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RECORD RACK

Michael Buble's 'Crazy Love' is pleasant but vanilla

Also: Dead By Sunrise and Flaming Lips

October 15, 2009|Chris Barton; August Brown; Mikael Wood

Michael Buble

"Crazy Love"

(Reprise)

* *

In a release introducing Grammy-winning vocalist Michael Buble's new album, he is mentioned in the same sentence as a choirboy, Elvis and Louis Armstrong. Curious company, but when an artist sells roughly 20 million CDs worldwide, there can be a sense of becoming, musically, all things to all people.

Though it takes a bit of straining to hear all the above references on the Canadian crooner's latest collection, its mix of brassy standards and tastefully done originals from the world of jazz and pop will give those familiar with Buble's work pretty much exactly what they want. Which translates to an assortment of tradition-minded love songs, delivered with an assured -- if at times less than understated -- hand.

Things get off to a rocky start with a bombastic take on "Cry Me a River" that opens the record with all the dramatic subtlety of John Barry scoring a James Bond film. Buble's faithful if vanilla renderings of Van Morrison's "Crazy Love" and the Eagles' "Heartache Tonight" aren't likely to make anyone forget the originals.

But underneath the record's proto-classic sheen, there are some universal pleasures. Soul firecracker Sharon Jones coaxes Buble's pipes into a soulful purr on the duet "Baby (You've Got What It Takes)," and a collaboration with singer-songwriter Ron Sexsmith called "Whatever It Takes" recalls the breezy balladry of 1970s AM radio gold.

The album's middle-of-the-road approach isn't exactly for everyone, but its agreeable heart doesn't hit any sour notes, either.

-- Chris Barton

Less ambition from Bennington

Dead by Sunrise

"Out of Ashes"

(Warner Bros.)

* *

The best thing about Linkin Park's last album, "Minutes to Midnight," was how deftly it cleaved off the band's rap-rock stereotypes. Chester Bennington dialed down his caterwauling, and the songs were rooted in lighters-up emo tinged with snappy, heavy rock.

The debut release from Bennington's new side project Dead by Sunrise similarly fuses ambient atmosphere, trashy punk and bleeding-heart melodies onto a framework of pop-metal songwriting. But while "Out of Ashes" has moments of spark, it's more scattershot and less ambitious than the music Bennington makes with Linkin Park.

Bennington's self-laceration is pushed to the front of the mix here. "Crawl Back In" has an odd return-to-the-womb psychology to it. (Whoever heard of a rocker singing "I don't want to lose my innocence" before?)

The band is at its best when rocking the hardest. The metalcore grind of "My Suffering" and the Queens of the Stone Age riffage of "Inside of Me" prove Bennington still can pen the kind of inspiring choruses that have earned him a devoted following among angsty teen males. As a rock star side project, though, Dead by Sunrise has an unlikely fault -- it's not nearly indulgent enough.

-- August Brown

Many songs are still gestating

Flaming Lips

"Embryonic"

(Warner Bros.)

* * 1/2

"People are evil, it's true," sings Wayne Coyne on the new album by Oklahoma psych-rock outfit the Flaming Lips. That kind of observation is typical of Coyne, who in the Lips' 2002 hit "Do You Realize??" wondered if we were aware that "everyone you know someday will die."

Since the band's mid-'90s breakthrough, Coyne's bad vibes have come coated in candy. Albums such as "Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots" had heart-swelling melodies by the dozen, while the Lips' live shows featured more confetti than a child's birthday party.

There's no such sweetening on "Embryonic," which finds Coyne and his bandmates stripping down their sound to its essentials: synths, guitars, bass and lots of drums. The result is bracing. "Silver Trembling Hands" toggles between an ominous space-punk verse and a lush R&B chorus; "Convinced of the Hex" works up to a clattering jazz-rock climax.

In these cuts the Lips prove that they haven't lost their edge. At 18 tracks, though, "Embryonic" includes an awful lot of filler. That stuff isn't depressing -- it's just boring.

-- Mikael Wood

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