John Legend has doled out the first single from Once Again, the yet-to-be-released 2006 follow-up to his Grammy-winning debut Get Lifted. “Save Room” finds the dapper piano man channeling Nat King Cole and Otis Redding in a vintage tune bearing traces of cocktail-lounge smoothness. That’s no disrespect: Legend channels the Rat Pack’s head rodent, Frank Sinatra, not Bill Murray’s “Nick the Lounge Lizard.” Perhaps time spent with Brazilian bossa nova legend Sergio Mendes — singing a spot on his 2006 mash-up Timeless — put Brazilian flavor into his newest effort. It certainly sounds like it. The dominating synthesizer line kicks in and Legend’s gruff alto convincingly pleads for his lady to “say that you’ll stay a little/don’t say bye-bye tonight.” It’s romantic and reminiscent of the entreaty in “Baby, It’s Cold Outside.” Legend’s tunes tend to err on the side of retro, and “Save Room” sounds classic by the second listen.
Nouvelle Vague, a French new-wave outfit, shakes up a collection of decade defining hits on its Limited Edition rerelease of Bande à Part, a collection of cover songs for Luaka Bop Records, released with three bonus tracks Aug. 22. The album, mingles the morose nature of early-’80s postpunk with the airy cadence of Caribbean-influenced instrumentation. Nouvelle Vague’s new LP features a down-tempo reggae take on Blondie’s “Heart of Glass” and a sexy romp through the Cramps’ “Human Fly.” An acoustic ’50s saloon-style rendition of the Billy Idol hit “Dancing with Myself” features horns and a breathy, feminine breakdown speaking the final chorus: “So let’s sink another drink/’cause it’ll give me time to think/If I had the chance I’d ask the world to dance.” Creating an album solely of cover songs is tricky, especially in this case, when most songs on Bande à Part are tunes with legs of their own. The secret to covering a hit is to make the song sound completely different than the original, and Nouvelle Vague succeeds. The CD is a pleasant listen, except for the cover of U2’s “Pride (In the Name of Love),” which sounds like a Pure Moods outtake. Despite its successes, after a few spins the album may overstay its welcome and leave the listener reaching for the originals.
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