Vibrainium Chris Massey's Nue Jazz Project
Chris Massey Music

Author:
KFM

Drummer Chris Massey is at the heart and helm of his band, The Nue Jazz Project, not because his drumming outshines the virtuosity of the trumpet or the sax, but because the rhythms that Massey lays down form a substratum of sound on which the other players build—a solid slab that forms the foundation of the Nue Jazz Project sound. That is noteworthy in contemporary jazz, where the tendency has been (from Be-bop onward) for the increasing fluid melodic forms to offer the drummer greater and greater space for experimentation and improvisation. But Massey comes from an older school—sighting his training in swing—in which the drummer's duty is to maintain a consistent backdrop. Which isn't to say that the guy lacks chops: like Elvin Jones or early Max Roach, the polyrythms emerge from the metric requirements of the arrangements, rather than of their own accord (as we so often are inclined to think about Free Jazz). Such requirements are especially palpable on tracks that Massey has arranged himself ("Galactus," and "Vibrainium"), where the careful superimposition of the bass and sax against the piano or the trumpet and piano against the sax is lent tidy coherence by Massey's rock-steady articulation of broken-time.

As mentioned above, the backing band is as accomplished and complete as Massey himself, but if you come to this record hunting for evidence of a truly frenetic modern drummer, look to track 4, "Chango," for Massey solo on the skins. He avoids the glitz of that guy you saw on YouTube last week, but this is no smoke-and-mirrors: serious, thoughtful compositions from a young, if highly mature musician.

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I Feel Like Playing Ronnie Wood
Eagle Rock

Author:
KFM

The first genuinely new output in nearly a decade from rock-and-roll steadfast Ronnie Wood is notable for complete mastery of the man-scorned blues song form that, along with Dylan and Jagger, Woods pioneered in the '60s. Mastery in the sense of second nature. We get the sense that such songs seep out of him; recording and releasing them is like selling his used bandanas from the last Stones tour.
Woods has forever had a knack for being buddies with the true greats of the industry: his celebrity is for backing Rod Stewart, Mick Jagger, and Jeff Beck. On "I Feel Like Playing" Woods calls in favors from Slash, Eddie Vedder, Kris Kristofferson, Flea and more—forming a sort of "who's who" of washed-up rock Bad Boys. Still, we do well to recall that Woods himself wrote or co-wrote nearly half of the dozen or so tracks that his first band, The Birds, ever released. A bit of that youthful angst is palpable here, on tracks such as "A Thing Like That" and "Tell Me Something." Such angst, which fades from many musicians as they reach maturity, has been preserved well in Woods by the combination of alcohol, cocaine and groupies. In that sense Ronnie Wood makes good on the core promise of his Bad Boy set: Love him or Leave him, the guy is never gonna change.

Editor's Note: You can hear Ronnie Woods exhilaration all over the tracks.

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Goodnight Charlotte Cara Jean Wahlers and Grover Parido
Independent

Author:
KFM

Cara Jean Wahlers says of her first record that "It winds around a bit and explores different terrains. It was important to Grover and I to create different 'rooms' for our listener to walk through." That seems an apt description: the songs are like the rooms of a house in the sense that French philosopher Gaston Bachelard invokes when he writes about the poetics of space. Like a basement, a staircase, an attic, each of the tracks on "Goodnight Charlotte" exudes a quite poetry that would be too easy to overlook. And like the rooms of a house, each of these songs appears to be purpose built. These are songs that are carefully crafted to convey stories that Wahlers might have been saving up for generations.

Wahlers's vocals and gently finger picking guitar work are joined on "Goodnight Charlotte" by Grover Parido on chello, piano and bass. The combination is sophisticated and lovely, adding a dense, contemporary feel to songs that, despite their lyricism and poetic sensibility, might otherwise appear too much as throwbacks to the Joni Mitchell-inspired California sound of yesteryear.

ARTIST TO WATCH

Single of the Week: "Black Dog"

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10 McGuffey Lane
Lick / E1

Author:
KFM

McGuffey Lane has long lurked in the background and back rooms of country-rock: tragic circumstances conspired to rob them of their moment in the spotlight following pop-recognition in the early '80s and subsequent dissolution and itenerant reunions left them ill-prepared to cash in on any remaining cache during the early '90s hey-day of the New Nashville Sound. Neither lack of commercial success nor decades of the legitimate "country" blues that only the mid-west supplies these days have done much to dampen the spirits or hte sound of these old hillbillies, however. Witness their vibrancy on tracks such as "I Ain't Given' in to Getting Old" ("rockin' chair ain't where I wanna go...hangin' on to youth like a piece of gold"), where a classic Dorien Grey narrative is paired with a full but twangy number worthy of Alabama in their glory days.

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The Hits War
Far-Out / Hip-O /Universal Music Group

Author:
KFM

We are perhaps overly inclined, today, to think of cultural hybridity and fusion of styles as uniquely a product of "globalization" ; listening to any of War's hit singles will suffice to remind us that hybridity was, in fact, a foundation of funk and rock.

War is probably best known today for their Latino/ Chicano custom car culture anthem "Low Rider," —a song that appears as the unequivocable fact of an era in which racial tensions were dispensed with in favor of legitimately multi-culturalism that thrived in early '70s California. But old fans and new comers alike are certain to be thrilled by their other hits as well. The political impetus that the band brings to songs such as "The World is a Ghetto" and "Why Can't We Be Friends?" emerges organically from a group of musicians that included veterans against the war in Viet Nam.

This new collection is perhaps less complete than the 2000 "best of" two-disk set or the forthcoming boxed set (also released by Hip-O/ Far-Out) but is covers all the essential bases and makes a good addition to the stacks of anyone who appreciates classic rock, funk, soul, latin rock or the roots of hip-hop.

Editor's Note: Superb tunesmiths reveal they are actually stoners. It's all about love, with your friends to support you. Do we need anything else?

Late But Great

Single of the Week: "Spill the Wine" (Eirc Burdon & War)

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Wreck Your Wheels Kim Ritchey
Thirty Tigers

Author:
KFM

Some artists come to the music industry full of piss and vinegar, eager to take on the world and conquer the charts. Others migrate slowly toward success due to an inherent need to tell stories through music. Kim Ritchey seems to be of this later set: her songs and are as unassuming and unfettered as her stories are pliant and pleasing. Ritchey's minor fame is for writing lovely songs for other singers, and for occasional appearances on TV soundtracks. One gets the sense that such modest success honestly suits Ritchey just fine. It has allowed her to continue to write and record, and with Wreck Your Wheels has allowed us, as listeners, access to her intimate and infinitely human world.
The album was recorded in Nashville, and Ritchey is nominally promoted as a country artist, but don't let that fool you. Her ambivalence for such labels (is it "alt-country" or is it "americana"?) goes more than skin-deep. "Wreck Your Wheels" witnesses songs that transcend petty genre distinctions but maintain a pop-sensibility that makes a person want to play the record over again just as soon as it ends. It's music that makes you feel good without indulging the clichés of "feel good music."

Editor's Note: Kim Ritchey captures meditations on the painful ambivalence of love affairs.

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Truth Rising (HEd) p.e.
Suburban Noize

Author:
KFM

What is it about Huntington Beach and LBC that push young men to the most absurd forms of hyper-masculinity? I know that there are some tuff neighborhoods and racial conflicts throughout the are, but is it possible that the municipality adds testosterone to the water? If it weren't macho enough to play in a punk/ hardcore band or a rap crew, imagine combining the two. Now mix in equal ammounts reggae, misogony, vaguely anti-authoritarian politics, hair-metal, homophobia and drug culture and you've got (HEd) p.e.

Emerging as they did in the late '90s LA scene, the band did their best to sell out by following the Korn and Slipknot recipe for commercial success at the intersection of young white men who like rap and young white men who like metal. Maybe it was their experimental sound, or maybe, just maybe, all those young white guys didn't like being yelled at by african american front-man / emcee Jared Gomes. Whatever the reason, (HEd) p.e. didn't make the cut, and despite frequent gigs opening for Korn and System of a Down, largely disappeared from mainstream venues by the mid-2000s.

With "Truth Rising" and other recent releases on Suburban Noize (HEd) p.e. has taken, in their own words, a "political turn." That turn is apparent from the first cut in the form of Conflict or Dystopia inspired voice-over intros that mix together excerpts of Martin Luther King and Barack Obama speeches with sex talk-show excerpts and cold war era propaganda. Lyrically, Gomes tries to stick to this political messaging (at the risk of alienating those fans who doubtless prefer the old tracks about bong-rips and breasts) but slips into sexism and violence as a mainstay of driving any point home.

The album finds its highnote with "Whitehouse," — a suprisingly engaging, straightforward SoCal Hardcore song about how the election of a black man to the presidency signals a major social change in the US. It is reminiscent of D.I. or Agent Orange but hints at it's affinity to Hip-Hop with a driving rhythm which recalls early (punk rock) Beastie Boys records.

Editor's Note: Their awesome swagger captures the mood of the band's early days: nineteen years old and never been kissed.

 

MIGHTY, MIGHTY!

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Providencia Danilo Pérez,
Mack Avenue

Author:
KFM

The inspiration that Danilo Pérez has taken from his lessons under the late Dizzy Gillespie don't simply inform Pérez's compositions or inflect his tone: they serve as signposts of stakes and of possibilities for a musician on the noble quest to found a global jazz. Heralding from Panama as he does, but having traveled the world as a pianist and composer, Pérez knows a thing or two about globes and jazz. Yet the Global Jazz that Pérez seeks on Providencia and elsewhere is not on the scale of "world music" in any conventional sense. If the admirable goal of "world music" is to collect and describe the music of the world's peoples, then Pérez's goal, via Gillespie's vehicle of "Global Jazz," is to transform that world.
Give a full listening to the opening track of Providencia—just the opening track!—and you'll hear the complexity of a narrative that has come unmoored from the constraints of chronology and perspective. Here and elsewhere on the album syncopation and coincidence collaborate to tell stories from competing viewpoints at once. The effect is akin to the myriad undulating forms of life and lifestyle in a modern city: people walking in the streets, each on their own path, and contributing (unbeknownst to him or her) to the tone of life.

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Tri-Polar Sick Puppies
RMR / Rock Mafia / Virgin / EMI

Author:
KFM

The post-grunge group Sick Puppies may hail from Australia, but the entire content of this, their third full length album, derives from the cultural context of a sterile Los Angeles sound booth and its vacuous surroundings. That's not entirely a bad thing: the band is rehearsed and polished, giving exacting live performances in support of their recent studio successes, and that success is no doubt for a reason. They quote freely from early '80s hardcore (the bassline for "You're Going Down" is pulled straight from Dead Kennedy's "Holiday in Cambodia" for example) and late '90s alternative rock (as on Incubus influenced tracks such as "Master of the Universe" and "War") and give fairly convincing rock-ballad performances on their sappy-sweet closing track "White Balloons."

Still, Sick Puppies would do well to remember where they come from. The band reached a global audience when their song "All the Same" was used in a 2006 YouTube video in support of a campaign of random kindness known as "Free Hugs."  Free Hugs is based on the (rather banal) observation that people feel better when they get hugged. Compare that to the self-indulgent and violent sentiments expressed on Tri-Polar (the first single for the album, "You're Going Down" includes the lines, "...as my fist hits your face / and your face hits the floor / one of us is going down..."). Plenty of acts have demonstrated in recent years that the distorted guitars and crescendoing blast-beats can be accompanied by nuanced lyrics or, at least, honesty: Sick Puppies might yet remain relevant if they can shelve the petty aggression.

Let The Good Times Roll!

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Little Smile Jodi King
One Off / EMI Music Canada

Author:
KFM

Canada is a great place to grow up and become a musician. Great public education, sweeping vistas, plenty of room to think, and, of course, government subsidies for entertainment. Jodi King comes out of the proud tradition of Sarah McLachlan and Celine Dion, but without the startling mezzo-soprano range. She's squeaky-clean and poppy and unabashed about exploiting the soft-spoken girl-next-door sexuality that one might have thought had died out in the late 1990s.

On Little Smile, King's first full length release, the King and her co-writer / producer Colin Munroe are trying to push this familiar recipe for pop success with cuteness and a few nice hooks. Both would do well to take lessons from fellow-Canadian Drake (with whom Munroe has collaborated previously): "Sweat pants, hair tied, chillin with no make-up on. That's when you're the prettiest, I hope that you don't take it wrong." King might have some true talent and inspiration in there somewhere, and it might find its way out some day, but Little Smile is neither coy nor convincing, and it certainly isn't pretty.

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Crisis and Hope: Theirs and Ours Noam Chomsky
PM Press / Trade Roots

Author:
KFM

Another classic lecture by the world's foremost anarchist Noam Chomsky. In this recording, made at the historic Riverside Church in New York City in June of 2009, uncle Noam addresses the underlying causes of "the crisis" and puts Wall Street sniveling (and the trillions of public dollars thrown into the black hole of toxic assets and crumbling capitalism) into proper perspective via comparison to the stakes of the global food crisis, the consequences of American militarism, etc. The speech is classic Chomsky: impeccably researched, sparingly rhetorical and delivered with the characteristicly even-keeled tone that has introduced hundreds of thousands, if not millions, to the basic framework of neoliberal exploitation of the Global South.

Chomsky is given a flattering introduction at this event by Amy Goodman of Democracy Now! both of whom appeared as a benefit for The Brecht Forum, and manages to bring the sympathetic crowd to appropriate nods and chuckles despite his advancing age. Some have criticized AK Press and PM Press in recent years for their relentless stream of books and CDs by Chomsky: alternative and anarchist publishers should provide a platform, the logic goes, for the lesser heard voices in our society. But there is much to be said for making Chomsky's words accessible to generation after generation of curious young punk-rock teens. Though virtually no adult radicals are likely to associate with Chomsky's vague endorsement of an anarcho-syndicalism that lost its viability in the 1930s, the number of people whose skepticism of US imperialism have been confirmed by Chomsky's frequent political speeches is all but uncountable. And if sales of CDs such as this keep AK and PM in the black (no pun intended), so much the better.

Editor's Note: With violence at home and so many wars abroad, there really was a bad moon on the rise. Noam Chomsky captures that moon.

 

Political Album of the Week

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Freedom Row Oliver Schroer & the Stewed Tomatoes
Linus /Borealis / True North /Big Dog

Author:
KFM

Oliver Schroer was perhaps better known as a composer and soloist than as the front man for his band the Stewed Tomatoes. If that is the case it is certainly not due to any distaste that Schroer had for sharing the stage: a friend, teacher, and lover of life foremost, and if his god-given talents for the fiddle offered him something to share with those around him, so much the better.

Such comradery is tangible on Freedom Row, the second and last recording from Schroer's "Stewed Tomatoes." The band began recording it in 1997, but got caught up doing other things (in Schroer's case including producing and recording literally hundreds of records, including "Camino", in which he plays masterfully at cathedrals and churches along Spain's Camino de Santiago) and was set aside for a decade.

In 2007 Oliver Schroer was diagnosed with untreatable leukemia. That he was able to tie up so many loose ends (including the recording of "Freedom Row") in the year that was left to him speaks not only to his determination to live life fully, but equally to the skill that he brought to his craft. Sections of "Freedom Row" are said to have been recorded from the hospital bed: you'd never know it to listen to the man play. His fiddle, his band, and his spirit are hopping and jigging about the room from the moment the CD starts spinning to the moment it ends. Schroer's final album, it is a final testament to a man and his friends whose commitment to experimentation was paralleled only by their commitment to the roots of Canadian and American folk music.

Single of the Week: "Freedom Row"

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Sweet Tooth Ray Johnston Band
MFH / HDNet

Author:
KFM

A quick listen to any track on "Sweet Tooth," the first release from Texas-based Ray Johnston Band will notify you to how hard the band works. Hard-working in that sense of Blues Traveler or Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers: these guys are polished and professional. But listening to the CD will tell you the story of only half the work: the real struggle, behind the scenes, has been that of Johnston himself. After several relapses of leukemia threatened to take Johnston's life, he determined to follow his dream of leading a roots-rock band.

Meeting that goal has been helped along the way by Johnston's minor notoriety from having briefly played for the Dallas Mavericks and by a cable-television deal with HDNet (who have also helped with the release of this album). The TV series follows Johnston's recently formed band though the trials of life on the road, and follows Johnston through the trials of fighting for his life.

Such stories make good television, but are far from guaranteed to make good music. So is "Sweet Tooth" any good? Well, Johnston sites the Dave Matthews Band as a major influence (possibly even inspiring the eponymous group name?); the songs bare a striking resemblance to Matthews Band penchant for solos and subdued but singable choruses. If you like that sort of thing, these folks are the real deal, and are likely to be warming up the charts as their cable deal spreads their reliable fan-base from the Texas heartland to across the nation.

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New Chain Small Black
Jagjaguwar

Author:
KFM

On "New Chain," the first full-length release from Brooklyn based chillwave / glo-fi outfit Small Black, the band works hard at appearing to avoid hard work. Their synth-pop minimalism and droning vocals might cause the casual listener to think that these folks simply pushed the "shoegaze" button on ProTools and sang Craig'sList personal ads, but this is sound that has been carefully crafted to confuse our expectations and allow for the unexpected. Small Black is of its generation: music that is heard best on headphones while writing email on a hike in the woods. Sure, it's pop music—and nominally dance music—but one imagines that the instance of dancing to this band (live at a show or elsewhere) is extremely low and extremely intoxicated if it happens at all. Which is a compliment: here is a band that doesn't demand all of your attention. They might play an entire set without distrupting a conversation at the bar. Yet the potential to make the club erupt at any moment is wisely retained, with nifty hooks and enigmatic distortion of familiar beats.

The album gets production help from Animal Collective luminary Nicolas Vernhes, who lends the record a polished tone and an air of authenticity. But the songs probably hold up on their own, and clearly have done so at innumerable live gigs across the nation: Small Black has been touring incessantly since receiving some media attention at last year's SXSW. In its best moments Small Black, like much of the dispersed and divergent milieu that has been hung on the label "chillwave," sounds like your favorite '80s pop music heard through an aquarium filled with marmalade. If you like that sort of thing, buy this one now.

NEW ARTIST OF THE WEEK

Single of the Week: "Goons"

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Good Time Music For Hard Times Maria Muldaur and Her Garden of Joy
Stony Plain

Author:
KFM

The newest release from folk and roots staple Maria Muldaur has been nominated for a grammy ("best traditional folk album of the year") and this writer can't think of anyone who deserves it more. In the 35 years since "Midnight at the Oasis" hit it big, Muldaur has recieved far too little credit for her contribution to roots and Americana music.

Maria Muldaur puts a new album on the stacks at least once a year, without fail, and has done so for longer than most fans of folk and jug bands have been alive. She was there, a radiant if petite proto-hippie-momma, when it all began, during the early '60s folk revival in Greenwitch Village. Hanging out with Dylan and the Seegers and playing at the Newport Folk Music Festival as part of the Even Dozen Jug Band all carved a place for Muldaur in history, and a good number of good friends that would last the ages.

A good number of those good friends are back on "Her Garden of Joy" to return to the roots of roots music— Jug Bands. America's mando-laureate David Grisman sits in on a few tracks, as does the great Taj Mahal. Muldaur is bringing fresh fruit into the mix as well, inviting the young Kit Stovepipe to play national guitar on a number of traditional tunes.

Editor's Note: Maria Muldaur and band form a beautiful melody that puts you in dream and when you wake up you find yourself singing along to it.

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California Kid Circe Link and the Discount Candy Family Band
Blackwings Multimedia

Author:
KFM

Circe Link titles her new full-length California Kid, which might seem like a risky move for an album positioned most closely to the country charts until you hear the full band and guitar tone and realize that this roots/ americana cowgirl is aiming to ape the success of fellow Los Angeles native Gillian Welch. Link may lack Welch's crystal clear vocal stylings and hard-earned inheritance of the Carter Family harmonic mantle, but her commitment to genre-bending and unexpected political tints is legitimate. And while like most southern california kids, Link's country twang sounds strained here and there her sentiments are sincere and plaintive on the more straight-forward folk-rock tracks such as "Little Hobo" and the title track "California Kid."

The California landscape that Link describes might seem a little unfamiliar to actual California cowboys, or, even to the Bakersfield boys of a generation ago. This a world populated by traffic jams and new-age gurus. A world whose geographical limit is formed by the grapevine and the inland empire, even if its musical influences jump quickly between the late British blues of Joe Cocker and the early Texas Honky-Tonks of Lefty Frizzell.

Circe Link is eclectic, to be sure; her website indicates that her upcoming projects include a jazz album, a folk album and a rock-musical feature film. Not bad for just another California Kid.

SO NICE GOTTA DO IT UP TWICE! (created by the original NYC D.J., Jocko, 1955)

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Back In Style Tad Robinson
Severn

Author:
KFM

Skepticism regarding white guys from New York who claim to sing authentic Chicago blues is well warrented. Set that inner skeptic aside for a while and let Robinson's persona emerge directly from his soulful voice and idiomatic jazz-harp stylings: here is a guy who has earned his chops from decades of playing in Chicago and Indiana bars and jazz-joints.

Hitting the shelves in late 2010 as it does, the title of this record might be read as reflecting the return to vogue of funk and soul music. Whether in its John Legend or its Gnarls Barkley version, the re-popularization of soul has rightfully sent fans to re-examine the work of a lost generation of talented blues performers, including Robinson. And fans of neo-soul will find a lot to like here: cacaphonic and discordant solos that are commonly associated with Chicago Blues fail to make an apparance, giving way instead to the steady rhythms and smooth, organ-backed brio of classic Mo-Town and Stax recordings. Of course, this is traditional soul for traditionalists: though smoothed out, it is a full sound, with a full and accomplished band backing Robinson's passionate voice. The record is timeless in tone but with a stylish sensibility.

Editor's Note: He sang for the woman he just met, claiming he made it all up on the spot, just for her.

Single of the Week: "Sunday Morning Woman"

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Trust Sean Smith Quartet
Smithereen

Author:
KFM

This is the first release on Sean Smith's own label, Smithereen Records, finds highly regarded jazz bassist Smith as band leader, composer and executive producer of a fine collection of newly minted tunes. Smith has uncovered in this quartet a collection of musicians who accentuate his swinging quietude without leaving him alone in the limelight. Each of the accompanying musicians steps forward with moments of vim and élan— not simply in their respectively slotted solos, but in moments of superimposition and experimentation that are the true demonstration of inhereting the jazz lessons of the last half-century. "Occam's Razor," the fifth track on this record, is particularly deft in its approach to both formal questions and the stated theme of simplicity.

Throughout "Trust," Smith and his compatriots present original compositions with a confidence that can make the numbers seem strangely familiar. These aren't standards, but they are delivered with such impecable poise that one has the sense that they might, yet, become classics.

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Last Train to Paris Diddy Dirty Money
Bad Boy / Interscope / Universal

Author:
KFM

Less surprising, perhaps, than the fact that Sean Combs has amassed personal wealth in excess of $300 M in apparent absence of any personal musical talent (unless raw, ruthless ambition alone can be said to constitute "talent") is the fact that the records he releases are consistently good. Under any of his successive monikers— Puff Daddy, P Diddy, etc.— Combs has had a knack for drawing the best and brightest in hip-hop and r&b close to him; what began with production for Biggie, Jay-Z and TLC continues today on "Last Train To Paris" via collaborations with Lil' Wayne, Drake and Niki Minaj. In stark contrast to the general trend of rap records that ammount to little more than a list of collaborators from this crew or that label, "Last Train to Paris" is a complete theme album, one which follows a narrative arc of a romantic anti-hero following his true love in a desperate chase from London to Paris.

That contrast can be partly attributed to this not technically being a Diddy record: Diddy Dirty Money is a collective project of Diddy, Dawn Richards and Kalenna Harper of which "Last Train to Paris" is the first release. The product being sold, however, is unmistakably Diddy, however — bombastic, timeless, and with a flair of elegance. During the past several years of relative musical inactivity (the guy is clearly busy enough with his clothing line, cologne, acting career and various management contracts) Combs is said to have spent a great deal of time appreciating the contemporary electronic and dance scenes in such fashionable locales as Ibiza and St. Tropez. That education features strongly on this record, palpably evident in the emphasis on ambiance in "Ass on the Floor" and "Coming Home." On the whole Diddy has made a wise move in expanding his personal brand from a solo act to a group: it gets him out of immediate (and inevitably unfavorable) comparisons to Kanye or Jay-Z and allows him to concentrate on what he's actually pretty good at— assembling the ingredients of classic pop music.

Editor's Note: Sean "Diddy" Combs'  mystical ode to sexual rapture. Sex is the highest sensation one can experience.

IF YOU LIKE MUSIC, YOU'LL LOVE THIS!

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I Got You Babe V/A
Starbucks /UMG

Author:
KFM

You say it's Valentine's Day and you forgot to get your sweetheart a gift? Starbucks figures that you aren't alone in this connundrum, and has tried to make things easy for you by putting a great collection of love songs on sale right there next to the pile of extra java-jackets. See, they know that even if you're prone to overlooking your beloved's feelings, you're never one to forget your double soy macchiato on a Monday morning.


The thing is that with a collection this good, you're more than likely to tear open the lovely packaging and spill some damn coffee on the disc on your way to work. And now maybe it doesn't make such a great gift after all, but that's okay, because you're going to love this mix every bit as much as you loved your sweetheart (and I say that in past tense, because, you know, he or she is sure to leave you when you come home empty handed).

On this collection you'll find some love songs you know (Hall & Oates doing "You Make My Dreams," and Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong doing "Dream a Little Dream of Me") and a few things you might not be so familiar with (Astrud Gilberto or Jason Scavone). There's the ever ridiculous titular track from Sonny and Cher here as well as an incredibly moving recording of Etta James doing "Trust in Me."

All told this is less a collection of the greatest love songs of all time, and more a valentine's day mix-tape from Starbucks to its adoring customers: rather than aiming for an encyclopedic completion, this is a personal and quirky playlist. If your Valentine doesn't take to it, at least you'll still have lattes.

 

Single of the Week: Robert Plant and Alison Krauss "Stick with Me Baby"

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Class Acts of the Vegas Strip V/A
Starbucks / EMI

Author:
KFM

Another carefully conceived and artfully rendered collection from the masters of mood-setting at Starbucks' music division. Here, as the title suggests, you'll find favorites from some of the true classics of Vegas show music. It is worth remembering, today, when the biggest draw to that desert oasis is likely to snap pics of the hulking shells of would-be casinos left unfinished when the housing bubble popped, that there was a time when Las Vegas was the place to find truly incredible music.


These tracks may barely scratch the surface—presenting as they do only the show-stopping numbers of the biggest of the innumerable names that lined the strip in the 1950s and 1960s—but in compiling those hits they do a good job of peaking interest in a world that seems inexplicably romantic and arrestingly sultry.

Tom Jones, Wayne Newton, Mel Tormé and Bobby Darin are here as expected, but so are a few names that, though less commonly associated with Vegas, are sure to spark off nostalgia in listeners: Lavern Baker, Jack Jones and Bobby Caldwell give impeccable performaces of their signature songs, and a few pleasing tunes of truly great crooners of that generation of great crooners are here as well via Tony Bennett and Dean Martin. The collection is rounded out by a heartfelt take on "Mack the Knife" by the late Bobby Darin, who does tragic justice to Brecht's great song of lust and robbery.

 

BEST ALBUM OF THE WEEK

Single of the Week: Bobby Darin, "Mack the Knife"

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