El Cartel: The Big Boss
(El Cartel/Interscope **1/2)
nolead ends Now that the steely synths, squelchy horns, and tin-slapped Latin rhythms of reggaeton are more fully ingrained in people's consciousness (due in large part to the success of Daddy Yankee's ubiquitous "Gasolina") you'd guess that the genre's first platinum act would go gringo.
Rather than sell out, Ramón "Daddy Yankee" Ayala has pretty much sold in; bringing but a few guests into his (mostly) Spanish-language fold and moving through his usual groove - fast, flitting Puerto Rican hip- hop - like a queen bee through the flowers.
Though producers like Scott Storch, Akon and will.i.am mix it up and singers like Pussycat Nicole Scherzinger and Fergie stir it up throughout, the best tracks are the most indigenous: roughshod rapper/singer Yankee and his friends in the Latin-based Luny Tunes crew bring their unsubtle hip-hop husk to the funky likes of "Jefe" and "Fuera De Control." While not as immediately contagious as Barrio Fino or as dancily diverse as Los Homerun-es, this Boss is big and rich.
- A.D. Amorosi
nolead begins Perry Farrell's Satellite Party
nolead ends nolead begins Ultra Payloaded
nolead ends nolead begins (Columbia Records ***)
nolead ends The latest project from the Jane's Addiction front man presents an eclectic mix of rock, electronic, and orchestral elements. Satellite Party creates such an energized sound that it's entirely fitting the band made its first live appearance at the 2007 Winter X-Games.
Ultra Payloaded, a concept album reminiscent of Pink Floyd's The Wall, relates the dream of an unknown musician who ascends to heaven, where souls drink the "essence of sexual pleasure" and party with the Heavenly Host: a dude named Jim. After witnessing the melting polar ice caps of Earth from above, the sleeping artist vows to change the world.
An array of musical styles enriches the fantasy mood. On "Awesome," a full orchestra directed by Harry Gregson-Williams, the prolific film composer (Shrek), supports the acoustic guitar of Pete DiStefano. Fergie sings backup on the swanky rocker "Wish Upon a Dog Star." The songs, particularly "Celebrate" and "Hard Life Easy" are solid and catchy. There is an awful lot of background noise to process on these tracks, but somehow it all fits together. Ultra Payloaded launches Satellite Party into a trippy and terrific orbit.
- Jonathan Trumbull
nolead begins Richard Thompson
nolead ends nolead begins Sweet Warrior
nolead ends nolead begins (Shout! Factory ***)
nolead ends So many of Richard Thompson's songs frame love as a battlefield that naming an album for traits of combat and romance seems redundant. But while Sweet Warrior revisits familiar territory, Thompson, who plays the Keswick June 26, finds ways to stretch out without reinventing himself. "Francesca's" tepid stab at reggae falls flat, and "Dad's Gonna Kill Me," sung from the perspective of an American soldier in Iraq, (the "Dad" in question is Baghdad), is more glib than insightful. But "Guns Are the Tongues" successfully weds a sinuous Celtic beat to the story of a nascent I.R.A. bomber, and the weary "Take Care the Road You Choose' rises on the inspired interplay between Thompson's electric guitar and Danny Thompson's upright bass. Even when the songs aren't up to snuff, the playing is never less than inspired, as Thompson steers his solos into surprisingly fierce and dissonant territory. He clearly hasn't given up the fight.
- Sam Adams
nolead begins Voxtrot
nolead ends nolead begins Voxtrot
nolead ends nolead begins (Playlouder ***)
nolead ends "Cheer me up, cheer me up, I'm a miserable . . ." Voxtrot singer Ramash Srivmastava sings on "Kid Gloves," a chiming pop tune on this Austin, Texas indie quintet's full-length debut. Srivmastava may indeed be an overly analytical, depressive stick-in-the-mud: he's a guy who ties himself in knots over the implications of being a "blog band" - on his blog. But he doesn't let self-consciousness stop him from knocking off one jaunty tune after another. From the grabby rant to a former friend "Brother in Conflict" to the piano-graced love song "Steven" to the internally conflicted "Easy," Voxtrot - who play Pure on June 16 - specialize in songs that wrangle with self-doubt before resolving themselves in catchy choruses.
- Dan DeLuca
nolead begins Bruce Springsteen
and the Sessions Band
nolead ends nolead begins Live in Dublin
nolead ends nolead begins (Columbia ***1/2)
nolead ends By the time Bruce Springsteen's tour for last year's release, We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions, hit its final European leg, the folk foray was firing on all cylinders. Live In Dublin - which is being released on DVD and double CD - uses the Seeger disc as a starting point. Songs like the antiwar "Mrs. McGrath" and the biblical blowout "O Mary Don't You Weep" benefit from impassioned in-concert performances, and a 17-piece band allows Springsteen to freewheel onto rootsy back roads not accessible from E Street.
What makes this Live set essential for open-minded fans who haven't sworn unwavering allegiance to Clarence Clemons, though, is the radical reworking of selections from the Boss man's catalog. "If I Should Fall Behind" becomes a lovely Irish waltz, "Open All Night" (one of three Nebraska songs) swings like Bob Wills careening down the New Jersey Turnpike, and "Growin' Up" and "Blinded by the Light" are given spiffy, full-bodied new arrangements. The high point, however, just might be "How Can a Poor Man Stand Such Times And Live," the 1929 Blind Alfred Reed song that Springsteen has retrofitted with rage and new lyrics about the government's bungling of Hurricane Katrina's aftermath.
nolead begins John Anderson
nolead ends nolead begins Easy Money
nolead ends nolead begins (Warner Bros. ***)
nolead ends Reliable old pro that he is, John Anderson doesn't need any extreme makeovers at this stage of his career. For his latest album, the neotraditionalist pioneer teams up with producer John Rich, half of the often-annoying duo Big & Rich. There's a blaring, B-and-R-style anthem, "Funky Country," but for the most part Rich doesn't mess with Anderson's bedrock strengths, and thank goodness for that.
Anderson can still rock the country with easy command, as he does on cuts like the title track and "Brown Liquor." But his honeyed voice still exudes a special warmth and feeling on ballads, and there are some fine ones here, from "A Woman Knows" (the first single) to the exquisite closer, "Willie's Guitar," which features Merle Haggard and, of course, Willie Nelson.
- Nick Cristiano
nolead begins Jason Aldean
nolead ends nolead begins Relentless
nolead ends nolead begins (Broken Bow **1/2)
nolead ends Jason Aldean opens his new album with a slam-bang country-rocker named after a true country original, "Johnny Cash," and closes it singing about wanting to "paint outside the lines."
Most of the time, though, the hunky young singer works strictly down the middle. Nothing inherently wrong with that - Relentless is a solid, workmanlike, mainstream country effort. Aldean delivers the songs with relentless earnestness - the album could use a little humor - and that gets back to the issue of originality: In the end, the set lacks the spark of a fully distinctive personality.
nolead begins Michel Camilo
nolead ends nolead begins Spirit of the Moment
nolead ends nolead begins (Telarc ***)
nolead ends After making a solo set, a duet CD with Spanish flamenco guitarist Tomatito, and a spin through Rhapsody in Blue with an orchestra, the ever-restless pianist Michel Camilo returns here to the trio.
The Dominican-born pianist is slight of stature but plays hugely, uncorking vivid runs of uncommon speed and ardency. His fingers fire away at the speed of hummingbird wings in a two-minute swing through "Giant Steps," a tune renowned for its quick-changing chords.
The oversized nature of his playing sometimes makes for a noisy and crowded set. Yet the flip side is that he is never dull. A New York fixture since 1979, Camilo, 53, dashes through blues, Latin and jazz without ever forgetting his classical training and Latin roots or his trio's close Cuban ties courtesy of bassist Charles Flores and drummer Dafnis Prieto.
The bluesy opener, "Just Now" is lusty and likable. So too are tunes like "My Secret Place" and "A Place in Time," where Camilo dials back his brassy style into a pretty mode with classical interlacings.
- Karl Stark
nolead begins Eric Mintel Quartet
nolead ends nolead begins Times Change
nolead ends nolead begins (ericmintelquartet.com **1/2)
nolead ends If the opposite poles of the music are free jazz and smooth jazz, then pianist Eric Mintel rests securely in between. The Feasterville, Bucks County-based pianist pursues an audience but isn't formulaic about it. And his quartet sounds more welcoming than avant-garde.
The results are happy and accessible, if not especially emotional. Mintel has wrested a living from jazz by playing bright music, and it's taken him from a White House gig in 1998 to selling his CDs over the QVC network and performing on XM Satellite Radio's Real Jazz 70.
The set here nods to his mentor, Dave Brubeck, and to Marian McPartland, who hosted Mintel on her NPR radio show. The group's "Take Five" represents a reasonable blowout for saxophonist Nelson Hill and drummer Dave Mohn, while "Boogie Sugar" shows off some fine muscular soul.
The band takes on The Association's "Windy" with a big dab of innocence, and "Homecoming" is pretty sunny. The closing "Lullaby" proves to be a gusher of soft colors too saccharine for this jaded soul. But exuberant moments abound in the 73-minute set, including bassist Dave Antonow's solo on Brubeck's "Why Not?"
In Stores Tuesday
Bruce Springsteen & the Sessions Band, Live in Dublin;
Marilyn Manson, Eat Me, Drink Me; T. Pain, Epiphany;
12 Girls Band, Live in Shanghai.
nolead begins Schubert
Piano Trios Nos. 1 and 2
nolead ends nolead begins Frank Braley, piano; Renaud Capucon, violin; Gautier Capucon, cello.
nolead ends nolead begins (Virgin ***1/2)
nolead ends These are two of Schubert's most beloved chamber works, but you don't realize how much they've been sentimentalized until the sap has been removed - which is the case here. The second trio, Op. 100, has such clipped phrasing that some listeners might detect a historic-performance influence, or perhaps just a fresh look at what's really there on the page.
Schubert didn't always achieve such feats of musical architecture, but that's what becomes clear in these clean, intelligent performances by these celebrated French-based performers. Though the Capucon brothers are most often recorded playing chamber music with Martha Argerich, pianist Frank Braley's more collaborative nature makes these performances unusually durable, with the music's natural communicative qualities making themselves felt at every turn, though with a welcome lack of hard sell.
- David Patrick Stearns
nolead begins Julia Fischer
Brahms Violin Concerto
and Double Concerto.
nolead ends nolead begins Julia Fischer, violin; Daniel Müller-Schott, cello; Netherlands Philharmonic Orchestra, Yakov Kreizberg conducting.
nolead ends nolead begins (Pentatone ***)
nolead ends nolead begins Tchaikovsky's Violin Concerto, Sérénade mélancholique, Valse-Scherzo Op. 34 etc.
nolead ends nolead begins Julia Fischer, violin; Russian National Orchestra, Yakov Kreizberg conducting. nolead ends
nolead begins (Pentatone ***1/2)
nolead ends Violinist Julia Fischer is said to dramatically increase her fan base with every Philadelphia Orchestra appearance, and these two discs are likely only to confirm those positive impressions. Her hallmarks are a clean, glistening sound and technique that allows all the flexibility she needs to inhabit the music's wide-ranging emotional states. In fact, her Tchaikovsky is notable for its feats of subtlety, which may not be what some listeners want from this concerto, but they certainly deliver a more intimate experience.
The Brahms Violin Concerto borders on being a signature piece for Fischer, her clean, firm but light melodic lines recalling similar qualities that Jascha Heifetz brought to the piece. And her first-movement entrance goes to realms that are positively celestial. The disc is slightly marred by uncharacteristic uncertainty from conductor Kreizberg. And none of the parties concerned go very deep, at least consistently, in the Brahms Double Concerto - the one symphonic piece from this composer that requires some extra love and strategy. The digital SACD sound is excellent in both.