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KISS ME ONCE
Kylie Minogue (Warner Bros.)
The latest offering from pop goddess Kylie Minogue is like a narcotic disco dream, slightly confused about the time-space continuum, yet very delightful. With her 12th studio album — her first after signing with Jay Z's Roc Nation management — Minogue attempts to keep her crown in the dance kingdom — and succeeds — when she's not trying too hard to upgrade to today's trends.
Australian wunderkind Sia, who has written for Rihanna, Beyonce, and Britney Spears, co-executive produced this tiny gem of dance floor anthems and sex-crazed tunes. When three out of 11 tracks have the word "sex" in their titles, you know what the album is going for — the antechamber to the bedroom of music.
Minogue excels on songs that are pure bubblegum fun. The Pharrell-penned spring-in-one's-step I Was Gonna Cancel, the vaguely familiar Sexy Love, the casually dance-inducing Feels So Good, and the beguilingly ’80s throwback title track bring back a rash of dance memories from Minogue's golden days circa 2001 with the addictive hits Can't Get You Out of My Head and Love at First Sight.
Sia's writing contribution to the fun is the aggressively erotic Sexercize, a bass-heavy baller of a song that slithers all over your ears and proves that Minogue can deftly rap. Another laidback come-on is the enjoyable Les Sex.
The bug in this sextra intoxicating party cocktail is the misguided attempt at a ballad: an irritating duet with Enrique Iglesias' computer-flavored vocals on Beautiful. Just stick to what you do best, kids, separately. You can't force love on a player of an album.
— CRISTINA JALERU,
LOCO DE AMOR
Juanes (Universal Latino)
Much like love itself, Juanes' new album Loco de Amor is deceptive.
At first glance, the pop-flavored album seems as upbeat and sweet as a teenage crush. For longtime fans of the Colombian rocker, the sound is unlike the Juanes we know. But on a deeper dive, the album shows itself to be something else.
Under the radio-friendly hooks and major chord progressions, there is Juanes' powerful voice reaching new corners. And, a careful listen to popular rock producer Steve Lillywhite's mix reveals surprising layers.
Keyboard flourishes familiar to Latin dance floors, such as on the opening track Mil Pedazos or the single La Luz, manage to sound fresh when combined with the album's driving percussion and Juanes' passionate vocals. The title track, which features the fantastic Emmanuel del Real of Café Tacvba on keyboard, is especially fun. Juanes is on an acoustic guitar, creating an understated performance.
The Grammy-winning singer — who once led the rock band Ekhymosis — has moved away from the social activism he previously embraced to take on the universally approachable theme of love on his sixth solo album. It may be new territory for Juanes fans, and it's a place likely to pull in listeners just discovering one of Latin America's biggest stars.
— MICHELLE MORGANTE,
Frank Wess (IPO Recordings)
This final recording by the late Frank Wess, who died Oct. 30 at age 91 of a heart attack related to kidney failure, is a testament to what the jazz world lost: A passionate, soulful saxophonist and flute player with a rich, lush tone who got listeners to feel his music almost as much as he did.
Wess, a former member of the Count Basie Orchestra who was named a jazz master by the National Endowment for the Arts in 2007, was a throwback to a bygone era who went largely unnoticed by the masses despite the subtle beauty of his improvisation. This disc is an outstanding follow-up to an earlier IPO release, Magic 101. Wess is accompanied on both by the always brilliant pianist and one-time Toledo-area Art Tatum memorial concert performer, Kenny Barron and the gifted jazz drummer Winard Harper.
In the liner notes, Harper notes that Wess played like "there's nothing wasted; all the notes mean something, and he has that thing that I really think a lot of the younger players need to listen to and try to emulate: What he plays counts. There's something behind the note - it's not anything wasted." Harper goes on to say this: "It's not just notes; there's a story he's telling."
And the story on Magic 201 is a powerful one, though not of the in-your-face variety. Wess, in combination with Barron, Harper and others, does what great musicians do. He moves people. The disc was recorded in 2011, when Wess was 89. Included are five fine ballads, a blues and two easy-flowing swing pieces drawn from standards. Wess grew up a saxman. But, in its obituary about his passing, the New York Times credited Wess for helping to "popularize the flute as a jazz instrument in the 1950s and '60s." One piece on Magic 201 features Wess on an extensive, gorgeous flute solo.
— TOM HENRY