Concrete and Gold
(Roswell / RCA *** )
Can you hate the Foo Fighters? Not really. You might grow frustrated with Dave Grohl’s consistent displays of competence and rarer bursts of inspiration, or his ubiquity as the rock guy present at every awards show celebrity jam. But in general, the Foos continue to make decent if not particularly memorable records, and Grohl’s good-natured affability as the Nicest Guy in Rock carries the day. The worm began to turn, however, with Sonic Highways, the 2014 album recorded in eight cities across the U.S. that attempted to pay heartfelt tribute to the band’s various influences but ended up sounding painfully anonymous.
Concrete and Gold is a bounce back from that misstep. Working with Adele producer Greg Kurstin, it sharpens the Foo sound without being overly glossy. For a guy who is at heart a (great) drummer, Grohl has always had a surprising melodic gift. And befitting an album that features Paul McCartney as a guest — Macca plays drums on “Sunday Rain” — Concrete and Gold sounds downright Beatles-y at times. (Justin Timberlake and Boyz II Men’s Shawn Stockman are also among Grohl’s celeb-friend contributors.) Along with raging riff rockers like “La Dee Da,” the Foo’s ninth studio album includes its share of sweet and quiet moments. Though most of those, like the opening “T-Shirt” and delicate-at-first “Dirty Water” eventually rev themselves up into thunderous arena rock, as the band can’t resist attempting to be all things to all people. — Dan DeLuca
(Dutchess Music/BMG ***)
Why there hasn’t been more Fergie released since her solo debut (2006’s gazillion-selling The Dutchess) probably comes down to then-fresh family commitments. That’s a shame. Not because her marriage is (gossip alert) crumbling, but rather because her vocal talents are many. She can rough-ride hip-hop’s rhythms, manipulate the nuances of glossy R&B balladry, and belt out grand rockers with the power and emotion of Ann Wilson. She makes swagger sweet. Voices like that are few and far between, so Double Dutchess is a welcome return. A strange one too, considering this is Fergie’s first album devoid of Black Eyed Peas boss will.i.am’s compositional touch (he does share production credits on several tracks).
Sure, it shares similarities to Dutchess #1, and feels dated in spots. “L.A. Love (La La)” with rapper YG is a “London Bridge” retread complete with phony foreign accents. The acoustic strum of “Save It Till Morning” copies the shimmering blueprint of Ferg’s “Big Girls Don’t Cry (Personal)” to a T. The femme-braggadocious “M.I.L.F.$.” is too conscious in its hot pursuit of old school hip-hop, as is “You Already Know.” Yet, those tracks sound great, with the gooey, gauzy New Wave of “Hungry” (sampling Dead Can Dance, no less), the torrid, trop-house “Enchanté (Carine),” and the Jamaican-inspired “Love Is Blind” all giving Fergie the necessary wind (and unique musicality) for her breezy, buoyant voice. Brava. — A.D. Amorosi
“I’ve got so much left to give, but I’m runnin’ out of time,” Gregg Allman sings on “My Only True Friend,” the first song on Southern Blood. That overarching sense of mortality, met by Allman with a mix of urgency and acceptance, looms over this posthumous release, as magnificent and moving a valedictory as you can achieve.
“My Only True Friend” is the only number on the album written by Allman, the founding member of the Allman Brothers Band who died in May at 69. But the well-chosen outside material, drawn from the worlds of rock, blues, and soul that Allman so thoroughly mastered and synthesized, also seems to speak to his life. And, given his circumstances, Allman’s performances lend new resonance to the selections, from Tim Buckley’s “Once I Was” to Dylan’s “Going, Going, Gone,” Willie Dixon’s “I Love the Life I Live,” and Lowell George’s “Willin’.”
It’s fitting, too, that Southern Blood closes with Jackson Browne’s “Song for Adam,” with Browne guesting on vocals. Not only does the song fit thematically, but Browne was an early champion of Allman, who covered Browne’s “These Days” on his first solo album in 1973. So their pairing here in a way brings a monumental career full circle. — Nick Cristiano