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CD reviews from Eagle County, Colorado

Daily Staff Report
newsroom@vaildaily.com
Eagle County CO, Colorado

“Universal Mind Control” G.O.O.D. Music/Geffen Records

The once-underground hip-hop artist Common painted himself into a corner awhile ago as a chin-stroking hippie who can still hang with the harder types. It might’ve gotten Lonnie Rashid Lynn Jr. a few Hollywood jobs, but it didn’t help diversify his image ” and image counts for a lot in Common’s business.

In his eighth album, “Universal Mind Control,” Common tries to break away, taking on a harder, naughtier persona and dipping his typically dusty grooves in executive producer Pharrell’s cold chemical wash. For part of the album, the techno gambit blows fresh air into Common’s paisley pondering.

The title track is a banger with ice-floe-thick beats. His Kanye West-assisted “Punch Drunk Love” is bedroom bravado set to defrost. His collaboration with Cee-Lo, “Make My Day,” is bouncy sun-glinted retro-soul that should’ve served as a model for the whole album.

But too much of “Universal Mind Control” falls conceptually flat. “Sex 4 Sugar” hints at Barry White, but it stalls out with Common’s unclever seduction rhymes. Wasted opportunities abound, including an inconsequential final track with Tricky’s muse-chanteuse, Martina Topley-Bird.

Common gained currency, but too much is squandered.

“Margaret Wappler, L.A. Times-Washington Post

“Charlie Louvin Sings Murder Ballads and Disaster Songs” Tompkins Square

Charlie Louvin, half of the celebrated Louvin Brothers, was raised with his late brother, Ira, on songs about tragedy and human frailty.

At 81, Louvin has returned to that wellspring for his latest collection, “Charlie Louvin Sings Murder Ballads and Disaster Songs,” which brims with an off-the-street immediacy more common to rap. Even though some of the material here was written nearly a century ago, the emotions the songs evoke are ever-relevant.

Where titillation is often the alpha and omega of reality television, tragic songs can operate on a higher level both through the music in which the tales are couched as well as the life and spiritual lessons they typically contain. “Wreck of the Old 97” has been a cornerstone of the country and bluegrass repertoire for decades. It tackles the theme of haste as it applies to human endeavor, in this case a train engineer who tempts fate as he hurries to get to his destination. And there’s a moral to the story:

“Now ladies you must take this warning/From this time on/Never speak harsh words to your true lovin husband/He may leave you and never return.”

Louvin’s weathered voice lends an air of authenticity a younger singer might have trouble matching, and the lean, predominantly acoustic arrangements add to the feeling that we’re not merely being entertained but also enlightened.

“Randy Lewis, L.A. Times-Washington Post

Mudvayne

“The New Game” Epic

The plot of Mudvayne’s new album of growly aggro metal reads like a truck-stop Raymond Chandler novel. Someone killed your best friend, and because the small-town cops are useless, it’s up to you to find out who did it. The shifty-eyed weed dealer with the simmering vendetta? The tweaking Vietnam vet overly fond of high-school chicks?

One thing Philip Marlowe would not do after a hard day of busting heads and breaking hearts is listen to Mudvayne. Although “The New Game” tries to instill a bit of dread with a goofily sordid narrative, it trawls some pimply musical terrain to get there. The album’s gooey, mid-tempo grind at best evokes System of a Down stripped of ambition and eccentricity, and might elicit sympathy with whatever culprit is running around that no-stoplight town.

Mudvayne’s oeuvre has long tried to reconcile vocalist Chad Gray’s radio-ready inclinations with more menacing instrumental fare. The band should pick one card and play it, as almost tuneful single-bait like “Have It Your Way” and “Scarlet Letters” undermines the gnashing of “Dull Boy,” which sounds like having a lukewarm bottle of Bud Lime broken over your skull.

Why this stuff still sells in an otherwise great time for metal is the real mystery here.

” August Brown, L.A. Times-Washington Post


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