re:CDs -- Rock and Roll Ain't Dead



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Lenny Kravitz


Greatest Hits


[Virgin]

Lenny Kravitz is one of those pop icons who is meant for

greatest hits packages. As with Sade, George Michael and Whitney Houston

before him, Kravitz has always cranked out tons of awesome singles, but his

albums as a whole generally leave something more to be desired. Why buy

those LPs if you only wanted the few best songs anyway?

This greatest hits collection has everything you want and need

from Kravitz's five albums. It opens with the divine rocker "Are You Gonna

Go My Way," from the album of the same name, and continues on through some

of the best rock songs that have come out over the past two decades. From

the ironic, head-banging "Rock and Roll is Dead" to the recent classic "Fly

Away," Kravitz has truly proven that he can rock with the best of them.

But of course, some of the most outstanding Kravitz songs have

been his odes to love and loss. The retro "It Ain't Over Till It's Over"

sounds like something you've heard before but just can't figure out where,

while "I Belong to You" resonates with its upbeat lyrics set against a

tragic, impatient, musical backdrop. Even the brand-new single, "Again,"

puts other powerballads to shame with its undeniable rawness.

Screw all those music journalists who say Kravitz is just a

wannabe Hendrix, masterfully ripping-off all the rock 'n' roll that came

before him. He's just going his thang - calm down if he decides to cover

"American Woman"! If it means paying tribute to the best at whatever degree

Kravitz wants to, then so be it. After hearing this great collection, why

would anyone want to stop him from doing what he's doing? [Bryan Chin]


Sad Rockets


Transition


[Matador]

Robots, rejoice! Sad Rockets, a.k.a. Andrew Pekler, is back

with a jazzy, noisy, score to settle on Transition.

Now on the Matador Records label, the Uzbekistan-born Pekler uses his

latest album to delve into a variety of genres, from the

Robots-in-action-films sound of "Heavy Meta" to the Middle-Eastern flair of

"Boogie Electric" and the smooth jazz on "Lachmachun Spezial." All along,

though, Pekler employs a strong element of electronica, whether it appears

as an afterthought on "Twenty-six" or as the featured creature on "Leaky

Faucet Skank."

Transition is an excellent in-between album for any jazz

fan tentatively branching out to electronica, hip-hop and trip-hop.

Pekler's tunes are inviting, mixing pop, punk and jazz with hot synth

noises and sound samples. While Transition begins with robotic, rigid

tracks like "Senio Junior" and "Heavy Meta," it quickly progresses into a

fusion of jazz and electronic bliss, at times moving into caustic rock but

constantly revolving around warm keyboards, sound samples and metallic

noise.

Scratchy vocal samples and Middle-Eastern style keyboards on

"Boogie Electric" exhibit further Pekler's comfortable mutability. Like his

all-encompassing background (Pekler is a Uzbekistanian who grew up in

California and now lives in Berlin), Sad Rockets' latest is not just

comfortable with variety - rather, Pekler unabashedly samples and combines

an amazing mix of moods and melodies.

One of the most beautiful tracks on Transition is the

soft, melodic "Winter's Over," which uses echoing slide guitar riffs and

light, cutting, twangs. In a flurry of drum-tapping and metallic slides,

Pekler creates a snow-melting track that quietly closes winter and ushers

in warmer tunes.

Sad Rockets heats up on "Sad Rocket's Rock Steady," a

bare-bones mixer of big band, rock and jazz. The music can almost come

across as too sparse, but a careful listen reveals several tracks working

in tandem to perfect a spaced-out groove.

Part of Pekler's charm is the simple combinations of sounds he

mixes to create layered, tripped-out songs. Initially, "Senio Junior"

appears barely held together by a metallic drum track and fumbling organ

solos. However, the laid-back complexity fused onto Pekler's music is

quickly evident - songs may start lazily, but they flesh out and evolve

with precision and sophistication.

Transition does likewise, meandering through distorted

wa-wa pedal action adventures and cigar-smoking lounge acts to complete

this chapter of Sad Rockets' musical journey. [Rachel Metz]


U2


All That You Can't Leave Behind


[Interscope]

During the '70s, four men from Dublin, Ireland got together to

form a band. By the mid-'80s, the group, known universally as U2, was an

untouchable force in music. It practically created a genre of its own by

mixing rock 'n' roll with religion, politics and the pursuit of peace, love

and freedom. Song after song radiated with resonating guitar riffs by The

Edge, bass by Adam Clayton, rolling percussion by Larry Mullen and, of

course, the unmistakable, swooning voice of Bono. Worldwide, listeners

simultaneously cheered and wept at the feeling of being part of something

incredible with albums like The Joshua Tree and Achtung Baby

- moments of sonic bliss in which rockets would lift off Earth, wars would

be fought, oceans would roar and deserts would stretch on for as long as

the heart could comprehend.

U2 was on top of the world and humbly rode the wave of its

success while courageously experimenting with techniques that departed from

the style that defined them. Perhaps as a result of these ambitious

endeavors, U2 hit a bit of a ditch after the early '90s - if you disregard

the several hits that popped out anyway - with the release of their

tentative inventions Zooropa and Pop, which dabbled in

everything from obscure electronica to wailing new age.

Now, with the release of All That You Can't Leave

Behind, U2's tenth official album, the band has given us reason to

believe that the legend lives on. All 11 tracks bear characteristics that

are as wonderful as those found in the songs of the glory days, but also

include fresh elements that promise more to come in the future.

In essence, U2 is the same as we prefer to remember them. The

hit single "Beautiful Day" pulses with trademark positive energy, "Walk On"

features the intimacy of nearly whispered vocals, and "Peace On Earth"

assures us that U2 still cares about the world with lyrics that plead,

"Heaven on Earth / We need it now / I'm sick of all of this / Hanging

around / Sick of sorrow / Sick of pain / Sick of hearing again and again /

That there's gonna be / Peace on Earth." Still, the twanging guitar of "In

A Little While" and the unexpected string-like synthesizers of "Kite"

remind us that U2 has returned from a journey that changed them as unknown

lands change a seasoned traveler. We welcome this, not knowing where they

will venture next, but only understanding that it is nice to have them home

again for a while.

This album is one to own. [Jia H. Jung]

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