• December 29, 2014

Tricky back on form with new CD

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Posted: Friday, May 31, 2013 4:30 am

“False Idols” (Life or Death, 3 stars)

It’s been tricky being Tricky. The British DJ/producer, born Adrian Thaws, made a grand entrance in 1995 with “Maxinequaye,” his Mercury Prize-winning debut album that mixed dub, hip-hop, and electronica into a dense sound that made other trip-hop acts of the day sound like child’s play.

His next few records were more than serviceable, but eventually the paranoia that always coursed through his music overwhelmed it, and after a while, Tricky was a forgotten man.

He’s back on form, however, on “False Idols.” In place of one-time vocal foil Martina Topley-Bird is lovely-voiced 24-year-old Brit Francesca Belmonte, and other tracks feature guest contributions from Peter Silberman of the Antlers and Nigerian songstress Nneka.

The opener, “Somebody’s Sins,” references Van Morrison and Patti Smith, and “Valentine” reshapes “My Funny Valentine” for its own moody ends. In both of those cases and throughout “False Idols,” Tricky wisely resists the temptation to undercut the songs’ simple hooks.

It wouldn’t be a Tricky album without a touch of the dystopian, but “False Idols” benefits greatly from letting a little light in along with the darkness.

— Dan DeLuca

Agnetha Fältskog

“A” (Verve, 3 stars)

As one of the two golden female voices of Abba, Agnetha Fältskog represents not just the slickest of Euro songcraft but the purest of voices, period.

She is queenly beyond a “Dancing Queen.” She’s made few solo albums since the Swedish mega-act dissolved in 1983, and it’s easy to see why: She’s her own hardest act to follow.

With the help of producer/writer Jörgen Elofsson (famous for early Britney Spears and Kelly Clarkson hits), Fältskog sounds as clear and cool in 2013 as she did on “Fernando” of 1976.

She’s not an electro-lounge reptilian à la Bryan Ferry, yet like him, Fältskog has a musical language gloriously frozen in time.

Though she can’t reach the high notes of yore, Fältskog the singer is full-blooded and icily passionate on the disco-phonic “Dance Your Pain Away” and the sleek MOR pop of “Back on Your Radio.”

The main focus of “A,” though, is ballads, be they grand and slow or slight and bright. While the mid-tempo “The One Who Loves You Now” presents Fältskog at her key-changing trickiest, the sadly romantic “When You Really Loved Someone” and “Perfume in the Breeze” are simple, pristine, and gorgeously rendered.

— A.D. Amorosi

Eliane Elias

“I Thought About You: A Tribute to Chet Baker” (Concord, 3½ stars)

In addition to her own compositions, the versatile Brazilian pianist and vocalist Eliane Elias has done albums of the work of Antonio Carlos Jobim and of Bill Evans.

She’s transformed songs by the Doors and Stevie Wonder and compositions of Bach and Ravel.

On “I Thought About You,” she turns to Chet Baker, who with his West Coast cool-jazz compatriots influenced Brazil’s bossa nova movement, which blossomed in the 1950s.

Backed by bassist Marc Johnson (her husband) and a mix of Brazilian and American musicians (including trumpeter Randy Brecker, Elias’ former husband, sitting in on several tracks), Elias keeps the arrangements light and airy.

She uses Baker’s repertoire of love songs as jumping-off points, sometimes giving them bossa nova underpinnings (“Embraceable You”), sometimes hewing closely to Baker’s own vocal arrangements but revamping the instrumentation to feature her own jaunty piano playing (“Let’s Get Lost”), sometimes turning them into bluesy saloon songs (the title track).

It’s a seductive delight.

— Steve Klinge

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