Archive for September, 2011

SuperHeavy is a supergroup containing five artists from distinctly different backgrounds and age groups. A project conceived by Rolling Stones frontman Mick Jagger and his producer buddy and former Eurythmic Dave Stewart, the group brings together a variety of sounds that wouldn’t necessarily always mesh.
Reggae toaster and Bob Marley’s youngest son Damian Marley, neo-soul singer Joss Stone and renowned Indian composer A.R. Rahman (who wrote the score to Slumdog Millionaire) are the other members of the outfit, which released its first album this week.
The group’s name came from the album’s opening track, a heavy (how convenient) reggae-rock-classical-dance fusion track in which all five members shine without stepping on each other’s toes. Marley leads off the track and came up with the song’s hook, Jagger and Stone each deliver verses, Rahman sings some Sanskrit passages and does the orchestration, while Stewart plays guitar and produces the track. It’s a high-quality opener and a proper introduction to the band.
“Unbelievable” contains some Mideastern flavor backing a more conventional pop song. Jagger and Marley (the two members with the most natural charisma) give the track and the rest of the album oodles of machismo and flavor. You keep coming back to this track, which along with lead single “Miracle Worker” forms quite the triumvirate as far as openings to albums go.
“Miracle Worker” is another song featuring everyone, with Marley and Stone especially shining. Stone, the youngest member at 24 and the only female in the group, holds her own with her elder bandmates. Her emotive singing adds proper spice throughout the proceedings.
“Energy” is dominated by Marley and Jagger, who each deliver spirited vocal parts. The rapid-fire vocal passages are as close to rapping as you’ll ever get from a Rolling Stone. Like its namesake indicates, the song overflows with verve and excitement.
“Satyameva Jayathe” is where Rahman gets a spotlight, both vocally and lyrically. It surely has an Indian feel, but it’s transformed into something else entirely when the other members show up for the fun.
“Never Gonna Change” sounds like a long-lost Stones ballad, with Jagger giving an emotional performance over Stewart’s guitar backing. No studio trickery here, and it’s the only track where just two members of the band are featured.
The last half of the album prevents the collection from truly being great. “I Can’t Take it No More” is the obligatory rocker, but it never really gets off the ground with its political posturing and forgettable hook.
“Beautiful People” and “Rock Me Gently” meander a bit too long for my liking, while “World Keeps Turning” offers too many tired cliches.
Still, the album has good intentions and is a great deal of fun to listen to. The first half is great, but ultimately there aren’t enough killer tracks to make it the masterpiece it could have been.

Sod rating: *** 1/2

The much anticipated fourth installment of Lil Wayne’s Tha Carter series took a long time to make.
Some of the delay had to do with Weezy’s legal troubles, as he spent a year in jail on a gun charge. Another reason for the delay was the constant tweaking of the material, subbing songs in and out of the final track order.
Whatever the reason, the album is definitely worth the wait.
Wayne’s crazy wordplay and funny similes are everywhere, and the album has plenty of killer guest spots.
In fact, there are two songs in which Weezy doesn’t even appear. On “Interlude” and “Outro”, which use the same music as the Wayne-dominated “Intro” (not the most imaginative titles but still cool), Wayne takes a back seat and lets his guests flex their lyrical muscle. “Interlude” includes a great spot from Technine and an awesome uncredited appearance by Andre 3000 of Outkast.
On “Outro,” the lineup features Bun B, Nas, Shyne and Busta Rhymes. Nas and Busta particularly kill it on this track and even though the finale is without its star, it somehow works.
Other highlights include “Megaman” where Weezy proclaims he’s “a diamond in the rough, like a baby in the trash”, the kick-ass singles “6 Foot 7 Foot” and “She Will,” the latter featuring a strong hook from budding star Drake.
I also keep coming back to “President Carter,” which expertly samples the 1977 inaguration speech of Jimmy Carter. No joke.
In the days leading up to the album’s release, much of the focus was given to the track “It’s Good (featuring Jadakiss and Drake) and of a possible feud between Lil Wayne and Jay-Z. On the track “H.A.M.” from Jay-Z and Kanye West’s recently released Watch the Throne, Jay-Z made a dig at Wayne friend and mentor Birdman, with a line like “you’ve got baby money, ain’t even got my lady’s money” On “It’s Good,” a fired up Wayne spews “You want Baby money? I got your baby money. Kidnap your bitch and get that how much you love your lady money.” Great line, will be interesting to see if there are more battles between the two rap titans in the future.
This album isn’t perfect, it’s got some down points, especially when Wayne tries to slow things down. “How to Love,” the big hit single, has its heart in the right place but lacks excitement as Weezy doesn’t rap but offers a autotune-assisted croon that takes away some of the fire of the other tracks. Speaking of autotune, T-Pain shows up to gum up the works on “How to Hate,” the other low point on the album.
Still, a few weak tracks are nothing to deter me from listening to the album over and over to find all the lyrical details. A solid effort from a gifted artist.

Sod rating: ****

Red Hot Chili Peppers, I’m With You: The latest album from veteran rockers Red Hot Chili Peppers finds the band in another period of transition.
Guitarist/songwriter John Frusciante left the band for the second time following an extremely successful three-album run culminating in the double disc Stadium Arcadium in 2006. I’ve always preferred Frusciante over any of the other axemen in the band’s long history, and wasn’t sure what to expect with a new guitarist joining the fold.
Josh Klinghoffer, a 31-year-old who toured with the band and contributed on Frusciante solo projects, was brought in to be his replacement. On their first album with Klinghoffer in the fold, the Red Hot Chili Peppers deliver a strong set of tunes and seem re-energized by their new member.
Klinghoffer is very subtle as a player. He doesn’t go for the big guitar solo, he slithers in and out of the songs and adds texture to the proceedings. He allows the rest of the band to do its thing, adding just the right touches to the songs. He also ably replicates Frusciate’s falsetto harmonies, a secret weapon of the band as Frusciante was almost as valuable as a vocalist as he was as a guitar player and tunesmith.
The band doesn’t break any new ground on the album, instead playing to its many strengths. Charged-up opener “Monarchy of Roses” hints at a disco-metal combination, making its working title “Disco Sabbath” quite understandable. Tearjerker ballad “Brandon’s Death Song” is quite simply one of the best tunes the band has ever written, as it was penned for an L.A. club owner and longtime friend of the band who recently passed away. It’s heartfelt without being sappy and has a surprising middle section in which drummer Chad Smith flexes his muscle as the band cranks up the volume.
Lead single “The Adventures of Rain Dance Maggie” is funky and brings lots of cowbell, while “Did I Let You Know” allows bassist Flea to rock out on the trumpet.
Other highlights include the piano-driven “Happiness Loves Company,” the sweet “Meet Me at the Corner” and the hard-rocking “Goodbye Hooray” and “Even You Brutus?”
Album closer “Dance, Dance, Dance” provides some nice atmosphere and again has a middle section where the band surprisingly rocks out for a bit.
The album doesn’t quite reach the heights of the band’s best material, but it’s an expertly performed, thoroughly enjoyable platter.

Sod rating: ****