January 10, 2009 / 10:48 PM / 10 years ago

Billboard CD reviews: Fall Out Boy and Keyshia Cole

Keyshia Cole sings the American national anthem before the welterweight boxing match between Oscar De La Hoya of the U.S. and Manny Pacquiao of the Philippines at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada December 6, 2008. REUTERS/Steve Marcus


NEW YORK (Billboard) - “Change will come,” Patrick Stump sings on “(Coffee’s for Closers),” a typically excitable cut from the new Fall Out Boy album. Considering that the Chicago band’s original plan to release “Folie a Deux” on Election Day, that lyric was likely intended as a tip of the hoodie to Barack Obama. Now it plays more like an acknowledgement of the evolution of FOB’s sound, which since 2005’s breakthrough “From Under the Cork Tree” has taken on new complexities without losing the fist-pumping qualities that made Stump and his bandmates mall-punk superstars. “Folie” is easily the group’s most adventurous outing yet, with assured forays into blue-eyed soul, arena-ready glam and ‘80s-style electro. Next time, maybe we’ll get that long-promised polka jam.


ALBUM: A DIFFERENT ME (Imani Entertainment/Geffen)

Moving past the pain and tears of her first two albums, a sultry Keyshia Cole lets fans know she’s ready to give them “A Different Me.” Underscoring her mission, the singer-songwriter jump-starts the proceedings with the rollicking party jam “Make Me Over,” whose pulsating kick is flavored by interpolations of Ike and Tina Turner’s “Tina’s Wish” (originally known as “Tina’s Prayer”). She keeps the playful fervor going on “Please Don’t Stop” before coyly slowing things down on “Erotic.” Whether hooking up with real-life friend Monica on the midtempo girl-talk duet “Trust” or channeling her trademark passion on the noteworthy ballads “You Complete Me” and “Brand New,” Cole exhibits a growing confidence and command of her vocal talent.


ALBUM: GREATEST REMIXES (Daylight/Epic Records)

Diehard fans of Good Charlotte’s early pop-punk records can’t say they didn’t see “Greatest Remixes” coming — at least not if they heard last year’s dance-flavored “Good Morning Revival,” much of which could’ve passed for an album by singer Joel Madden’s ex, Hilary Duff. Still, the electro-rock remixes collected here (by the likes of Fall Out Boy frontman Patrick Stump, the Academy Is ... and Joseph Hahn of Linkin Park) should serve as definitive notice that GC has left behind its three-chord roots for good. What’s less clear is precisely whom this set is intended to lure, considering that “Revival” didn’t exactly build the band a base in dance-floor hipster circles. One diamond amid the head-scratching, infrequently booty-moving rough: a hilariously overdriven pump-up of “Girls & Boys” by the Ed Banger Records Allstars.


ALBUM: THE POINT OF IT ALL (Mister’s Music/So So Def/Zomba)

Best known for soulful ballads like 2006’s “Can’t Let Go,” Anthony Hamilton kicks it up a couple of notches on his latest album. He’s still discoursing on his favorite subject, the love of a good woman. But Hamilton wraps his feelings around a more uptempo framework, like the lead single “Cool” featuring rapper David Banner and the strut fest “Fallin’ in Love.” While proving he can get down with the best of them, Hamilton doesn’t forsake the ballad. He poignantly shifts into Smokey Robinson falsetto on the moving confessional “Please Stay.” And the spare yet powerful title track is worth the price of the CD alone. Forget the retro tag that’s usually affixed to descriptions of his work. Hamilton is simply a damn good singer with a rich, warm voice that just gets better with time.


ALBUM: TCHAMANTCHE (Nonesuch Records)

Malian vocalist/songwriter Rokia Traore’s latest album project is a collection of tunes (most of which she composed or co-authored) that are notable for both their gorgeous musicality and graceful simplicity. The sound she conjures is grounded in the vibe of old-school Gretsch and Silvertone guitars, abetted by fundamental percussion, n’goni (a West African lute) and classical harp. Traore sings in French and her native tongue, and she also delivers a beguiling cover in English of Gershwin’s “The Man I Love,” a song Billie Holiday owned back in the day. Track after track, Traore’s lyrics (as translated in the liner notes) are sheer poetry. “Zen,” sung in French, is all about doing nothing and doing it with an ineffable artistry, while “Tounka” is a lovely song about the distressing issue of Africans emigrating illegally to Europe.


ALBUM: COMPASS (Nonesuch Records)

The master saxman uses the occasion of his latest Nonesuch release to embark on a “further exploration” of the trio format that he began with 2007’s “Back East” (itself an homage to Sonny Rollins’ “Way Out West”). And indeed the virtuoso is purposefully extending himself in all manner of directions on this sprawling, 13-track behemoth: “Little Ditty” is a sweet little fog-on-the-moors lullaby, “Hutchhiker’s Guide” is a smooth and tasty groove, “Insomnomaniac” is as nutty and frenetic as its title suggests (including a wicked, funky mid-song detour) and, most tellingly, Redman uses “Just Like You” to interpolate bits of none other than John Coltrane’s after-hours mournfulness, before the track shatters into a supreme-sounding mess. Redman has surrounded himself with a familiar cast of friends and experts — bassists Larry Grenadier and Reuben Rogers and drummers Brian Blade and Gregory Hutchinson — and between the lot of them, there’s not a less-than-assured moment.


ALBUM: JEANIUS (Blacksmith/Warner Bros.)

Jean Grae is possibly the strongest, most talented female MC that hip-hop has seen in the past 20 years. But her previous albums have lacked the benefit of an A-list producer who can take the South Africa-born beauty’s fiery, perfectly worded battle raps to the stratosphere of crossover success. And in former Little Brother beat-miner 9th Wonder, Jean has found her own private DJ Premier, who helps her to create her finest album to date. Though gestating for a time as a mixtape, “Jeanius” was good enough to be released as Jean’s official third album and debut on the Warner Bros.-affiliated Blacksmith label. As 9th Wonder constructs lush, soul-drenched soundscapes straight off the blocks of Gamble and Huff’s Philadelphia, Jean delivers the self-revelatory “Don’t Rush Me” and the touching “My Story,” which chronicles her traumatic experience at an abortion clinic. Battle-cat moments such as “2-32s” and the Fatin-produced posse cut “Smashmouth” with K. Hill, Edgar Allen Floe and Joe Scudda showcase lethal verbal swordplay.


ALBUM: SOLD OUT (King Mojo Records)

Big Shanty, a slide guitar cat out of south Alabama, is touted as a blues artist, but on this, his third album, his sound is more beholden to swamp rock. The set opens with “Big Shanty,” a hard-driving bit of hubris. “Love Train” has the impact its title implies, the muscular pulse of the rhythm section driving the track as guitars tangle on the top end. “Stop Pushing Me” has a tasty funk feel, highlighted by nasty, hornet-buzz guitars. “Tybee Town,” a sparse, strings-only number, offers a mellow change of pace near the end of the disc. The one caveat is that several songs, especially “Kiss the Eight Ball” and “They Say It’s Raining,” are essentially crunchy instrumentals paired with dreadful lyrics.


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