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Listening Room: Tim McGraw, Good Charlotte and more...
Tim McGraw, “Let It Go” (Curb) ***
Tim McGraw is becoming as much a brand name as a performer — and that’s a compliment. Not unlike George Strait, for whom he once opened, McGraw these days specializes in steadfastly putting out albums of a particular (high) quality, filled with well-crafted songs and solid performances. They have a tendency to bleed into each other, but in a way that makes the sum greater than its individual parts. The production team — McGraw, Byron Gallimore and guitarist Darran Smith from McGraw’s Dancehall Doctors band — orchestrate tight, textured arrangements that bring weight to even the most overtly twangy moments on his albums, including “Whiskey and You,” “Comin’ Home” and “Shotgun Rider” this time out. They’re most successful, however, in achieving that genre blend that’s so important in country’s mainstream these days, whether it’s the vibey soul-pop feel of “Suspicious,” the ringing rock grind of “Put Your Lovin’ on Me” and “Train #10,” the latter of which McGraw co-wrote. His song selection remains a strong suit, too, including the celebratory opener “Last Dollar (Fly Away)” (written by Big & Rich’s Big Kenny), the wry lost-love paean “Kristofferson” and a plucky murder tune, “Between the River and Me.” McGraw’s wife Faith Hill joins in on two tracks, successfully on “Shotgun Rider” and less so on “I Need You,” a corny and cloying love ballad that, along with “Comin’ Home,” sound dated alongside the more potent material here. But that still leaves 11 tracks that work, a better showing than we get from most country albums.
Good Charlotte, “Good Morning Revival” (Epic): **1/2
On its fourth album, Good Charlotte continues to expand its sonic path beyond the pop-punk of 2002’s multi-platinum breakthrough “The Young and the Hopeless,” this time venturing in more of a dancerock direction on high-bpm tracks like “Misery,” “Keep Your Hands Off My Girl,” “Break Her Heart,” “The River” (with guests M. Shadow and Synyster Gates of Avenged Sevenfold) and of course “Dance Floor Anthem.” There’s still some smoothly energetic pop such as “A Beautiful Place” and “Something Else,” and epics like “Where Would We Be” and “Broken Hearts Parade,” all of which show that enjoying the lifestyle of the rich and famous doesn’t necessarily blunt a band’s creative appetite.
NEW AND NOTEWORTHY
Alabama “Songs of Inspiration II” (RCA) — God’s been good to Alabama, whose fi rst spiritual collection hit No. 1 on the country charts last year.
Clutch, “From Beale Street to Oblivion” (DRT) — The veteran headbanging troupe takes a wideranging path that may bring it closer to the hard rock mainstream.
Fabulous, “From Nothin’ to Something’ ” (Def Jam) — The New York rapper’s fourth album features guest appearances by Ne-Yo, Timbaland, Young Jeezy and more.
Macy Gray, “Big” (Geffen) — Gray’s fourth studio album, and fi rst since 2003, comes after she spent time focusing on fashion and acting, including a turn in the Emmy-nominated “Lackawanna Blues.”
Jack Ingram, “This is It” (Big Machine) — The Americana troubadour didn’t waste any time in bringing a country flavor to the cover of Hinder’s “Lips of an Angel,” which is this album’s fi rst single.
Elton John, “Rocket Man: Number Ones” (Island) — It worked for Sir Paul and the Beatles, so why can’t Sir Elton have a successful packaging of his chart-toppers, too?
Kaiser Chiefs, “Yours Truly Angry Mob” (Universal) — Second offering from the Leeds quintet that was part of the populous Brit rock class of ’05.
Klaxons, “Myths of the Near Future” (Rinse/DGC) — The debut from this British Next Big Thing has plenty of beats. That means yes, you can dance to them.
Lil’ Flip, “I Need Mine”
(Asylum/Warner Bros.) — The Houston rapper’s fourth album was due out last year, but he re-recorded it for a new label, with help from Chamillionaire, Mya, Three 6 Mafi a and others.
Jennifer Lopez, “Como Ama Una Mujer” (Epic) — The pop diva and actress delivers his fi rst-ever all-Spanish album.
Machine Head, “Blackening”
(Roadrunner) — The Oakland, Calif., headbangers brought in a group of fans to sing backup on one of these new tracks.
Mika, “Life in Cartoon Motion” (Casablanca/Universal Republic) — The fl amboyant U.K. sensation (think Rufus Wainwright meets the Scissor Sisters) brings his well-worth-hearing act to these shores.
Stevie Nicks, “Crystal Visions: The Very Best of Stevie Nicks” (Reprise) — A single disc overview of her solo career, featuring several rarities plus a DVD collecting her videos.
Prodigy, “Return of the Mac”
(Koch) — The Mobb Deep member’s second solo release, a collaboration with The Alchemist, started out as a mix tape before blowing into a fullfl edged album.
Redman, “Red Gone Wild”
(Def Jam) — The New Jersey rapper’s seventh solo album features guest shots by cohorts Method Man and Erick Sermon plus Snoop Dogg, Nate Dogg, Biz Markie and others.
Peggy Seeger, “Three Score and Ten” (Appleseed) — The folk great celebrates her 70th birthday with brothers Pete and Mike and musical pals such as Billy Bragg and Eliza Carthy.
Young Buck, “Buck the World” (G-Unit) — 50 Cent’s G-Unit posse mate delivers his long-awaited second solo album after a three-year gap.
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