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Sound Advice

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Made in China

sonic blog v1.0

Recordburger (via iTunes)

Sounds like: Pure pop for jaundiced people

Short take: Crack the Sky frontman stays bitter

Too clever for rock and too edgy for pop, John Palumbo has established himself as something of a cult figure. His band, Crack the Sky, sounded a bit like early Peter Gabriel fronting early Cheap Trick (always a recipe for success), scored a minor FM hit called "Ice," and remains hugely popular in, uh, Baltimore. Palumbo's current side project, Made in China, finds him as acerbic and passionate as ever, with a decidedly more political dimension on standout tracks like "Big Howdy From Iraq" ("And by the way, mama / I had to kill me some folks / So say a prayer for me / Say a prayer for me") and "Shit" ("People who can do shit / Don't do shit"). As always, Palumbo's brilliance is inconsistent, but sufficient to make repeated listenings rewarding. Bill Forman Various Artists


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The Best of Chess Records: Original Artist Recordings of Songs in the Film Cadillac Records

Chess Records

Sounds like: Sounds of Chicago live on

Short take: The blues had a baby ...

The new movie Cadillac Records is a lovingly told story about Chess Records, the little label that could. By releasing early electric blues, they changed the history of music, laying the foundation for rock 'n roll with many of the greatest singers and musicians of all time. On this compilation, Muddy Waters' voice is otherworldly, with its palpable presence of sheer power. There's also Howlin' Wolf's moonlit exhortations, Little Walter's harmonica tone poems of blues beauty, and Bo Diddley's badass braggadocio. Chuck Berry's songs captured white teenagers like free hamburgers, while Etta James' "At Last," with its string sections and horn arrangements, signaled that, like it or not, we all have to grow up sometime. But for 20 years, fire and soul roared from the men and women on Chess Records, turning our world inside-out forever. Bill Bentley


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The All-American Rejects

When the World Comes Down

Interscope

Sounds like: An album of Disney Channel anthems

Short take: Musical evolution eschewed for poppy past

Contrary to their name, the All-American Rejects are one of the mainstream's most accepted pop bands. Following 2005's Move Along, which includes the hits "Dirty Little Secret" and "It Ends Tonight," the Rejects desperately try to keep the watered-down emo and pop zeitgeist alive here. What's apparent from this 12-track album is (1) how much the pop rock world has changed since the band's early success and (2) how much the band has stayed the same. "Back to Me" comes across as a schlock-y Weezer castoff, while the appearance of folk rock act the Pierces turns "Another Heart Calls" into Evanescence lite. Tweeners may still be on board, but this album suggests that the band's funny name may become its epitaph sooner than later. John Benson

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