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Published: Saturday, 9/30/2006

Sounds: Great in concept, disc disappoints

Thirty-one years ago, John captured his and writing partner Bernie Taupin's ascent to rock stardom on "Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy." His new disc is a bookend to that, a reminiscence of their last three decades.

It's an audacious concept, updating a classic from a new perspective. But in its execution this is for the most part a pedestrian effort. Several of the disc's songs feature less-than-inspired melodies or lyrical pizzazz, though John's piano - which features strongly throughout - is a needed counterpoint.

So, too, is the title track. With a loping country rhythm, one of John's best vocals, and lyrics that sum up the road he and Taupin have traveled, it is highlighted by a classic chorus.

There also are flashes of the old magic in the poignant ballad "Blues Never Fade Away" and countrified "I Must Have Lost It On The Wind."

More of the same would have made all the difference. Instead, John opens with "Postcards From Richard Nixon," which could have used some more musical muscle, and continues through somewhat drab rock and roll on "Just Like Noah's Ark," and " And The House Fell Down" which rocks on a tasty backbeat with a nice piano riff but suffers from lyrics about a huffing and puffing wolf.

On the title song, John sings "You can't go back and if you try it fails." And on this disc, John and Taupin seem less to have gone back than to be very much in the present, settled into easy chairs, reflecting as two old friends. Maybe thinking that old glories can be recalled, but not, as the CD shows, fully regained.

- RICHARD PATON

Forget preconceived notions of the Big Band sound on this very impressive debut release. While there's the unison and structure one expects from the genre, Wiest wows listeners with his free-for-all trombone solos and no-holds-barred improvisation. He even brings dazzling crescendos and new dimensions to a seemingly predictable standard, Irving Berlin's "Cheek to Cheek." Five of the eight songs are Wiest originals, on some of which he shares the spotlight with other soloists.

For five years in the 1980s the featured trombonist and an arranger for the late Maynard Ferguson's band, Wiest captivates with his awesome dexterity, great sense of pacing, and his hearty yet crisp and generous tone. Associate producer on this fine disc is former Sylvania resident Chaim Roberts.

-TOM HENRY

John Mayer gets a creative pass on this, his fourth studio album. He's young and everyone's entitled to a mistake as they search for their musical center. Plus, Mayer's a likable guy with a ton of talent. Unfortunately, it's tough figuring out what exactly he wants to be.

Is he a powerful blues guitarist firing off hot leads in concert, or the dull, blue-eyed soul man who warbles his way through "Continuum," making statements about his generation or making googly-eyes at his woman?

The problem with this disc is evident immediately on the repetitive, Marvin Gaye-wannabe vibe of the opening cut, "Waiting On the World to Change." A weak-kneed political statement of purpose, Mayer has said it's supposed to sum up how folks his age feel about the world around them. If so, apparently they're content to wait on the sidelines while someone else does the heavy lifting.

Let's hope Mayer is getting this kind of gibberish out of his system now so he can get around to releasing the instrumental tour de force he clearly has in him.

- ROD LOCKWOOD



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