REVIEWS: The-Dream, Stone Temple Pilots, Sergio Mendes
ALBUM: LOVE KING
NEW YORK (Billboard) - Rounding out the deceptively powerful trilogy that's given us 2007's "Love/Hate" and last year's "Love vs Money," The-Dream sticks to his signature future-soul sound on "Love King," which the singer/songwriter/producer has called the final album he'll release as a solo artist. If that proves true, he's going out in style: Less sprawling but just as richly detailed as "Love vs Money," the 12-track set contains several of The-Dream's finest numbers yet, including "Make Up Bag," in which he advises deep-pocketed husbands and boyfriends on how to avoid the doghouse, and "Yamaha," a spirited piece of Prince worship clearly inspired by "Little Red Corvette." Alas, "Panties to the Side" is no less crude than its title suggests, though the easily offended can always skip ahead to "February Girl," six gorgeous minutes of sweet synth-soul nothings.
ARTIST: STONE TEMPLE PILOTS
ALBUM: STONE TEMPLE PILOTS (Atlantic Records)
The Stone Temple Pilots' new self-titled album -- its sixth studio release and first since "Shangri-La Dee Da" in 2001 -- perfectly showcases the veteran rock act's bold musicianship and songwriting know-how. The 12-song set displays a marked maturity and strong sense of direction since the four-piece's re-formation after an approximately five-year hiatus. The songs "Take a Load Off" and "Hazy Daze" smack with hard-rock lickery, while "Cinnamon" shimmers with carefree '90s optimism. And there's a notably Beatles-influenced Britpop quality to tunes like "Hickory Dichotomy" and "Dare If You Dare." Bringing everything from Seattle grunge sounds on the opening track/first single, "Between the Lines," to homesick acoustic balladry on "Maver," the sundry set still boasts a strong sense of unity. Displaying impressive vocal polish from outspoken frontman Scott Weiland; blazing guitar solos over tight, crunch-laden instrumentation; and grungy takes on Lennon/McCartney melodicism, STP asserts its place among seminal hard-rock chameleons.
ARTIST: SERGIO MENDES
ALBUM: BON TEMPO (Concord Records)
Summer, soccer and Sergio Mendes. Whether or not Mendes planned for his newest album, "Bon Tempo" (Good Time), to come out on the eve of the 2010 FIFA World Cup, it's an ideal trifecta. The bandleader, known for his blend of Brazilian bossa nova, roots rhythms and pop, again proves to be a master of fusion, mixing sounds, languages and notable collaborators (including Milton Nascimento and Seu Jorge) as few can. Mendes reprises some of his best-known songs, like "Ye-Me-Le," and a reference to his personal anthem "Mas Que Nada" pops up in "Emorio," the invigorating opening track featuring singer Nayanna Holley and the freewheeling Carlinhos Brown. A new version of '70s hit "Pais Tropical" could return it to the European discos where it once ruled. Even when a weaker track -- "You and I" -- gets so fluffy it's about to float away, Mendes brings it back to street level with Brown's funky rap. Continued...