The voice is as soulful as Al Green’s, as smooth as Marvin Gaye’s. Cee Lo Green’s CD out today, “The Lady Killer,” stakes an aggressive claim to take the title of the King of Soul away from the late Otis Redding.
Green, 36, came to prominence with his velvety vocal “Crazy” for Gnarls Barkley. Now he’s known for his riposte to a former girlfriend, titled for radio “Forget You.” It’s on the new Elektra album in the original four-letter-word form along with a dozen more, mixing imagined Bond themes with synth pop such as “Bright Lights Bigger City.” Rating: ***½.
Elvis Presley’s even more distinctive tones grace “Viva Elvis,” also out today. The CD is a radical remix of his hits. Purists who hate the idea of anyone messing with the King should note that this was done with the blessing of Elvis Presley Enterprises. For starters, crowd sounds, sound bites and “Also Sprach Zarathustra” begin the countdown to “Blue Suede Shoes.” Rating: ****.
The Presley record is based on a show for Cirque du Soleil, which also remixed the Beatles for “Love” and is planning something similar for Michael Jackson. The late King of Pop has “Vision,” a three-DVD set of most of his videos and a new album “Michael,” both due before Christmas.
Elton John has linked up with one of his inspirations, Leon Russell, to make “The Union” (Decca/Mercury). On tracks such as “When Love Is Dying” the CD recalls the glories of John’s 1970 “Tumbleweed Connection,” though this time with a choral arrangement by Brian Wilson and production by T-Bone Burnett. Rating: ***.
T Bone also produces “National Ransom” (Universal), the latest by Elvis Costello, with Russell also chiming in. After more than 30 albums, Costello’s still the king of the sharp couplet: “My lovely Jezebel,/ she neglects and then ransacks you so very well.” Rating: ***.
Artists predictably topping the Billboard charts include rapper Eminem and acoustic rocker Jack Johnson, who broadens his surfing imagery on “To the Sea” (Universal). Cover albums by Neil Diamond, 69, (“Dreams,” Sony) and Rod Stewart, 65 (“Fly Me to the Moon,” J Records) will leave many fans in despair. Ratings: **.
“The Age of Adz” by Sufjan Stevens is the latest wayward project by the 35-year-old on his own Asthmatic Kitty label (named after a stray feline adopted by his family). The CD schizophrenically shifts from quiet to loud and signs off with the 25-minute “Impossible Soul.” Rating: ****.
Mark Ronson continues to prove he’s more than Amy Winehouse’s producer. His CD “Record Collection” (Columbia) moves on from 1960s retro-pop to plunder the 1980s, with vocals by Boy George and Simon Le Bon. Rating: ***½.
Jason Derulo’s self-titled debut on Warner is a lean 31 minutes of R&B including the single “Ridin’ Solo.” Derulo’s Jackson inspiration is clear. Rating: **½.
Two band leaders have made impressive solo CDS on the theme of love: Black Francis of Pixies with “NonStopErotik” (Cooking Vinyl) and Fyfe Dangerfield, of Guillemots, with “Fly Yellow Moon” (Polydor). Also recommended: Fionn Regan, “The Shadow of an Empire” (Heavenly) and Tom McRae’s “Alphabet of Hurricanes” (Cooking Vinyl). Rating for all ***.
What the Stars Mean: **** Excellent *** Good ** Average * Poor (No stars) Worthless
The CDs are priced from $12.98, or 8.99 pounds in the U.K. Download fees vary across services.
(Mark Beech writes for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. The opinions expressed are his own. This is the second of a series of three on 2010 music.)