Crazy Love, (Warner Bros)
His penchant for Frank Sinatra voicings and idolatry have sometimes submerged Buble’s own vibrant sound, but he has shed those tendencies on his latest (and best release).
Some of that is due to the variety of material, which ranges from the usual contemporary updates of standards (“Cry Me A River,” “Georgia On My Mind,” “You’re Nobody till Somebody loves you”) to R&B/ soul classics (a sizzling remake of “Baby (You’ve Got What It Takes) with Sharon Jones & the Dap-kings) and inspired collaborations with Ron Sexsmith (“Whatever It Takes”) and Naturally 7 (“Stardust”).
Still, it’s Buble’s charm and interpretations that make Crazy Love a standout work as well as evidence of his growth and maturation as a stylist.
The Flaming Lips
Embryonic, (Warner Bros)
Fluid, inventive improvisation and rangy, experimental passages are not something necessarily associated with the Flaming Lips. But their newest two-disc work at times has musical reminders of early 1970s jazz-rock ensembles, with such songs as “Evil,” “If,” “Scorpio Sword” and “Watching The Planets” offering an intriguing blend of emphatic lyrics, aggressive vocals and energetic, sometimes frenzied vocals.
The additional sound effects, noises and screams on such selections as “Watching The Planets” or “I Can Be A Frog” take things even further outside conceptually, and a bonus DVD available in the deluxe version of this set adds visual edge and clarity to what’s arguably the boldest and most challenging Flaming Lips package released thus far.
Southern Voice, (Curb)
Tim McGraw delves in everything from philosophy to religion on his latest release, alternating between tough talk and contemplative pose, conciliatory tones and ardent commentary.
His opening (“Still”) and closing numbers (“Love You Goodbye”) are among the set’s most sentimental material, though “If I Died Today” and “I Didn’t Know It At The Time” rework the same territory about purpose and meaning as his prior hit “Live Like You Were Dying.”
McGraw divides production duties with Byron Gallimore and Darran Smith, and the performances are consistent, sometimes spirited and other times softer. McGraw can also be caustic on occasion (“Mr. Whoever You Are”), but is at his best on introspective and reflective flair rather than accusatory or angry efforts.
Colour Me Free! (EMI)
Joss Stone doesn’t make headlines nor get involved in self-destructive behavior. While other blue-eyed British soul types indulge in endless recreations and remakes, Stone’s latest features almost completely original tunes, many of them pieces she co-wrote.
The main exception is a wonderful version of Ray Charles’ “I Believe It To My Soul,” with David Sanborn providing gritty alto fills and solos behind her superb lead. She also enlisted Nas for slashing verbal interludes on “Govermentalist,” Raphael Saddiq on “Big ‘Ol Game” and the duo of Shelia E and Jeff Beck on “Parallel Lines,” her brief shift into rock territory.
Stone’s conversant with all the nuances of Motown, Memphis, Philly or Chicago soul, but on Colour Me Free! she’s looking ahead rather than behind.
Music Inspired by the Film ‘More Than A Game,’ (Interscope)
Given the NBA’s obsession with image, it’s amazing that the tone and direction of so many songs on this soundtrack reflect film star LeBron James’ fondness for “gangsta” rap.
You certainly aren’t going to hear the uncensored versions of “Drop It Low,” “I’m Ballin,” “We Ready” or “Go Hard” in arenas anytime soon, and it’s also doubtful that commissioner David Stern will select Ya’ Boy, Soulja Boy Tell’Em or the tandem of Ester Dean and Chris Brown to headline any league-sponsored concerts.
But just as the movie gives viewers an authentic view of inner-city life and the pressures put on young people playing a national high school basketball schedule, this CD reflects the music and sounds that pro players enjoy, even if they aren’t exactly what the NBA prefers.