Day I Forgot
* * *
Pete Yorn is tangled up in blue, forever singing to himself about how it all went so wrong. His weapons are an acoustic guitar and a weary voice, but he's less like Dylan than a bridge between Paul Westerberg and Jimmy Webb, both idiosyncratic songwriters with an unnatural flair for melody and inevitable heartache.
Yorn makes pure pop minus the sugar.
That is already enough to make him more interesting than such amiable young singer-songwriter types as John Mayer. Yorn is no wise guy. Nothing is ever certain in his mind. So if his romantic observations are not always profound, they are still deeply felt. The edge in his voice is universal.
His second album, Day I Forgot, continues in the tradition of the tightly crafted folk-pop of his fine 2001 debut, Music for the Morning After. He doesn't quite reach the same songwriting peaks this time but does stray into worthy moments of experimentation.
Yorn comes closest to the sound of his first album with "Come Back Home" and "Crystal Village," keeping things direct and focused on the natural beauty of his songs. Occasional fussy production sometimes dulls that impact, but fans know that another hook-filled lament of hope and regret is never far away.
Blue Man Group
* * 1/2
Performance-art ensemble Blue Man Group (you know, the trio of guys whose heads all look like the 2-ball on a pool table) endeavors to expand its horizons with a rock recording that can stand alone without the troupe's mind-bending visuals. The disc's hefty theme is the fragile relationship between the individual and society at large, and the blue crew hasn't quite succeeded. "Time to Start" is a wry enough jab at rock-concert behavior, but it'll obviously be a fuller, funnier experience on stage, and you get that same sense from many of the tracks, which are explosive rhythmically but not much more. Songs able to entertain on their own include "Sing Along," featuring Dave Matthews; "Up to the Roof," with Tracy Bonham on vocals; and the haunting instrumental "Exhibit 13," which, naturally, is more effective in video form.
Have You Forgotten?
* * *
Country radio has been eating up Worley's mildly rockin' single, with its overt patriotism and martial beat. But there's sincerely better material to be had on this 16-track set, including "I Will Hold My Ground," a real boot-stomper about fighting for one's beliefs that sidesteps the preachiness of "Have You Forgotten?"
The title track, like the first half of the album, finds Worley paying homage to the troops he entertained over the holidays as part of a USO tour of Afghanistan. Of this bunch, Worley especially shines when he's just longing for home ("Back Where I Belong") or channeling the ghosts of the Civil War ("Shiloh"). But the real highlight of the album comes well into the disc, which Worley describes as a retrospective look at his career thus far, and that's the freewheeling Tennessee swing of "Too Many Pockets."
Baby I'm Bored
* * *
Just when it seemed former Lemonheads singer Evan Dando was a footnote - with the requisite record geek re-evaluation set for 2020 - the alt-pop dreamboat surprises an unsuspecting public with this 12-song casual affair consisting of wily pop charmers, country rock on Tylenol P.M., and two covers of star pupil Ben Lee.
To say he's "back" would be damning Dando with faint praise. Yes, there's plenty of sweetness-with-a-smirk Lemonheads jangle such as "Stop My Head" (co-written and performed with pop maestro Jon Brion) that packs an intoxicating toy piano hook.
But the thinly veiled self-analysis set to acoustic guitar brilliance of "Shots Is Fired" ("Whatever part of you that's been calling the shots is fired") finds Dando exorcising demons and unfurling an elegantly ramshackle arrangement with a newly clear mind and cool hand.
Creatively, it's a new day for Dando, and, a couple of throwaway rockers aside, he sounds anything but bored singing about the mix of sun and clouds dotting his second musical life.
* * 1/2
Even if you're as consistent as crooner Brian McKnight, fans will talk "new direction" when U Turn is the title of your seventh album, which includes attractions for the 106 & Park set. But they'll be wrong, even though Nelly is the first voice heard, on the made-for-radio bouncefest "All Night Long." Fabolous joins Six John in offering wan rhymes on the title track. Thankfully, the strings-laden "Good Enough" is indeed that, blessed by R&B; heroes Joe, Carl Thomas, Tyrese and Tank.
"Back Seat (Gettin' Down)" is fortified by a layer of hollers that would do Marvin Gaye proud. And though "If It Was Cool" is the standout musically, McKnight's falsetto sounds irritatingly airy. His songwriting shines on the midtempo balladry of "Shoulda Woulda Coulda," "Try Our Love Again" and "So Sorry."
U Turn survives the occasional side trip to the kids' table. McKnight is best when he stays in his lane.
Plastic Silver 9 Volt Heart
* * * *
This five-piece outfit from New Orleans has earned a reputation as a great party band since its inception in 1989, but there's more than mindless revelry at work on its irresistible fifth album. Co-founders and principal songwriters Rod Hodges and Joe Cabral have whipped up a tantalizing gumbo of rock, Latin and New Orleans R&B; sounds and seasoned it with dashes of saxophone, accordion, organ and more.
Tunes sung in English and Spanish evoke everything from a steamy night in a Mexican dance hall ("Zacatecas") to '60s garage rock ("I Dig You") to Paul Simon's infectious Graceland album ("Sugarcane"). The country-tinged title song, about turning to the radio for solace, is a slice-of-life charmer. Pop this one in the CD player the next time you're saddled with entertaining hipper-than-thou friends for dinner. They'll leave thinking you're way cool.
Who's Next Deluxe Edition
* * * *
It may not be the band's greatest album - I'd take its debut (recently and finally reissued in a similarly packaged two-disc set) or the impeccable The Who Sell Out any day. But thanks to classic rock radio, every one of the nine songs on the 1971 LP is embedded in even the casual listener's mind. The band even transformed the anti-authority anthem "Won't Get Fooled Again" into an anti-terrorist war cry in the wake of 9/11.
The guitars-and-synths sonics of the beautifully produced album, whose songs were originally intended for a concept album to be called Lifehouse (later realized by Pete Townshend), have been improved by remastering, and the extras on Disc 1 include outtakes intended for that project: "Pure and Easy" and a cover of Marvin Gaye's "Baby Don't You Do It," along with alternate studio versions of the released songs.
- Compiled from wire reports
Excellent * * * *; Good * * *; Fair * *; Poor *