“One Love” (Curb) •• 1/2
American Idol Season 3 Cast
“The Greatest Soul Classics” (RCA) •
Maybe it’s lowered expectations — albums associated with “American Idol” generally stink — but Kimberley Locke’s debut, “One Love,” isn’t bad.
Locke, who placed third in the second season behind winner Ruben Studdard and her roomie Clay Aiken, wasn’t consistent on TV. But in the recording studio she comes out ahead thanks to soulful pipes and songs that tap into classic R&B (“You’ve Changed,” “Now I Can Fly”).
Still, some of the up-tempo cuts sound like Kelly Clarkson castoffs, and the schmaltzy “Without You,” a duet with Aiken, has more sugar than a birthday cake.
This season’s “Idol” viewers were in an uproar recently when the “three divas” — La Toya London, Fantasia Barrino and Jennifer Hudson — all wound up at the bottom of the vote, with Hudson getting the ax. But judging by the ghastly “Greatest Soul Classics,” maybe America wasn’t so clueless.
Soul does not mean screeching or oversinging, but that’s precisely what London, Hudson and, especially, the nasal Barrino wind up doing mercilessly to oldies by Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes, Gladys Knight & the Pips and Aretha Franklin.
The guys are generally awful, too; the love object of Jon Peter Lewis’ “My Girl” would probably put out a restraining order after hearing his tone-deaf rendition of the Temptations hit.
— Howard Cohen, Miami Herald
Raul Malo, Pat Flynn, Rob Ickes, Dave Pomeroy
“The Nashville Acoustic Sessions” (CMH Records) ••• 1/2
At least three seasons of “American Idol” and its various spinoffs haven’t killed the art of superb interpretive singing. Exhibit 1: the latest CD from Mavericks singer Raul Malo and three top-flight bluegrass musicians.
The beautifully recorded “Nashville Acoustic Sessions” is a refreshingly casual effort, the kind of simple record you’d imagine recording with friends in your living room if you had this kind of talent. With his pure tenor, Malo is just right singing the well-chosen selections, which range from Henry Mancini to Bob Dylan to Hank Williams to Roy Orbison’s “Blue Bayou.”
“The Nashville Acoustic Sessions” was never intended to storm the country charts or land on the radio — and it won’t. But if you’re a fan of good singing and playing, you should seek it out.
— Howard Cohen, Miami Herald
“Neighborhood Watch” (Capitol) •••
Los Angeles trio Dilated Peoples has always been a bit of an anomaly in the hip-hop world. With the stylish beats and soul and R&B samples by turntablist DJ Babu and the dense wordplay of rappers Evidence and Rakaa, they seem to prefer blazing their own path while still catering somewhat to the underground and the mainstream.
“Neighborhood Watch” is another example of the group’s attempt to try to appeal to both camps, featuring a mix of languid beats, topical political ruminations and soul-laden, bumping tunes (including “This Way,” featuring hot rapper-producer Kanye West).
Dilated Peoples seems to shine brightest when performing in front of an audience, primarily because of the dynamic interaction between the two rappers and DJ Babu’s astonishing turntable skills. But it’s hard to find too much fault with “Neighborhood Watch,” with its fun, lively and ultimately crowd-pleasing vibe.
— Tim Pratt, Detroit Free Press
“Make Yr Life” (Yep Roc) ••• 1/2
Usually, it’s a bad sign when an album’s best song is a cover. But the first nine tracks on “Make Yr Life,” the fourth record from the Butchies, are such tasty slices of classic power pop that the stunning version of the Outfield’s 1985 hit “Your Love,” which closes the album, is just a show-stopping bonus. Singer/guitarist Kaia Wilson’s breathy vocals and gentle strumming melt all the schlock away from this monster ballad, leaving only its seductive, beautiful core.
The rest of “Life” is a much more upbeat affair, full of clean, shiny riffs that would make Cheap Trick and the Cars proud. Butchies have gotten a lot of attention for being a mixed-race trio of lesbians, but what’s important is that this music really rocks.
—Amy Phillips, Philadelphia Inquirer
“Then and Now” (Geffen) ••
Normally, yet another Who compilation wouldn’t warrant attention. “Then and Now,” a 20-track greatest hits set, however, is bound to attract notice thanks to the inclusion of two newly written Who songs, the first in 22 years.
Alas, the tepid, midtempo “Real Good Looking Boy” and “Old Red Wine” only prove that the once mighty Who should have followed Led Zeppelin’s example and retired the name after Who drummer Keith Moon died in 1978.
“Old red wine/Well past its prime,” Daltrey sings _ which is pretty close to a summation of the Who in 2004.
— Howard Cohen, Miami Herald
“Retriever” (Nettwerk) ••• 1/2
It takes a tough man to make a tender song without sentimentality or apology, and no one in recent years has proven more up to that task than Sexsmith. The Canadian cult favorite reaffirms his flair for heartfelt lyricism here with the wistful, fetching “Tomorrow in Her Eyes,” the breezily soulful “Whatever It Takes” and the achingly poignant “I Know It Well.” The offbeat, unpolished quality of Sexsmith’s singing may never attract a mass audience, but whoever hears these lovely songs won’t soon forget them.
— Elysa Gardner, USA Today
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