Occupy movement gets a shining soundtrack
“Occupy This Album”
(Razor & Tie)
“Occupy This Album,” this homage to the Occupy Wall Street movement, is thick with troubadours and an eye toward social justice. The four-disc compilation is one part “Who’s who” and one part “Who’s that?” But there are some gems within this encampment.
The theme is mixed, as has been the movement. Take Richard Barone’s “Can I Sleep On Your Futon?” His world is in tatters as he bemoans having a hard time finding the perfect job. “Six years of school and an advanced degree/ And still no job is calling me/ Just student loans and delinquent fees/ I found out the hard way,” Barone sings. It’s a bit of a stretch to find societal fault with his middle master’s degree dilemma.
Other lackluster tracks include Jackson Browne’s flat, boring rendition of “Come On, Come On, Come On” and Chroma’s smarm-filled “Turn The Lights On.”
Loudon Wainwright III hits the sweet spot with “The Panic Is On,” a track bristling with brilliant guitar and a heartfelt message that things are heading to a boiling point in the United States. On “Play The Greed,” Dar Williams asks the listener to ask the right questions of those in power. “Ask why there’s only 40 songs on the station/ Ask your cafe about the coffee’s plantation,” she sings. It’s a sweet and smart track and among the best.
New Willie Nelson album lacks focus
Willie Nelson returns to the Sony label family, home to his greatest commercial triumphs, including “Red Headed Stranger” and “Stardust.” As prolific as anyone of his time, Nelson records with a frequency that speaks of his musical spontaneity and his willingness to work with whomever he desires. His albums sometimes get lost from sheer volume -- and a lack of focus and consistency.
Sony Legacy respectfully positions “Heroes” as more artfully considered, but other than a remarkable take on Coldplay’s “The Scientist,” there’s little that separates the album from Nelson’s avalanche of releases. Covers range from Pearl Jam to Bob Wills. There’s also the bevy of collaborators, from familiar partners like Ray Price to newer buddies like Snoop Dogg (who croons tunelessly on “Roll Me Up,” Nelson’s latest ode to marijuana, which also includes vocal contributions from Jamey Johnson and Kris Kristofferson).
The most frequent duet partner is his son Lukas Nelson, who joins nine of the 14 songs. It’s admirable for a father to want to boost his son’s fledgling career, but it does the music no favors. His son’s voice has Willie’s reedy tone, but little of its musicality or range, making this collection less heroic than it could have been.
Lambert goes dance pop on new album
On his debut album three years ago, Adam Lambert was fresh off a runner-up “American Idol” finish and eager to show off his amazing vocal range. The result was an all-things-to-everyone album ranging from classic rock crunch to hip-hop heat, with an over-the-top ballad or two thrown in.
On “Trespassing,” his second studio album, Lambert narrows the focus to profitable dance pop, though the hyper-emotional ballads still force their way in. The result is a more consistent but less gratifying sophomore offering.
It kicks off with a roar on the title track, co-written with Pharrell Williams of The Neptunes. “Trespassing” employs a drill team stomp-and-clap intro backing up chanting lyrics, propelled by a booming bass line and drum beat reminiscent of Queen’s “Another One Bites The Dust.” That’s entirely appropriate as Lambert may or may not still wind up succeeding Freddy Mercury in the 1970s and ’80s supergroup.
“Cuckoo” leans heavily on synthesizer and a pounding beat and seems destined to become a dance club favorite this summer, along with “Kickin’ In,” a Prince soundalike that deals with the feeling of getting drunk.
“Shady” features assists from Nile Rodgers and Sam Sparro, and the next single, “Never Close Our Eyes” was co-written by Bruno Mars, featuring a flamenco guitar over a dance club beat.
“Pop That Lock” has a groove that would be at home on an LMFAO album, and “Outlaws Of Love” is another of Lambert’s heartfelt declarations that as long as love is real, it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks of it.
If dance music or the club scene is your thing, then you’ll love most of this album. But if you like Adam Lambert the Renaissance Man as shown in his debut, you might be left wishing for a bit more variety.