Friday, Mar 23, 2018
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CD reviews: On its second album, Audioslave cuts loose with a refreshing and vibrant blast of rock


Audioslave (Interscope)

Audioslave possesses that one quality that most supergroups lack: focus.

With former Soundgarden frontman Chris Cornell singing and writing lyrics backed by Rage Against the Machine exiles guitarist Tom Morello, bassist Tom Commerford, and drummer Brad Wilk, Audioslave is built to succeed.

The band's first disc, 2002's self-titled release, was a massive hit and a statement that the band is indeed a cohesive unit. Unlike Velvet Revolver, the disappointing, over-hyped Stone Temple Pilots/Guns N' Roses merger, this is a band with a much tighter, clear-minded attack.

After some musical throat-clearing on the first few tracks, the band lifts off about mid-disc on melodic hard rock smackdowns like "Drown Me Slowly," "Doesn't Remind Me," and "The Worm." The effect is an exhilarating updating of the sound template created by Led Zeppelin.

Cornell's a first-rate hard rock screamer with a husky, multiple octave voice and the band is powered by Morello's inventive noise-making and high-octane riffage, which makes for a refreshing blast of noisy rock.

Good second releases - or second albums, period - are rare for bands made up from the ashes of other groups, but Audioslave is a notable exception. There are no side musicians or frills on "Out of Exile," just the sound of a well-oiled band hitting its peak.



The Dave Brubeck Quartet (Telarc)

This album doesn't play as if it is anchored by a musician who's going to turn 85 on Dec. 6 - not with the vibrancy and bounce it has in such songs as "Mr. Fats" or the emotion conveyed in "Forty Days." Though Brubeck's not in the spotlight quite as much on this album as he has been on others, that's OK. The only non-Brubeck composition on this disc is a soft, uplifting ballad called "Steps for Peace," written by composer Derrill Bodley in recognition of his daughter, Deora, who was aboard United Flight 93 hijacked by terrorists on 9/11.



Embrace (Lava)

With Coldplay making musical headlines it is timely that Lava is releasing this powerful CD by Embrace that features a lead-off single, "Gravity," that was written by Coldplay's Chris Martin. The disc conjures words like anthemic, expansive, heartfelt. Walls of guitars, serious punch to the rhythm section, and lovely melodies come together for an album of sonic power and emotional impact. The disc's pace is predominantly rather languid, but the lack of frenetic tempos doesn't hold back the songs that ring in the memory long after the CD is over.



Ralph Stanley (Rebel)

"Shine On" is quintessential Stanley, with pure bluegrass joy heavy on sacred music mixing several gospel-based standards with some new material. His backup band, the Clinch Mountain Boys, provides sparkling bluegrass pickin' and fiddlin' as it cuts loose on a couple of uptempo numbers. Some oldies get a new life here, and a few are done better than they have been in years, such as "I'll Fly Away" and "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot."



BENZALI, Daniel Benzali (Rio Kat) Benzali (NYPD Blue, Murder One) adds his individual vocal style to standards with slick, contemporary arrangements that include jazz and Latin stylings on a dozen tracks including "My Funny Valentine" and "Blue Skies." Not for traditionalists. R.P.

FOR HER, Walter Beasley (Heads Up) Jazz saxophonist Beasley delivers heartfelt songs inspired by his passion for a woman, their breakup, and the uptempo sense of hope as he moved on with his life. It's a genuinely warm and well-intentioned set of original material, smooth and soulful, although the songs could have been a bit more distinguishable one from another. T.H.

MIAMI #027, mixed by Danny Howells (Global Underground) Reflecting his DJ sets in Miami, Howells blends house, progressive, and electro-tinted tracks in a flawless 2-CD mix that's just right for spinning on the home stereo as the sun goes down. R.P.

MUSIC FROM AND INSPIRED BY THE MOTION PICTURE THE LONGEST YARD, Various Artists (Universal) Nelly is featured on four of the 13 songs, most of which smack listeners over the head with the subtlety of a 2-by-4, though there are a couple of all-too-brief flirtations with variety: Nelly's melodic finale, "Fly Away," and Akon's "So Fly." Plus, there's a spinning, gyrating sound from Ali & Gipp on "Let `Em Fight." T.H.

THINK OF ME, Little Milton (Telarc) Veteran bluesman Milton Campbell is in fine form with this package of 12 solid numbers. He has been performing and recording continuously since urban blues rose to prominence after World War II, expertly mixing his emotional vocals, guitar work, and songwriting into a sound that became known as "soul blues." K.R.

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