taken from their forthcoming Love Songs compilation, the sleepy vibe and very '90s, PM Dawn-ish shuffle seem more Solange than Beyonce. Fair but forgettable. 'Ö'Ö1/2
LIL' WAYNE FEATURING DRAKE & FUTURE
Love Me (Cash Money)
It wasn't that long ago that Lil' Wayne was being praised as one of the most innovative rappers of the last decade. The honeymoon was over quickly though, with 2011's disappointing Tha Carter IV. The downward slope continues with this plodding, formulaic ode to all the women that allegedly love him. Structurally, it resembles Juicy J's overrated Bandz a Make Her Dance, but completely lacks the memorable novelty catchphrase. 'Ö'Ö
-- Steve Adams
-- POP & ROCK
Django Unchained Soundtrack (Universal Music Canada)
IF you have seen director Quentin Tarantino's latest epic Django Unchained, you know that his film hasn't strayed far from the customary conflagration of intermingled storylines and rowdy action. This soundtrack is a treat on it's own, whether you actually see the film or not. As usual Tarantino stirs together a diverse stew of everything from classic spaghetti-western orchestra bravado to twangy Blaxploitation-isms, a 1972 Jim Croce track and a rap co-written by Django himself, Jamie Foxx. If this sounds confusing, there are also snippets of dialogue from the film dropped in just to get your appetite stimulated for seeing the movie. It's a crazy quilt and it works. Academy Award-winning composer Luis Bacalov is employed here to great effect, as well. Bacalov created the original Django soundtrack music in 1985 and Tarantino's love of all things old school is met head on by Bacalov's engaging work with orchestra here. It's a wild, stylistically defiant ride, but anyone who has loved Tarantino film soundtracks before will find more than enough unchained goodness here. 'Ö'Ö'Ö'Ö1/2
DOWNLOAD THIS: Lo Chiamavano King (His Name Is King)
-- Jeff Monk
The Dave Young/Terry Promane Octet
Octet Volume One (Modica Music)
This is an arrangers' band, as well as being filled by some of best jazz musicians in the country.
Bassist Dave Young, a former Winnipegger, and trombonist Terry Promane, both excellent musicians, front the band over 10 tunes -- but it is their arranging skills that give the project its verve.
Many of the tunes are classics -- Manteca, Night in Tunisia, Stompin' at the Savoy -- but certainly not chestnuts. The Toronto musicians, who include drummer Terry Clarke, trumpeter Kevin Turcotte and tenor saxophonist Mike Murley, play with a skill and familiarity that can't help but make the material soar.
Young really shines on the Charles Mingus piece Better Get Hit In Your Soul, and Promane steps out on Stompin'. It's a crack band all around. ***1/2
DOWNLOAD THIS: Better Get Hit In Your Soul
-- Chris Smith
Feeling Mortal (KK Records)
HE'S 76, so, sure, Kris Kristofferson is feeling mortal. Over the last several years, however, that feeling has re-sharpened his muse, resulting in his best work since the '60s and '70s, when he introduced a new poetic lyricism to country music. Feeling Mortal is no exception -- it's the first great album of 2013.
As on 2006's This Old Road and 2009's Closer to the Bone, producer Don Was puts Kristofferson in the best possible light. He highlights the aging troubadour's craggy grace with spare arrangements that fit his conversational delivery and heighten the intimacy of these songs about life, love and hard-earned wisdom. (Not all of them are new: Two have 1970s copyrights, which makes for a nice linking of his two golden ages.)
Kristofferson may be feeling mortal, but that's also freeing, and so the silver-haired devil doesn't sound as though he's ready to quit anytime soon, as he indicates on You Don't Tell Me What to Do. And while Ramblin' Jack pays tribute to his friend Ramblin' Jack Elliott, Kristofferson could also be singing about himself: "And I know he ain't afraid of where he's going/ And I'm sure he ain't ashamed of where he's been/ ... And he made his own mistakes, and love, and friends/ Ain't that what matters in the end." ****
DOWNLOAD THIS: You Don't Tell Me What to Do
-- Nick Cristiano
Set Me Free (MCA Nashville/Universal)
Gary Allan's always been at his best when the sun goes down, the loneliness sets in and the Jack Daniels starts to flow.
Tough Goodbye is a guitar-driven breakup song. Bones is an attitude-drenched electric rocker accented by harmonica and murderous intent. It Ain't the Whiskey has Allan attending the "Church of the Broken People" with "last night on (his) breath." Drop has an eclectic '30s jazz feel (reminiscent of Cab Calloway's Minnie the Moocher) that's provocative and sensual. Hungover Heart is bluesy and soulful. It's not all woe and worry, though. The disc's successful first single may sound forlorn but Every Storm (Runs Out of Rain) is also hopeful.
With his engaging, soulful, plaintive, raspy vocal, Allan successfully and convincingly channels pain into musical beauty once again.
DOWNLOAD THIS: Bones
-- Bruce Leperre