CD reviews: Robin Thicke, Charlton Singleton, Paul Allen and the Underthinkers
Wednesday, August 7, 2013
Unless you’ve been living under a rock all summer, then you’ve likely heard or at least heard of “Blurred Lines,” the massive hit single by singer Robin Thicke.
Produced and co-written by Pharrell, that pop nugget finds Thicke channeling Marvin Gaye with a funky beat and falsetto vocals that would impress even Prince.
So how does the rest of the album under the same title sound?
Well, while no song on the “Blurred Lines” album comes close to re-creating the unexpected pop goodness of the single, there is still plenty of material for pop and dance fans.
Thicke, who is the son of actor Alan Thicke of TV’s “Growing Pains,” has been trying to achieve superstardom for the past decade or so, both by releasing his own albums and writing songs for other artists, including Lil Wayne, Christina Aguilera and Jennifer Hudson.
The remaining songs on “Blurred Lines” generally follow the same themes as the hit single, with plenty of sexual innuendo sung in Thicke’s trademark falsetto vocals over pumping dance-pop beats.
That isn’t to say that the other songs on “Blurred Lines” are necessarily bad, just a bit repetitive.
There are a few standout tracks among the bunch. “Feel Good” is sure to be a dance hit sooner rather than later with its undeniably catchy arrangement. “Top of the World” is a wonderfully retro number that finds Thicke temporarily jettisoning the falsetto and rapping, which he does quite well, in fact.
Aside from the album’s title track, though, the best track might be “4 The Rest of My Life,” a slow jam that will likely become a favorite first dance request at wedding receptions.
Much of the rest of the album is good, but not great.
While the single “Blurred Lines” remains the primary reason to pick this album up, Thicke has crafted an above-average pop album and in the process has finally nabbed the key to the land of pop music royalty.
Key Tracks: “Blurred Lines,” “Feel Good,” “4 The Rest of My Life”
If you have even a passing interest in jazz music and live here in the Lowcountry, then the name Charlton Singleton is likely a familiar one.
As conductor of the Charleston Jazz Orchestra, Singleton has gathered a like-minded group of jazz enthusiasts and found a home at the Charleston Music Hall, where the CJO regularly performs to sold-out crowds.
On Singleton’s latest studio release, “Soul Cavern,” the artist demonstrates why he is held in such high regard both here in Charleston and out in the jazz universe as a whole.
Backed by a solid lineup of musicians, including saxophonist Mark Sterbank, pianist Richard Harris White Jr., bassist Kevin Hamilton and drummer Quentin Baxter, Singleton presents seven tracks of great jazz music.
Each song was composed and arranged by Singleton, and while the styles vary slightly from track to track, the songs all seem to dovetail nicely into one another.
The leadoff track, “Enter to Worship,” presents the Charleston equivalent to Dixieland jazz with its upbeat and joyful delivery, anchored by Singleton’s trumpet.
The title track and “Delicate” allow Singleton to present the mellower side of his composing, while tracks such as “Del Rio” and “4/4” are two of the album’s more swinging tracks that I’ll bet will sound even more amazing when you hear them live and in person.
Singleton’s 2011 studio debut, “The New Deal,” showed us that he was a serious jazz artist with the right amount of passion, talent and dedication to make it.
On “Soul Cavern,” Singleton proves that first excellent release was no fluke.
Key Tracks: “Enter to Worship,” “Del Rio,” “4/4”
Paul Allen and the Underthinkers
Everything at Once/Legacy
With enough cash on hand, one can accomplish just about anything.
I’ll admit that was the attitude I had pushing the button on “Everything at Once,” the new album by Paul Allen and the Underthinkers. For those who don’t know, Allen co-founded Microsoft with Bill Gates.
After a cancer scare in 1982, Allen started distancing himself from the company (he’s still a consultant) and concentrating on the things in life that made him happy. A lifelong music enthusiast, Allen has always had a hand in various music projects, most notably the EMP Museum in Seattle, a multimedia experience that rivals the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in size and scope.
Now, the multibillionaire has released his debut album with his band the Underthinkers. Allen either wrote or co-wrote every song on the album, and he plays guitar on several of the tracks.
Since the album is meant as a fundraiser for EMP, Allen called in some favors from some pretty heavy hitters in the rock ’n’ roll world. Ann and Nancy Wilson of Heart are featured on the opening track, “Straw into Gold,” while Chrissie Hynde sings on “Rodeo.” Joe Walsh sings and plays slide guitar on “Six Strings from Hell,” and Ivan Neville sings on “Restless” and “Inside Out.”
Other notable artists contributing include Matt Chamberlain, David Hidalgo and Derek Trucks.
The music itself is much better than one would expect from a former computer executive with money to burn. Tracks such as “Straw into Gold” and “Six Strings from Hell” are well-crafted and would likely sound good even if sung by a nobody vocalist.
The album’s high point comes with “Cherries Fall,” a smoking rock track in the style of Jimi Hendrix. It was Hendrix that first inspired Allen to start playing music himself, and vocalist Doyle Bramhall, who co-wrote the song with Allen, absolutely nails it.
While it likely won’t become a rock classic by any stretch of the imagination, “Everywhere at Once” is an interesting and above-average collection of songs performed by an impressive assortment of bona fide rock stars.
Key Tracks: “Straw into Gold,” “Six Strings from Hell,” “Cherries Fall”
By Devin Grant