Jonathan Landrum Jr., Associated Press
Goodie Mob, "Age Against the Machine" (Alliance Entertainment)
Goodie Mob reunited for their new album, "Age Against the Machine," but the foursome's offering seems more like the CeeLo Green show.
It is Goodie Mob's first album in 14 years as a complete group (Big Gipp, Khujo and T-Mo released the album, "One Monkey Don't Stop No Show" - a diss to Green - in 2004).
But Green, a six-time Grammy winner, clearly stands out with ease alongside his longtime group mates for much of the 17-track album. While the others have some shining moments, Green's talents shine brighter on this project.
His soulful vocals and lyrics are strong and digestible on songs such as "Nexperience" and "Ghost of Gloria Goodchild." He sings about his first interracial relationship on "Amy," and talks about how his burgeoning star appeal as a solo artist has given him some advantages in life on "Power."
Goodie Mob's messages are thought-provoking and insightful throughout their fifth album. They touch on topics from bullying (the Janelle Monae-assisted "Special Education") to artistry in music ("State of the Art (Radio Killa")) to race ("Kolors"). Production wise, there are some missteps: Some of Goodie Mob's sonically-enriched tracks lack their signature Southern sound, including "I'm Set" and "Come As You Are."
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Review: Franz Ferdinand make loud comeback
Reetu Rupal, Associated Press
Franz Ferdinand, "Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right Action," (Domino)
It's been four years since Franz Ferdinand's last album "Tonight: Franz Ferdinand," and in that time the band nearly managed to split up, but thankfully they did not.
Instead they've recharged their batteries and made a fourth album, "Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right Action." It's a 10-track experience of clever songwriting, catchy riffs and pure indie punk passion. "Love Illumination" is a standout track with its 1980s flare and unforgettable synth keyboard. "Bullet" shines with crashing guitars and an immense presence that jumps right out at you.
There's no massive shift in Franz Ferdinand's direction that most bands suffer in their "hiatus" period, however, the influence of guest producers is evident. Todd Terje, Roxanne Clifford (Veronica Falls) and Bjorn Yttling (Peter Bjorn and John) all lend a hand, as well as Hot Chip's Alexis Taylor and Joe Goddard, whose contribution to "Right Action" is remarkable, with its opening beat and mesmerizing flow. The pace slows down on the electronic ballad "The Universe Expanded," where Alex Kapranos' soft vocals shine. "Brief Encounters" is another signature Franz offering with vintage keys and heavy percussion.
The closing track, "Goodbye Lovers and Friends," could be mistaken for a final bow out with lyrics like: "When they lie and say this is not the end, you can laugh and say we're still together, but this really is the end." Thankfully it's not - we hope.
Follow Reetu Rupal on Twitter at: http://twitter.com/R2Today
Review: Another portrait of Bob Dylan
David Bauder, Associated Press
Bob Dylan, "Another Self Portrait (1969-1971): The Bootleg Series Vol. 10" (Columbia)
In the latest entry of his ongoing vault-diving releases, Bob Dylan revisits one of his least-heralded albums. "Self Portrait," released in 1970, is remembered less today for its music than the classic first line of a Rolling Stone magazine review by Greil Marcus that greeted it: "What is this (expletive)?"
It was hard not to see why. The cultural icon baffled his fans with a badly-produced collection of minor compositions, some live cuts, covers of traditional folk and blues songs and even contemporary songs like "The Boxer." Marcus, who writes the liner notes for this four-disc box set, wisely doesn't step back from that assessment. He shouldn't. Time doesn't improve the work.
It seems amazing four decades later that an artist of Dylan's caliber would take such a hands-off attitude toward his art, packing up his basic tracks and sending them to a Nashville producer who adds some truly cringe-worthy arrangements. Maybe that was precisely the point.
Two of the discs in this box are primarily Dylan's original recordings with several outtakes, most with minimal arrangements. They're almost uniformly better than what was on the original "Self Portrait." There are a handful of interesting curios: a version of "If Not for You" with a haunting violin accompaniment, an unreleased studio session with George Harrison and a full band version of "I Threw It All Away."
Disc three is a recording of the 1969 concert at the Isle of Wight festival, which interrupted a period of seclusion for Dylan. Hard to go wrong with a recording of Dylan performing with The Band, but the performance has a tentative, almost rushed feel to it.
Although the "Self Portrait" sessions seemed strange at the time, Dylan's subsequent work gives it more context. Still performing regularly at 72, Dylan's concerts keep his formidable catalogue alive along with an American blues, rock and folk tradition that predates even him. These 1970 recordings make clear that even back then, Dylan was constantly inspired by it.
Marcus has another theory to explain "Self Portrait," suggesting it was Dylan's attempt to step away from people who worshipped him as a musical genius, a voice of his generation. "He was trying to quit, but no one would accept his resignation," he wrote.
Fine. So why would anyone want to buy a four-disc resignation statement? Through the years, Dylan's bootleg series has provided some real thrills, and interesting new perspectives on his work. This one doesn't. Only completists will find something interesting.
Review: Country stars pay tribute to pioneering band
Michael McCall, Associated Press
Various Artists, "Alabama & Friends" (10 Spot)
Nowadays, long hair and loud guitars are common in country music. That wasn't always the case. The new album "Alabama & Friends" pays tribute to a pioneering band that proved decades ago how popular merging country and Southern rock could be.
Forty years after country rockers Alabama formed, the band's sound no longer carries the shock of the new. But a gang of contemporary country stars, all of whom incorporate rock into their music, celebrate another country music trait: concise, catchy songs survive the ages.
Several 21st-century stars put their stamp on Alabama favorites. Jason Aldean adds arena-guitar crunch to "Tennessee River," Luke Bryan finds joyous fun in "Love in the First Degree" and Florida Georgia Line brings extra bounce to "I'm in a Hurry (and Don't Know Why)."
Even better is the intimacy Kenny Chesney instills into "Lady Down on Love" and the Bob Seger-like soul Toby Keith pumps into the underrated "She and I." Best of all, Jamey Johnson's performance of "My Home's in Alabama" fits him like an old denim jacket - the rare tribute that improves on the original.
After a 10-year break from recording, Alabama reunited to cut two new songs, which was at least one too many, as neither carries the nostalgic weight of their more famous songs. Still, there is plenty here to make these old Southern rock pioneers proud.
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