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Dido strikes depressingly similar note

Reviews: ‘Life for Rent’ emotionally draining tale of lost love

The long-awaited second album from Dido, Da Band’s debut disc and the first collection of original Lyle Lovett songs in seven years are among the albums reviewed this week.


“Life for Rent,” Dido’s follow-up to her 1999 debut disc, “No Angel,” is a depressed cadence for the lovelorn, told through a downward spiral of formulaic sad songs filled with longing and languor.

Mixed with trip-hop beats, sweeping orchestral backdrops and acoustic guitar, the British vocalist clings to melancholy through 11 tracks that struggle to break from the sound she cultivated on “No Angel,” which sold millions of copies.

Opening with “White Flag,” an aching ballad of failed relationships and a nail-dragging persistence to preserve a relationship, the album sways between melodic choruses and whispery, passionate verses.

It rises on flashes of hope before plunging when the passion turns poison on “Who Makes You Feel” and “Mary’s in India,” a mock letter in which one woman tells another of a stolen lover.

Emotions then boil on “See When You’re 40.” Dido’s lyrics turn spiteful as she describes driving circles around a nameless lover’s home. “So see you when you’re 40, lost and all alone,” she sings.

“Life for Rent” grows to encompass the myriad of emotions equated with love — the way a crush grows and consumes on “Sand in My Shoes” and later turns to dependence on “Don’t Leave Home.”

But love’s an easy thing to sing about — too easy for a second album — and a depressed lover either feels better with time or quickly grows dull. (Arista)

— Ryan Lenz


Does it even matter what this review says? This is the hip-hop group created by pop culture icons MTV and Sean “P. Diddy” Combs, so someone is undoubtedly going to buy this album.

But for those who are curious (or skeptical): Guess what? It doesn’t stink. It’s not fantastic, but you won’t have to use it as a coaster.

For those who don’t know, Da Band is made up of five rappers and a singer put together by Combs, the whole process being shown on MTV.

They’ve recorded an album that has its moments. Singer Sara Stokes has a lovely voice, and is always a pleasure to hear. Some of the beats are catchy, like on “How U Like Me Now” and the Wyclef Jean-produced “Do You Know.”

It’s the rappers who present the problem. While they have potential, they need to work on their lyrics and their subject matter. “Stick Up,” where two of them rap about robbing a bank, is almost cringe-inducing. And one wonders what a rapper with more lyrical skill could have done with “Why.” And really, there are just too many of them. Too many voices trying to share limited track time, making it a jarring listening experience. Perhaps Da Band needs to be broken into smaller groups. (Bad Boy)

— Deepti Hajela


With “My Baby Don’t Tolerate,” Lyle Lovett creates a lush musical and lyrical world that proves that he hasn’t lost the songwriting touch that made him famous.

The disc is his first of all original songs in seven years — and his best release since 1992’s “Joshua Judges Ruth.”

On the whimsical “Cute as a Bug,” Lovett uses a catchy melody with off-kilter lyrics to compare his girlfriend with a Volkswagen.

Taking full advantage of his Large Band, he produces countrified gospel in “I’m Going to Wait” and “I’m Going to the Place.”

And with “In My Own Mind,” Lovett creates a thoroughly delightful, light-as-a-summer-breeze song.

“I live in my own mind,” Lovett sings, “ain’t nothing but a good time, no rain just a sunshine, out here in my own mind.”

Anyone looking for an alternative to the country radio blahs would be wise to check out the ray of musical sunlight Lovett delivers with “My Baby Don’t Tolerate.” (Lost Highway)

— Scott Bauer


Few singer-songwriters could inject more new life into solo piano versions of their work than Randy Newman, and none are more consistently — and bewilderingly — undervalued.

“Songbook Vol. 1” revisits evocative jewels such as “Louisiana 1927” and “Marie,” along with newer work such as “When She Loved Me” from the soundtrack to “Toy Story 2.” Most are rendered in Newman’s bourbon drawl above his affecting but unshowy piano work. “When She Loved Me,” sung by Sarah McLachlan in the film, is a surprisingly powerful instrumental here, as are two other entries on the 18-track disk.

Some of the songs gain fresh power from simplicity, most notably “Louisiana 1927” and “Sail Away.” Others get another spin altogether: The Newman-penned seduction rocker “You Can Leave Your Hat On,” a hit for Joe Cocker, takes a darker tinge in this incarnation.

Apart from 1977’s supremely satirical (and thus widely misunderstood) “Short People” — a tune that doesn’t appear on “Songbook” — many people know Newman best through his recent soundtrack work. Here’s a chance to uncover the lyric and songwriting power that got him those jobs. (Nonesuch)

— Rich Harris


Salieri? Wasn’t he that untalented note-spinner depicted in “Amadeus” who was so jealous of Mozart’s divinely inspired genius that he caused his rival’s death by poisoning?

Not by a long shot, according to the evidence on this new album, “Cecilia Bartoli: The Salieri Album,” the result of painstaking research and breathtaking performances by Cecilia Bartoli. The Italian mezzo, after rocketing to fame singing Rossini and Mozart, has made it her mission in recent years to unearth neglected musical gems (earlier albums explored little-known Vivaldi and Gluck).

Antonio Salieri actually was a composer of immense talent and considerable influence. He was a disciple of Gluck’s, a collaborator with Lorenzo da Ponte, Mozart’s greatest librettist, and a teacher of Beethoven and Schubert, among others.

His 39 operas contain much music worth preserving, and it’s startling to learn that of the 13 arias on this album, only two had ever been recorded before.

Bartoli brings them all to shimmering life, whether it’s the death-defying coloratura antics depicting a storm at sea in “Son qual lacera tartana” from “La secchia rapita,” or the noble plea for a husband’s love in “Ah sia gia” from “La scuola de gelosi.” The latter aria, sung by a character named the Countess, is a fascinating precursor of a more famous aria, “Porgi amor,” sung by a different countess in Mozart’s “Marriage of Figaro.” (Decca)

— Mike Silverman


After seven albums, this is the first one that carries Martina McBride’s name in its title. Four years after her last studio album, it’s evident that she has a product she identifies with in “Martina.”

The first single, “This One’s for the Girls,” has a classic McBride sound, backed up by a chorus including her daughters Emma and Delaney, along with Faith Hill and Carolyn Dawn Johnson.

But she branches out on “So Magical” with its Celtic feel; the bluegrass-gospel influenced “Reluctant Daughter” with Ricky Skaggs; and another delightful acoustic piece “Wearing White,” on which she’s joined by Vince Gill.

A simple piano and strings accompany the touching ballads “In My Daughter’s Eyes” and “God’s Will,” as McBride holds her vocal power in check for an understated delivery.

She wraps up with a show-stopping version of “Over the Rainbow” to conclude an album that effortlessly glides from country and bluegrass to gospel and Broadway. (RCA)

— Tom Gardner


He has been a revolutionary, an evolutionary, an ornery and loving humanist committed to peace and music long before the notion of Woodstock ever came about. Pete Seeger — scion of a patrician musical family and friend of folks whose music was made in the hills, the mining camps and the factories — still has songs inside him.

Thus the two-disc “Seeds: The Songs of Pete Seeger, Vol. 3” — in which the banjo-picking populist brings friends along for a healthy dose of inclusiveness. Seeger performs a series of unusual songs that showcase his whimsy and commitment to his chief cause — being kind (“Split wood, not atoms,” he deadpans at one point in a song about maple syrup).

The second disc, “Friends of Pete,” is a sampler of his legacy — those musicians who followed him on his journey and now pay tribute. Of particular charm are Natalie Merchant’s somber “Which Side Are You On” and Magpie doing “Sacco’s Letter to His Son.”

You might call Seeger’s optimism naive, but it’s not blind. Come to think of it, it’s not naive, either. He’s been through it all — blacklisting, civil rights marches, labor protests — and managed to retain his gentleness amid the ugliness. “Either we’re all going to make it over the rainbow or nobody’s going to make it,” he says, singing Dorothy’s song. Listen to him; he’s right. (Appleseed)

— Ted Anthony


Steve Earle’s new live double album, “Just an American Boy — An Audio Documentary,” is a throwback to the days of Phil Ochs, when artists voiced their opinions on relevant political issues in between riveting sets of music. Earle delivers his anti-war, anti-death penalty views in a nonpreachy, everyman style.

It is also a companion piece to the documentary “Just an American Boy,” directed by Amos Poe of “Blank Generation” fame. The choice suits, as the ethos behind that punk film and Earle’s are one in the same.

Like the familiar cover art theme — this time blackbirds amid a tapestry of Americana — Earle’s music is a blend of countrified roots-rock, blues-grass and heartland folk.

The two discs here span his 25-year career, showcasing his husky baritone, deft guitar playing and tight-as-all-hell band.

Things heat up quick with “Amerika V. 6.0 (The Best We Can Do),” a smoking rendition of his scathing assessment of American values.

Other standouts include the touching duet with Garrison Starr, “I Remember You,” and the “Blues” songs kicking off disc two, which at times sound like “Nebraska”-era Bruce Springsteen.

As this compilation shows, he is one of the most important singer-songwriters that America has left. A patriot who doesn’t think Americans are the good guys and won’t shut up about it. How American is that? (Artemis)

— Jake O’Connell

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