This young Georgia band understands something important:
If you're going to go the screamo route on your vocals and follow the larynx-shredding path to rock glory, you'd still better be able to sing, which lead vocalist Adam Harrell pulls off on the band's second release.
Effectively marrying hard rock, emo, and metal, the band delivers its hook-heavy tunes efficiently, creating a dynamic release that is equal parts Dashboard Confessional and Lamb of God. Fans of the latter band probably find these guys too wimpy, and Dashboard fans might cringe at the aggressive rhythm patterns and powerhouse guitars, but that's what makes "Fiends" work.
Kicking off with a screaming blast of vitriol on "Chemicals (King of the Carp)" the band zigs and zags from angry screamers to more melodic tracks like the excellent "Wolves (G.O.B. vs. Tony Wonder)," which has a ska-like rhythm bed and faux horns. For every throat-ripper like "Carnies (Raptures Raptors)" there's a track like "Barbarians (Crackle Rotcha Tee Thout)" that sounds like '70s arena rock with its dual boogie guitar attack.
It's not a perfect disc, no doubt, and over the course of its length the band gets a bit tedious, especially when Harrell gets carried away with the wailing. But for a second release, "Fiends" has the feel of a band that is confident and primed for more good work.
- ROD LOCKWOOD
Jazz-fusion guitarist extraordinaire Steve Khan, who has more than 20 albums as a band leader and co-leader to his credit, breezes through a cool combination of two originals and seven other songs, some oldies, with the help of top-shelf musicians such as Jack DeJohnette on drums, Bob Mintzer on bass clarinet, and Randy Brecker on flugelhorn.
Whether it's a McCoy Tyner number, an Ornette Coleman piece, or a Thelonious Monk-Coleman Hawkins collaboration, Khan leads, but also allows for a fair amount of improvisation. There's nothing uptight or stilted here, and the musicians mesh like the true pros they are.
Of particular note is a moving version of "You're My Girl," written by Khan's father, the late Sammy Cahn.
- TOM HENRY
With his 55th album, Osmond shakes off a measure of his self-described "uncool teenybopper" title by reinventing himself with 12 classic songs. He follows in the wake of huge success by other artists who recorded albums of oldies, most notably Rod Stewart, Martina McBride, and Barry Manilow.
Osmond doesn't reach as far back as Stewart did on four albums of nostalgic standards, instead going back to the romantic pop gems of the '70s. Osmond's new album is a far cry from what he calls the "cheesy music" he used to record.
While Stewart and others sang their cover versions mostly straight, with even the instrumental work not straying far from the originals, Osmond interprets these great songs in a way that injects his own emotions without getting carried away. His delivery shows a strong voice backed by lively studio work, all the while retaining a familiarity that doesn't tread on the songs' greatness.
However, even contemporary musicianship and a dash of falsetto can't pull "Mandy" out of its maudlin grip of sentimentality. Most of the other tracks are refreshing and worthwhile.
- KEN ROSENBAUM