- Dan DeLuca
What About Now
Few teams can write an anthem like Jon Bon Jovi and Richie Sambora. The pair may work with additional songwriters to achieve rocking, paean-like status, but whether delivering a hair-metal hymn ("Bad Medicine") or a motivational canticle ("It's My Life") this duo knows how to rouse and rouse big. That's why What About Now is frustrating. After the country cool of 2007's Lost Highway and the somber blue-collar pop of 2009's The Circle, Bon Jovi's songwriters are still busy saving the world while its players (including drummer Tico Torres and keyboardist David Bryan) want to rock it. Often that results in monster-truck, fist-raising moments such as the buoyant "Because We Can" - but not quite often enough, slowed as the album is by weighty concerns (with no answers) and a musical palette colored in soft Coldplay-ish tones. This doesn't mean Bon Jovi has to go loud to get anthemic. The tender acoustic "The Fighter" is bracingly heart-palpitating and quietly chilled out. Something is subduing these Jersey boys. Less swelling ambience and more punch would solve this problem. At a time when its tresses are trimmed and its membership has matured, Bon Jovi needs to let its hair down.
- A.D. Amorosi
(429 Records ***1/2)
For his first album in five years, Boz Scaggs traveled to the Royal Recording Studio in Memphis. Sure enough, the singer-guitarist begins by channeling the studio's most famous artist, Al Green, with his own sublime "Gone Baby Gone" before segueing into Green's "Good to Be Here," with a string arrangement by Green's late producer and the studio's owner, Willie Mitchell.
Backed by a stellar cast that includes producer-drummer Steve Jordan, guitarist Ray Parker Jr., and keyboardist Spooner Oldham, Scaggs further mines this silky vein of R&B - as he has done going back to his '70s hitmaking days - with superb takes on Tony Joe White's "Rainy Night in Georgia" and Sylvia Robinson's "Love on a Two-Way Street."
Memphis, of course, is also known for rootsier and grittier strains, and Scaggs is equally adept at delivering them. He works his way there with such numbers as Willy DeVille's "Mixed Up, Shook Up Girl" and Donald Fagen and Walter Becker's "Pearl of the Quarter," and he dives right in with the swamp-infused juke-joint jump of Moon Martin's "Cadillac Walk" and the raw blues of the Meters' "Dry Spell" (with Keb' Mo' on Dobro and Charlie Musselwhite on harmonica) and Jimmy Reed's "You Got Me Cryin'." He brings things full circle at the finish, in mood and musical style, with his own elegant ballad, "Sunny Gone."
- Nick Cristiano
(Mack Avenue ***1/2)
Freed from the daily grind of the Tonight Show, guitarist and Philly native Kevin Eubanks slows down to release his second CD. The set, with saxophonist Billy Pierce playing a key role, covers a broad palette of musical flavors from funk to folk, from Jeff Beck's rocking "Led Boots" to a worldly take on John Coltrane's "Resolution" (with the bass sung by Take 6's Alvin Chea.) The outing is also surprisingly low-key, with four of 11 cuts in deep ballad mode.
Eubanks, an heir to one of Philly's great musical clans - brothers Robin on trombone and Duane on trumpet both appear here - is adept at making immediate connections with an audience. The L.A.-produced set could have gone so much mushier and commercial, but Eubanks keeps the standard high and ends up making a legit jazz session that both snarls and finds some beauty.
- Karl Stark
Top Albums in the Region
This Week Last Week
Locally Nationally Locally
1 1 Luke Bryan -
Spring Break ... Here to Party
2 2 Jimi Hendrix People, Hell & Angels -
3 3 Bruno Mars Unorthodox Jukebox 1
4 4 Mumford & Sons Babel 3
5 6 Rihanna Unapologetic 8
6 10 Lumineers Lumineers 4
7 5 Macklemore & Ryan Lewis The Heist 6
8 11 fun. Some Nights 10
9 8 Imagine Dragons Night Visions 14
10 17 Boz Scaggs Memphis -
SOURCE: SoundScan (based on purchase data from Philadelphia and Montgomery, Delaware, Bucks, Chester, Camden, Burlington, and Gloucester Counties). Billboard Magazine 3/23/13 © 2013
On Sale Tuesday
Les Misérables: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack;
Kacey Musgraves, Same Trailer Different Park;
Clutch, Earth Rocker; Anthrax, Anthems