Category: Gorillaz

Album review: Damon Albarn's 'Dr Dee'

Album review: Damon Albarn's 'Dr Dee'
Damon Albarn seems about as busy as a pop star can be. In March the frontman of both Blur and Gorillaz released “Rocket Juice & the Moon,” a trippy Afro-funk disc he made with drummer Tony Allen and Flea of the Red Hot Chili Peppers; next month we’ll see the fruit of his recent collaboration with the great soul singer Bobby Womack. And this summer Blur is scheduled to play a massive concert at London’s Hyde Park to end the Olympic Games.

Given that schedule, you might expect frenzy from “Dr Dee,” the first album issued under Albarn’s name since 2003. Instead, the record opens with the sound of birds and rushing water and grows only more contemplative from there. A studio companion to a so-called “English opera” that premiered last year in Manchester, “Dr Dee” explores the life and work of the Elizabethan polymath John Dee; it features Albarn on vocals along with contributions by Allen, guitarist Simon Tong (formerly of the Verve) and members of the BBC Philharmonic, among others.

As music divorced from image, “Dr Dee” glitters intermittently. “Apple Carts” is as lovely (and bummed-out) a ballad as Blur’s “No Distance Left to Run,” while “Coronation” contains some gorgeously spooky choral singing. But extracting a narrative from these delicate sounds can feel like more trouble than they’re worth — even if you haven’t half as much happening as Albarn does.

Damon Albarn
“Dr Dee”
(Virgin)
Two stars (Out of four)

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— Mikael Wood

 

Gorillaz are human after all

Gorillaz600

In today's Calendar, I talked with Damon Albarn and Jamie Hewlett about the recently reanimated ensemble Gorillaz, which plays the Gibson Amphitheatre tonight (with Lou Reed in tow!). Those who remember their Coachella set this year might recall a distinct difference in this live setup -- it was dominated by live musicians. This current tour is a bit heavier on the projections, but as Albarn said, "You don't have Paul Simonon and Mick Jones in your band and obscure them." No, no you don't. Read the whole feature here.

-- August Brown

Photo by Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times

Ludacris back at No. 1 with 'Battle of the Sexes'

Ludacris 2008 Mel Melcon

Atlanta rapper-actor Ludacris is back atop the national sales chart with his latest, “Battle of the Sexes,” his third No. 1 album and the first rap collection to make it to the top since Jay-Z’s “Blueprint” logged two weeks there in September.

It’s a rebound of sorts for the rhymer born Christopher Bridges, after his 2008 album, “Theater of the Mind,” made it only as high as No. 5. “Battle of the Sexes” had first-week sales of 137,000 copies, putting it just ahead of the new Gorillaz effort, “Plastic Beach,” opening at No. 2 on sales of 112,000 copies.

In a strong week for new releases, with five debuting in the Top 10, the posthumous Jimi Hendrix collection “Valleys of Neptune” enters the chart at No. 4, on sales of 95,000 copies. That’s one notch higher than the peak position of his landmark 1967 debut album, “Are You Experienced?,” and right behind 1968’s “Axis: Bold as Love” and 1971’s “The Cry of Love,” both of which peaked at No. 3. The rock guitar hero scored his only No. 1 album in 1968 with “Electric Ladyland.”

The other new entries to the chart this week are from Southland-reared country singer Gary Allan, who debuts at No. 5 on sales of 65,000 copies of “Get Off the Pain,” and  Broken Bells, the new group featuring producer Danger Mouse and Shins singer James Mercer. Their collaboration, also called “Broken Bells,” starts out at No. 7 with sales of 49,000 copies, according to Nielsen SoundScan.

-- Randy Lewis

Photo of Ludacris. Credit: Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times

Bruce Willis takes a gun to the Gorillaz in 'Stylo' clip

Willis_Gorillaz_6_

One of the first sounds heard on the new Gorillaz album, due March 9, is the relaxed drawl of Snoop Dogg. "Welcome to the world of the plastic beach," the rapper sings, referencing the album's title ("Plastic Beach") and greeting the listener with Blaxploitation-era brass notes and jazzed-up hip-hop beats. 

It's at once familiar  but far from routine, as notes are stretched and digitzed while the animated band, led be Blur's Damon Albarn, harmonizes behind Snoop Doog's fairy-tale-referencing lyrics. "It's like Wonderland," he sings, as the band relaxes into a trance-inducing groove of hip-hop and vintage soul. 

The video for the first single, "Stylo," is a bit more violent, albeit featuring a similar psychedelic mix of old-school sounds. Actor Bruce Willis makes a cameo, chasing the cartoon desperadoes around a "Smokey and the Bandit"-like setting. Sadly, it is not embeddable (sigh), as EMI-released content is still shamefully sparse on Vevo, but we can show you a teaser below.

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