Timbaland, Kings of Leon lead this week’s CD Reviews
Timbaland”Timbaland Presents Shock Value”(Blackground/Interscope)One supposes the shock proposed by the title of super producer Timbaland’s first solo album in four years is a guest list that tramples all boundaries in popular music. Where else can you hear, gathered under one cover, Sweden’s garage-rocking Hives; hip-pop titans 50 Cent and Missy Elliot; Joy Division clones She Wants Revenge; and Sir Elton John, to boot?Yet while that collection of talent confirms that Timbaland’s innovations are no longer an exclusively urban concern, the real shock of the disc is the hit-or-miss results. Why invite John to play piano on “2 Man Show,” a predictable piece of mid-tempo R&B? Why waste the Hives on an OutKast-style throwaway such as “Throw It on Me,” which doesn’t even allow them to cut loose?
In the end, the best tracks are those that hew closest to the sounds on which Timbaland made his name: “Give It to Me,” a buzzing, club-happy cousin to Nelly Furtado’s “Promiscuous,” or “Bounce,” a tacky revamp of Tim’s minimalistic work with Justin Timberlake. The unfortunate thing is that Timbaland has already made a case for himself as a genre-busting genius on albums — Bubba Sparxxx’s down-home “Deliverance” is just one example — much stronger than this one.- Dan LeRoy, Los Angeles Times-Washington Post News Service Kings of Leon”Because of the Times”(RCA)The Followill boys (brothers Nathan, Caleb, Jared and cousin Matthew) have done some maturing since their last offering, 2005’s “Aha Shake Heartbreak,” easing up on their hard-living lifestyle and touring with U2.
Need proof? Try “Knocked Up,” the seven-minute opener to their third album, “Because of the Times.” Where once he might have shirked responsibility, frontman Caleb Followill announces with the right mixture of pride and defiance, “she’s gonna have my baby,” over a roiling bass line. It’s an epic song, and the Kings are in control of it throughout. It’s a notion that holds true for the entire album.Working again with producer Ethan Johns (U2, Ryan Adams), the band struts confidently through “Because of the Times,” whether it’s “Charmed” (the best Pixies impression this side of “Smells Like Teen Spirit”), the Zeppelin stomp of “Black Thumbnail” or the atmospheric first single “On Call.” They don’t even embarrass themselves on the reggae-tinged “Ragoo.”Although it’s stylistically diverse, the album feels coherent, and the trio of tunes that ends the record – “Trunk,” “Camaro” and “Arizona” – are a great summation of the Kings of Leon, circa 2007: expansive, hard-rocking (dig the prickly riff that anchors “Camaro”) and already looking ahead to the future. Third albums are the ultimate test for a band that has designs on being a career act, and with “Because of the Times” the Kings of Leon have thrillingly cleared that hurdle.- Stephen Haag, Los Angeles Times-Washington Post News Service Martina McBride”Waking Up Laughing”
(RCA)Martina McBride showed artistic freshness in her musical formula when she detoured into cover territory with a 2005 collection of country standards. The four-time Country Music Association female vocalist of the year returns to her established, pop-leaning style with the mild “Waking Up Laughing,” an assortment of songs built on uncomplicated themes and sonic frameworks.McBride’s pretty voice is well-placed whether she is using its power on the inflated directness of “Anyway” or relaxing on the earnest, earthy “Love Land.” She leans heavily on affirmative messages in the energetic pop rock number “Cry Cry (‘Til the Sun Don’t Shine),” but positive intent is lost in the robotically string-soaked “How I Feel.”McBride ranges more toward power and precision than nuance, which makes it difficult for her to finesse the predictable “I’ll Still Be Me.” She is a practiced hand at selling the ear-friendly hook of “Everybody Does” and the hopeful simplicity of “House of a Thousand Dreams.” But there are too many songs designed to be catchy that don’t work.- Thomas Kintner, Los Angeles Times-Washington Post News Service