New albums from U2, Fantasia

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U2

"Songs of Experience"

Interscope Records

Release date: Dec. 1

Genre: Rock

Review: Like its 2014 predecessor, U2's "Songs of Experience" is the product of a difficult and drawn-out recording process.

Much more so than "Songs of Innocence," however, U2 has made an exciting, stage-ready album that doesn't blush or blink in its use of the band's signature sounds — The Edge's chiming guitar, Adam Clayton's trebly, adhesive bass, Larry Mullen Jr.'s sharp and responsive drums and Bono's heart-on-his-vocal-cords singing.

The new record is a thrilling listen because U2 sounds fully integrated again, a band with everyone on the same page and, just as importantly, in the same groove.

Nearly every song has a different producer or combination thereof but they all seem to have been peeking at each other's notes. The result is the best U2 album since "All That You Can't Leave Behind."



Fantasia

"Christmas After Midnight"

Concord Records

Release date: Oct. 6

Genre: Holiday

Review: With the barely-there red dress she's wearing on the cover, the come-hither pose on the back and the suggestive title, one might think Fantasia's first Christmas album is something to be played after the kids and grandparents have gone to bed.

But "Christmas After Midnight" is your typical, family friendly holiday fare, filled with the traditional songs about the time of year that we've come to expect, along with Fantasia's signature soulful, gritty bent.

She gets particularly and appropriately funky on James Brown's "Santa Claus Go Straight to the Ghetto; she soars like a gospel star on "Give Love on Christmas Day"; and "What Are You Doing New Year's Eve" is given tender, reserved treatment by Fantasia here.

The album ends with an untraditional song, Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah," but it still works here, thanks to Fantasia's powerful voice.

What doesn't work as well is "Baby, It's Cold Outside." The duet is already a bit politically incorrect given its leering tone, but getting CeeLo Green — who pleaded no contest to giving a woman ecstasy — to sing on a song that includes the line "what's in this drink" certainly makes you feel less than warm this holiday season.




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