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Listening Room: Kid Rock, Jennifer Lopez and more...
Kid Rock, “Rock N Roll Jesus” (Top Dog/Atlantic) ***
All the headline-making shenanigans with Pamela Anderson and Tommy Lee can, and probably have, eclipsed the fact that Kid Rock makes music first and foremost — and some of the most potent, format-defying music anyone is throwing out there. “Rock N Roll Jesus” makes a strong bid to bring the spotlight back to that; while “grown” and Kid Rock are seldom mentioned in the same sentence, many of the 12 tracks on Rock’s ninth album — and his first of new material in four years — represent his most ambitious and mature music-making, with a depth of songwriting and sonics bolstered by consultations with Rick Rubin and the co-production of Rob Cavallo, as well as the playing of a Detroit-centric cast that includes members of his Twisted Brown Trucker band plus other local luminaries such as Vinnie Dombroski (Sponge, Crud) and saxophonist David McMurray (Kem, Was (Not Was)). “Amen” offers gospel-flavored social commentary, while “Roll On” is a soulful high-water mark. “Blue Jeans and a Rosary” delivers some of Rock’s most vivid storytelling, and “All Summer Long” is an entertaining mash-up of Warren Zevon’s “Werewolves of London” and Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Sweet Home Alabama” under a nostalgic lyric cut from the cloth of another rock hero, Bob Seger. Rock’s party-on “Cowboy” persona still rears his head on “... Jesus,” however, from the fierce hard rock of the title track and the lascivious first single, “So Hott,” to the set’s lone rap track, “Sugar,” and the album-closing “Half Your Age,” a country kiss-off to ex-wife Anderson. Rock’s extra-musical affairs may get more press, but the “Devil” should still be given his due as a clever and creative musical force.
Jennifer Lopez, “Brave” (Epic) **½
Most pop divas have their fun with a requisite amount of manbashing, but Jenny From the Block isn’t having any of that on her fifth English language album — and second release of the year. “Heartbreaks are overrated/ Staying together, that’s the new trend,” she declares at the start of this 13-track set, a high-spirited celebration of her marriage to fellow singer Marc Anthony. But it’s not the happiness and optimism that burdens “Brave;” rather, is the anonymous songs and production style, a sound that could just as easily be Beyonce (“Stay Together,” “Do it Well”) or any other diva working the Top 40 these days. Lopez shines most on tracks such as “The Way It Is” and “Be Mine,” which give her more room to sing away from the layered vocal backings piled into most of the songs. But those are exceptions on a record that’s serviceable but hardly spectacular.
NEW AND NOTEWORTHY
Alter Bridge, “Blackbird” (Republic) — The sophomore set from the band featuring threequarters of the now-defunct Creed.
Beirut, “Flying Club Cup” (Ba Da Bing!) — Another album of Balkan pop delicacies from now 20-year-old Zach Condon.
Cafe Tacuba, “Si No” (Universal Latino) — The latest album by Mexico’s highly regarded rock en Español quartet.
Vanessa Carlton, “Heroes & Thieves” (The Inc.) — The onetime platinum pop singersongwriter finds herself on hiphop mogul Irv Gotti’s new label — but don’t worry, she hasn’t gone fly girl on us.
Deana Carter, “Chain” (Vanguard) — The country maverick’s fifth album features guest appearances by Willie Nelson, Dolly Parton, Shooter Jennings and Kris Kristofferson.
Marc Cohn, “Join the Parade” (Decca) — The “Walking in Memphis” singersongwriter delivers his latest album just two years after being shot during a carjacking in Denver.
Deadstring Brothers, “Silver Mountain” (Bloodhot) — The Detroit roots rockers’ second national album is dominated by singer Masha Marjieh and features a guest shot by Willie Nelson harmonica player Mickey Raphael.
Josh Groban, “Noel” (Reprise) — The romantic crooner makes his first excursion into the holiday ouvre. Santa better keep an eye on Mrs. Claus.
Debbie Harry, “Necessary Evil” (Eleven Seven Music) — The Blondie singer’s sixth solo album features collaborations with bandmate Chris Stein and members of the Jazz Passengers.
LEO, “Nightmares” (Rock Ridge Music) — The debut album from the Clevelandformed quartet led by singer guitarist Ian Eddy.
Puddle of Mudd, “Famous” (Geffen) — The mainstream rockers’ third album, and first in four years, was helmed by a variety of producers, including former Black Flag drummer Bill Stevenson.
LeAnn Rimes, “Family” (Curb) — The 25-year-old singer wrote or co-wrote all 12 songs on her 12th (!) studio album and teams up with Bon Jovi and Reba McEntire on bonus tracks.
Radiohead, “In Rainbows” (radiohead.com) — The iconic and idiosyncratic British group has made its latest album available online and is letting fans choose the price they want to pay for their download. A more conventional release is expected in the next few months.
She Wants Revenge, “This is Forever” (Geffen) — The second album by the Los Angeles synth-rockers who stirred things up with their 2006 debut.
Ugly, “Ugly” (Rock Ridge Music) — The national debut set by the heavy rockers from Detroit.
Van Zant, “My Kind of Country” (RCA) — A second set of country-directed songs by the younger siblings of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s late Ronnie Van Zant.
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