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Cee Lo Green: The lady killer has you in his sights

Cee-Lo Green in performance


The Lady Killer Cee Lo Green (Elektra/Warner)

This record was huge weeks before it appeared, thanks to the very direct kiss-off single that's been ricocheting across radio and the Internet since the summer. Like Crazy, Cee Lo Green's 2006 hit as the burly, steely-voiced half of Gnarls Barkley, the new single, with its profane title (later released as a more kid-friendly Forget You),has thrown a spotlight on a singer who has a way of making you feel uneasy even as you hit the replay button.

Listen to the later single's bridge, which seems to turn a full 180 against the breezy unconcern of the verses and chorus. Suddenly he's no longer flipping the bird, he's bawling out his agonized love for the woman who spurned him. It's almost pathetic - but is it real, even as a narrative device? It's so extreme, you're not really sure; but here comes that chorus again, and once again he's blowing off that gold-digger and her new guy, and it feels great.

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In many ways, as the album's other tracks confirm, Green is a real R&B traditionalist. A diverse posse of co-writers and producers, including Bruno Mars, Salaam Remi, Jack Splash and Rick Nowels, can scarcely budge Green's allegiance to classic R&B song forms and arrangements, with their frisky horns, muscular bass lines and somnolent strings. His themes aren't out of the ordinary either: He wants love, or wants to prove he doesn't really need it. But again and againhe dares you to ask where the "real" thing stops and the parody begins. There's a touch of the postmodern clown about Cee Lo Green, whose tears often seem to be painted on his face.

The album's overall concept is played at first in the old-fashioned way, with an intro that casts Green as a rounder, browner James Bond: "When it comes to ladies, I have a licence to kill!" Cue the secret-agent music, and a string of songs that explore the theme in ways that can get downright creepy. In Bodies, for example, Green sings, "They say that chivalry is dead; then why is her body in my bed?" Kind of crass, you say, as if he bedded her out of pity; but then it turns out that the body is no longer breathing, and the tabloid press is on it, and regret isn't part of the story.

Love Gun takes a title worthy of Spinal Tap and literalizes it, over a habanera beat that becomes more insolent as the doubt grows: "One to the head, then one more to the heart" - are he and Lauren Bennett singing about love, or about America's blind romance with the gun?

In I Want You, Green gets way more abject in the pursuit of his goal than a true lady-killer ought to. But the very next song, Cry Baby, sounds like the aftermath of a show of love-sick adoration that was basically just a con. The song's closing appearance of residual nice-guyness may actually be more obnoxious than the uncaring attitude of the rest.

In short, this disc is all about seduction, and the intended target is you. Green wants to whip you around, mess up your head, fill up your field of vision with his imploring, party-making self, till you just have to give in. And the worst of it is that he succeeds: This record is way too full of compulsive grooves and dance-ready choruses to resist.

The Lady Killer reaches stores on Tuesday and is streaming in its entirety at


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Black Dub Black Dub (Jive/Sony)


Daniel Lanois's name is all over this project - he wrote the songs, recruited the band (which includes frequent colleagues Brian Blade on drums and Daryl Johnson on bass, as well as soul singer Trixie Whitley) and, of course, he produced it. But it's a very anomalous disc in his catalogue, more an exploration of style (mainly blues, reggae, soul and gospel) than the kind of personal solo record he has made in between production jobs for U2 or Bob Dylan. Johnson and Blade work up some arresting grooves, Lanois's solo guitar can be rich and atmospheric, and Whitley's heavy soul alto is made for numbers like Surely, a dogged love song that edges toward a stalker's cri de coeur. But Lanois's distinctive song-writing voice is scarcely evident, except perhaps in Silverado, which sounds like a reggae reworking of his haunting devotional song Shine, from his 2003 solo album of that name. Sing channels the Ink Spots and Mahalia Jackson, Sirens and Ring the Alarm feel like studio jams that didn't quite go anywhere and Canaan posits a kind of transcendence that just feels glib. Overall, this is an attractive but disappointing disc. Robert Everett-Green

Live in Boston, 1966 Junior Wells & the Aces (Delmark)


The problem with contemporary blues music is that it tries too hard - its rock too loud; its exclaim much too keen. It wasn't always that way, as an unearthed live disc from the Lyndon Johnson era shows so well. At an unnamed Boston club, the slurry and funky little guy named Junior mellows down easy and swings just right with the great, sinuous drummer Fred Below and the bassist Dave Myers and his brother Louis (the guitarist who squeezes off a pair of greasy solos). The set is informal, with seven of 19 tracks made up of in-between-song banter from the singer-harpist Wells. "That's the blues, baby - lowdown, stinkin' and dirty," says that messin' man after the resigned Worried Life Blues. "You've got to have a hole in your soul if you don't feel it." Wells felt it; the Aces felt it. Now, how about you? Brad Wheeler

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Chopin: Piano Concertos Janina Fialkowska, piano; Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Bramwell Tovey (Atma Classics)


Canadian virtuoso Janina Fialkowska has recorded Chopin's piano concertos before for Atma, in versions for piano and string quintet. These were revelatory but not nearly as eloquent as her new recording with the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra of the conventionally orchestrated versions of the concertos. Chopin's muse was Italian opera, and this is unmistakable in Fialkowska's playing, which is so much less self-consciously pianistic than most Chopin interpretation. Her right hand sings with a clarion tone, and she toys with the melody just as a diva might, alert to the drama of the individual phrase. Fialkowska also articulates, her touch less consistently legato: Not for her the seamless melding of phrases into long, artificial, romantic trajectories. The recitative in the "larghetto" of the F minor Concerto doesn't sound like a passage influenced by recitative; it sounds like the real thing, an accompanied recitative transferred directly to the piano, its theatricality intact. Elissa Poole

Useless Creatures Andrew Bird (Fat Possum)


Originally a companion piece to Andrew Bird's 2009 release Noble Beast (it was included in the deluxe edition), Useless Creatures is a different sort of animal entirely. Where Beast was loaded with wistful and ingratiating pastoral pop, Creatures tends more toward the abstract, as tracks like Sigh Master and The Barn Tapes use layers of overdubbed violin to create an acoustic environment somewhere between Enya's misty soundscapes and the austere beauty of Robert Fripp's ambient work. Not that Creatures is given entirely to colouristic splashes of sound; there's plenty to hum along with on the exotic Carrion Suite (featuring bassist Todd Sickafoose and percussionist Glenn Kotche) and the dreamy You Woke Me Up! J.D. Considine

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About the Author

Robert Everett-Green is a feature writer at The Globe and Mail. He was born in Edmonton and grew up there and on a farm in eastern Alberta. He was a professional musician for several years before leaving that task to better hands. More

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