Thu, Oct 11, 2007 - Page 14 News List

CD reviews

AGENCIES

JUST LIKE YOU
Keyshia Cole
Sept. 25

In Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace, the sixth studio album by the Foo Fighters, Grohl presents songs that are ever more emotional and ever more measured. Half the record is the usual hard rock, but he's softening. He's using string arrangements; he's writing some ballads on the piano. These elements are put in the service of greater emotion. They're all battling to become songs your children will hear at their proms. This is not the best Foo Fighters record, but it's the shrewdest one.

The Pretender, the album's first single, is the prime example of his scientific process. There's an Eleanor Rigby-ish beginning, ominous lyrics about how a mysterious "they" always keep you in the dark, then loud snare-drum hits on every beat of the measure, and the commencement of a spindly modern-rock riff. You're teased by how much the yelled, buttonholing refrain, What if I say I'm not like the others? sounds like the children's song One of These Things Is Not Like the Others.

The clever songwriter's desire to swim around in the public imagination, catching phrases and cadences that have the ring of inevitability, sometimes leads Grohl into cliches. But he has also made his own cliches that are far better. He uses them well on Let It Die, with its soft acoustic murmur rising to an electric scream, and in the moralizing hard-rock of Erase Replace. These songs are astonishingly easy to listen to, guided by iron notions of form and musical narrative, lifted by a zesty chord just as they're threatening to become mundane. If you're past prom age, there's a lot of craft here to admire.

After doffing her Hairspray beehive, Latifah returned to the studio to record her sensational new album Trav'lin' Light.

Light follows the template of her first all-sung release, 2004's The Dana Owens Album. Latifah applies her smoky alto to a collection of covers that run the gamut from jazz standards to classic soul, blues and pop.

The result is almost like listening to Latifah inhabit different roles. For Jobim's sultry bossa nova Quiet Nights of Quiet Stars she plays the seductive temptress. Fizzy phrasing transforms her into a zippy sidekick on the big band swing of I Love Being Here With You. And she's one sassy broad twisting her tongue around the teasing of the Pointer Sisters' deliciously wicked dance classic How Long (Betcha' Got a Chick on the Side).

Latifah chose tracks based on either their performance value or her sentiment for them. No matter what Latifah does on screen or in the studio, to fans of a certain age she will always be the Queen, the one who matched an army of male rappers rhyme for rhyme, staking a claim for female swagger on tracks like Ladies First and U.N.I.T.Y.

Who says the golden age of boy bands has passed? With gel in their hair and distress on their jeans, the three members of Rascal Flatts have outsold just about everybody else on country radio, thanks mainly to a string of hugely whiny - and totally irresistible - power ballads.

Important but unsurprising information: you really don't want to hear them try a half-rapped Southern rocker called Bob That Head. And since no one stopped them from recording a slow jam, suffice it to say that the husky voice of the special guest Jamie Foxx has never been more welcome (or less expected). Mainly, though, the new Rascal Flatts album, Still Feels Good, confirms what fans already know: these guys sound great when they raise their eyebrows and wail. Sure, country music has a long tradition of stoic balladry, but these three couldn't care less.

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