CD Reviews


Kid Rock Born Free (Atlantic)

Last month if you’d asked me if I might learn to appreciate Kid Rock, I would’ve said, “Go die.” My attitude has completely changed given the exceptional quality of the Michigan rapper’s Bob Seger tribute (or is it just imitation?) album, Born Free. Thanks to the 1985 Cher-and-Eric Stoltz-starring movie, Mask, I’ve always considered Seger’s tunes to be feel-good heartland music of the American underdog. Rock picked up an electric guitar and wrote 13 songs in the same vein. With production from no less than Rick Rubin (who recently helped Josh Groban shape his career-defining work, Illuminations), Born Free marks an artistic rebirth, from the hard-rocking, highway-driving title track to the bluesy, amps-cranked-to-11 barroom brawl of “Slow My Roll.” That Rock wrote these life-affirming songs is impressive; furthermore, he doesn’t use profanity. A great Kid Rock CD minus a “Parental Advisory” sticker? What’s the world coming to? ★★★☆☆


The Black Eyed Peas The Beginning (Interscope)

Upon its release, the new Black Eyed Peas album was almost unanimously panned in early reviews. Listening to it for a solid week, I wish I could say they were wrong. The Beginning is the end of the road for a pop act that just a few years ago seemed to have everything—maybe too much—going for it. Listening to this thinly produced effort with two-dimensional beats, superficial keyboard arrangements and weak lyrics, I can’t help but feel that massive success has spoiled one of the top mainstream bands of recent memory. The slamming, synthed-up, glitch-hopped club ditty “The Time (Dirty Bit)” kicks off things pretty strongly, even if it’s constructed upon a cheesy ’80s tune, “(I’ve Had) The Time of My Life,” from Dirty Dancing. “Do It Like This” takes a primitive, skewed, 8-bit video game tact that’s low-rent fun. Afterward, though, the album bogs down with pap like “Love You Long Time.” Will the last intelligent Peas fan please turn off the lights? ★☆☆☆☆


Spain Blue Moods of Spain: A History, Pt. 1 (Diamond Soul)

Son of jazz legend Charlie Haden, Spain frontman Josh Haden created the most sensual, sacred music within the alt-rock subgenre of “slowcore.” His band lays claim to other labels, too, such as “torch-song punk” and “devotional noir-folk,” the latter accounting for Johnny Cash’s cover of pop-hymn “Spiritual.” With A History, Pt. 1, Haden unlocks a trove of four-track demos that never made it onto his band’s 1995 debut, and what could’ve easily sufficed as a document for Spain completists ends up being more—a collection of minimalist, lo-fi ballads. Varying shades of tape hiss conjure dreadful atmosphere, and the intimately rendered, simple yet stately “White Sand” isn’t pulp. This is outstanding, emotionally resonant, bedroom-recorded indie-rock that will appeal to fans of Modest Mouse, yet spoken in Spain’s unique vernacular more than 15 years ago. Buy via ★★★☆☆

Suggested Next Read

Silly Talented


Silly Talented

By Aly DeYoung

Some people play the guitar. Others make an audience laugh. Comedy guitarist Mike Rayburn does both. His family-friendly act includes classical guitar, parodies of popular songs and a subtle dose of motivational speaking.