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Eminem's "Curtain Call" is like a 16-track announcement to the music-listening world that he's finished. He's done. He's leaving the world of recording his own music and taking a seat on the other side of the soundboard.
His latest, and apparently his last, album came out Wednesday. "Curtain Call" is something of a greatest hits record mixed with a few new songs.
Eminem, as he presents himself in this tightly wrapped package, is disillusioned by the fans and the women who insist he's someone he isn't and the bottomless stomach of the music industry.
Eminem stands out among rappers for his storytelling. He avoids the hip-hop cliches of fast women and flaunted wealth.
His song "Stan" and "Lose Yourself" still stand out long after they were released for their conceptual originality. (The bonus track is a live version of "Stan" performed with Elton John.)
The problem, of course, is that after you are cloistered by fame and weighed down by contractual expectations, the thing that made you great wears you out. Or at least that seems to be what Eminem is telling us.
Rated: Maybe he just needs a vacation.
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And speaking of musicians who move back and forth between the mic and the production chair, here's a new one by Kanye West. As in, Kanye West presents John Legend.
Although West gets on my nerves as a rapper, he had all his sins washed away with the discovery of a real talent in Legend.
Legend is an R&B singer in the tradition of Marvin Gaye. He makes the kind of music that has been seducing women for decades. His songs are piano-driven candlelight dinners.
His song "Used to Love U" reminds me of Marvin Gaye's bitter but passionate album "Here, My Dear," the record Gaye made after his divorce, knowing that every penny of the proceeds would go to his ex-wife.
With every track smoother than the previous one, Legend sings his way into the sweaty, sexy scenes of a thousand future movies.
West weaves Legend's voice and keyboards through a series of cameos by Snoop Dog in the five-minute hip hop/gospel celebration "I Can Change," and West in the Motown "Number One."
Rated: Buy the ringtone or use it for that second date/homecooked meal.
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Regardless of whether you like Jack Johnson, you have to admit that years from now, he will have his own dot on the American musical history timeline. I hear his surfer van, acoustic guitar influence in more and more records these days.
And here it is again.
Before I proved it by Googling the two names, I knew that Rudd and Johnson's paths had crossed.
Rudd hails from Australia and plays the Johnson genre of laid-back, campfire music that has the echoes of the blues in its folky style. What separates him from the pack is that his talents go beyond his voice and guitar. In "Solace," he plays the didgeridoo, the harmonica and various percussions.
A picture of Rudd on stage shows three didgeridoos on stands in front of him, several guitars behind him and so many other instruments scattered within reach that there's barely room for the microphone stand.
Rated: It sounds like that last day of a journey, when your hair's grown long and you've gotten used to bare feet, but you'll be putting on shoes tomorrow for the plane ride home.
-- Autumn Phillips