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Aguilera's voice rates better songs

| Saturday, Nov. 17, 2012, 8:57 p.m.



Christina Aguilera (RCA Records)

Christina Aguilera is one of contemporary music's best voices. She's got pipes that music-lovers need to hear at a time when Top 40 radio features studio-enhanced vocals and award shows are full of lip syncing. That's why her fifth album, “Lotus,” is somewhat disappointing — not because it isn't good, but because it isn't great. Sure, it's an improvement from 2010's “Bionic,” a chaotic album that is Aguilera's only one not to reach platinum status. “Lotus” is more focused, thankfully, but not as satisfying as her first three releases. The title track kicks off the album nicely as Aguilera sings about starting over. Where the singer falls short is on what are supposed to be the “fun” songs, like “Red Hot Kinda Love,” “Around the World” and “Make the World Move,” which features a barely heard CeeLo Green. It's almost like Aguilera isn't getting the best material from the songwriters and producers on “Lotus.” Her excellent voice deserves excellent songs.

— Associated Press

‘Kindred Spirits: A Collection'

Carrie Newcomer (Rounder)

Singer-guitarist Carrie Newcomer continues her exploration of the everyday spiritual in “Kindred Spirits: A Collection.” It is a mix of some of some of her best material, some work that was released on other labels or in special projects, and is the home for two new songs. Some of the older songs have great treatments, such as “Breathe In Breathe Out” with Amjad Ali Khan and a chorus of voices. She is joined by Alison Krauss on “The Gathering of Spirits.” The new songs are “The Speed of Soul” and “A Long Christmas Dinner,” which both look at the different ways time shapes relationships. New or old, her music always looks at the role of the worthwhile in life. She tells those stories with words that put that meaning in everyday terms; something every philosopher tries to do and only the best succeed. But she succeeds in that task with a great voice and well crafted songs.

— Bob Karlovits

‘Ninety Miles at Cubadisco'

Ninety Miles (Concord Picante)

Latin jazz generally has an identifiable sound that can be a little predictable, even when well played. But the band Ninety Miles, named after the distance between Florida and Cuba, gives the form a new and exciting sound. Vibes star Stefon Harris, tenor sax wiz David Sanchez and trumpeter Christian Scott blast through jazz that has its roots in the Caribbean, but never will be taken for the music of Pablo Sanchez (no relation, by the way), “Ninety Miles at Cubadisco” was recorded at a club in Havana, and the trio is supported by a Cuban rhythm quartet. Sanchez and Scott take dominant roles in the sound simply from the strength of their blowing, but Harris adds greatly to the distinction of the sound. On “E'ca,” for instance, the horn players trade solo spots, but are given great support by Harris and pianist Harold Lopez-Nussa. But Harris has plenty of good outings, too, such as on the somber “The Forgotten Ones,” in which he ultimately yields to Sanchez. This is an energetic and creative group.

— Bob Karlovits

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