FOR the last three years or so, Chris Brown and his decimated, yet ravenous, fan base have been trying to convince critics and the general public to look past his rather ugly personal defects and judge him solely on his artistic talents. Fine, I will. Fortune is boring. Despite a laundry list of big-name producers, including Benny Benassi, Danja, William Orbit and Polow da Don, there’s very little here that rises above average.
The club tracks, like the slick Turn up the Music and the AutoTune overload of Don’t Wake Me Up, are serviceable, but they’re virtually interchangeable with anything released in the last six months by Usher, Flo Rida, and/or Nicki Minaj.
The pop ballads are mostly forgettable, and in several cases, flat-out insincere and insulting — Biggest Fan, for example, where he croons “I need to sex you babe, girl you better not change your mind.” …Or what?
Love him or hate him, he pretty much sums it up on the glitchy Bassline, sneering, “You heard about my image, but I could give a flying (expletive) who’s offended.” JUST in case you greying Little Feat fans have lost track, the band’s latest album, the pretty sweet Rooster Rag is its 16th studio offering. The Southern California combo lost leading light Lowell George way back in 1979 and sadly, drummer extraordinaire Richie Hayward died nearly two years ago, yet the Feat walk on.
The new dozen-tracker has practically all the energy and feel of some of the band’s classic-era output, and that must be attributed to the group paring down to its original members only (save for drummer Gabe Ford and guitarist Fred Tackett). Their hip-loose and down-and-funky vibe is intact on instant winners like Salome, the title track and album opener Candy Man Blues. In particular, Paul Barrere’s slippery slide guitar work stands out, and with vocals handled by the band themselves, it truly does sound like old-school Little Feat.
It may not be Sailin’ Shoes or Dixie Chicken but this rooster does rock. ½ FLO Rida has never been the main attraction on his own records: He’s best known for his collaborations with other artists. His first hit, Low, co-starred T-Pain, and subsequent ones like In the Ayer featuring Will.I.Am and Right Round with Ke$ha should have been an indication of the extent of his range, which is pretty limited.
On his new nine-track album, Wild Ones, he takes even more of a back seat than usual. But that’s not the only problem: some of the tracks “contain elements” of various songs, making the album sound like something you’ve heard before — many times.
Wild Ones sounds like it accidentally ingested beats from David Guetta or Pitbull; it’s a confused mesh of rock, rap and dance music. Not even the J. Lo-assisted Sweet Spot stands out from the crowd of diluted European dance sounds. The title track is somewhat enjoyable, but that’s thanks to Sia’s performance on its hook.
The album’s worst offender is the international hit Good Feeling. It samples Etta James’ Something’s Got a Hold on Me — but it’s sonically identical to the dance jam Levels by Swedish DJ-producer Avicii. Side effects from listening to the tune might include a chronic case of déjà vu and confusion. range of moods within its six pieces, two of which have solo roles for violin (Charlie Siem) and saxophone (Martin Robertson).
Banks’ lyrical bent is sincere and his sounds are comfortably plush, if a bit benign as far as harmonic suspense is concerned. He doesn’t develop his material very well, relying on modestly varied counterstatements to fill out each piece, which results in a fair bit of directionless rambling. Much of this feels like underpinning for a lyric, dramatic happening or visual imagery. By itself, the music sounds more like characters looking for an author than sustained musical argument.
This disc is currently a big seller in the U.K. Fans of Genesis might want to investigate it. ½ CASSANDRA Wilson sounds oh so bluesy and sultry whatever she sings, even on a version of O Sole Mio on this 10-track album recorded in Florence and New Orleans, and featuring guitarist Fabrizio Sotti as instrumentalist, co-composer and arranger.
There are eight songs and two guitar instrumentals and Sotti’s excellent guitar work is key to the disc. But it’s the singer you come to hear and opener Red Guitar and No More Blues are vintage Wilson.
The instrumentation is spare, emphasizing voice and guitar, with percussion (including the great Mino Cinelu), electric bass, and an accordion that gives the music a European café ambience.
Wilson’s voice and delivery are as good as ever, but this album just doesn’t grab you like so many of her earlier recordings. ½