Tuesday, November 11, 2003

Review: Kid Rock, "Kid Rock"

I was one of the biggest critics of Kid Rock's last album, the appropriately-titled "Cocky," but I have to admit it grew on me. So I was a little more prepared for the emergence of Kid Country on his latest self-titled album.

This album is an even more dramatic departure from the rock-rapper's past than "Cocky." But it's also a much better album. "Kid Rock" gives him something he's never had, a distinct personality. It's a much more coherent record than "Cocky," which bounced from one end of the spectrum to the other.

The album has a long list of contributors from Hank Williams Jr. on the Aerosmith-laced "Cadillac" to a reunion with Sheryl Crow on "Run Off to L.A." These guest spots provide some of the hottest tracks on the album, including "Black Bob," where Shreveport native Kenny Wayne Shepherd lays down a wicked wah-wah lick, and "Hillbilly Stomp" which features the talents of ZZ Top's Billy Gibbons.

There are some clunkers on the album, like the Kenny Chesney-penned country ballad "Cold and Empty" - which despite being a little dull is an almost surefire crossover hit - and the sappy "Do It For You," which really doesn't fit the Kid's style. But he more than makes up for those with raucous rockers like "Jackson, Mississippi" and "Son of Detroit," an inspired take on David Allan Coe's "Son of the South."

Those looking for the Kid Rock who recorded "Bawitdaba" and "American Bad Ass," may not find him on this album. There's only one rap, "Intro" (which for some odd reason is the album's seventh song.) But those who come to this album prepared for Kid Rock's transition into a Southern rock crooner should enjoy it.

Get "Kid Rock."

Thursday, November 6, 2003

Review: Blind Guardian, "Live"

If you're a fan of Blind Guardian, this two-CD collection of some of the best songs from the band's seven studio albums is a must-have. If you're not a fan, this collection of tunes fueled by fantasy and legend is a fantastic introduction.

The album, recorded at venues all over Europe and Asia, show that the rest of the world knows what the American metal community is just starting to pick up on - that Blind Guardian is one of the most original and distinctive bands out there.

"Live" provides a quick overview of the band's progression from a fairly straightforward power metal outfit on songs like "Majesty" and "Valhalla" to the symphonic powerhouse they've become on numbers like "Nightfall" and "The Soulforged."

The focus on the album, is on the later, more complex works. They play six of the nine songs on "Imaginations From the Other Side" and five tunes from "Nightfall in Middle-Earth."

The album provides more than two hours of Blind Guardian in fine form, making the smooth transition from blistering power metal to minstrel songs. It's the latter that often get the bigger reaction from the crowd.

Numbers like "The Bard's Song (In the Forest)" get the crowd clapping along, and the audience is singing louder than vocalist Hansi Kursch on "Lord of the Rings." (I still think Peter Jackson missed a great opportunity by not getting this song somewhere in the film trilogy; it's a perfect fit.)

The performances are solid, the fan reaction is fantastic and it's two solid hours of Blind Guardian. What more could you ask for?