Review: Miranda Lambert shines on 'Platinum'
Michael McCall, Associated Press
Miranda Lambert, "Platinum" (RCA Nashville)
Country star Miranda Lambert describes her fifth album "Platinum" as transitional: She wanted to show the maturity of an award-winning artist who has turned 30 and settled into marriage.
But don't worry, she's still the wildest risk-taking Nashville singer roaring through the back roads. She frontloads the new 16-song collection with a saucily slurred lyric about the power of bleach jobs ("What doesn't kill you only makes you blonder" she cracks in "Platinum") and another ("Little Red Wagon") that rips a would-be Romeo with a string of putdowns delivered with punkish glee.
Yes, Lambert continues to grow. But at her core, she continues to celebrate the colorful drama of working-class lives, punching them up with the freshest country rock arrangements this side of Eric Church. The way she reflects modern women, complete with risqué word play and edgy humor, is what makes Lambert a fully three-dimensional country star.
"Platinum" only falters when Lambert leans on country clichés, as when she waxes nostalgic about a pre-digital world in her recent hit "Automatic" and on a one-dimensional tale ("Something Bad") about wicked women that wastes a duet pairing with fellow superstar Carrie Underwood.
But, as usual, Lambert is as entertaining on album tracks as she is on radio hits. From the western-swing throwback ("All That's Left"), recorded with dance-floor revivalists The Time Jumpers, to a cheeky send-up of celebrity marriages ("Priscilla"), Lambert keeps proving that life, in all its messy glory, is much richer than most of her Nashville peers ever suggest.
Review: 50 Cent shows rust on 'Animal Ambition'
Jonathon Landrum Jr.
50 Cent, "Animal Ambition" (G-Unit/Caroline/Capitol Music Group)
50 Cent made a ginormous splash more than a decade ago with his multiplatinum platinum debut "Get Rich or Die Tryin'," pushing out early career hits from "In da Club" to "P.I.M.P."
But the rapper has been unable to live up to his first album's success, which ultimately led to his departure from Interscope Records and Eminem's Shady/Aftermath. He's since found a new home with Caroline, the independent label at Capitol Music Group.
Now, as an independent artist, 50 Cent releases his first album in five years with "Animal Ambition: An Untamed Desire to Win." He often shows rust on his fifth studio offering, but the 11-track set is not a total disappointment.
50 Cent still possesses a high level of cockiness, effectively displaying his street mentality on "The Funeral," ''Chase the Paper" and "Irregular Heartbeat," with Jadakiss and Kidd Kidd. He raps about still keeping a gun under his pillow on "Hold On" and talks about his thirst to become more successful on "Hustler" and "Winners Circle," featuring Guordan Banks.
But while "Animal Ambition" shows some promise, there are some missteps. His rhymes are too simple and easily forgettable on the title track. He teams up with Trey Songz on the Dr. Dre-produced "Smoke," but the track lacks the infectious spirit that lived in past club hits such as "Candy Shop" and "21 Questions.
Review: Led Zeppelin reissues offer meager fare
Chris Talbott, AP Music Writer
Led Zeppelin, "Led Zeppelin," ''Led Zeppelin II" and "Led Zeppelin III" (Atlantic)
Perhaps we should admit the truth about Led Zeppelin: It's time to move on.
Yes, even you superfans.
If the unreleased material included on reissues of landmark albums "Led Zeppelin," ''Led Zeppelin II" and "Led Zeppelin III" is any indication of what's to come, there's little hope of hearing anything truly new - let alone interesting - over the rest of the band's ambitious plan to rerelease all nine of its studio albums.
Truth be told, Zeppelin probably should have let the 2012 "Celebration Day" box set stand as its final message. The 2012 release capturing the band's brief 2007 reunion for a live stadium show in London had a fresh feel despite its age upon release. It was meant to salve the feelings of fans hoping Zeppelin's living members - Jimmy Page, John Paul Jones and Robert Plant - would reunite for one last run.
It was something, at least.
The reissue project seems intent on soothing fans who'd forgo the tour if they could just get another song, something fresh and new.
There's nothing like that on the bonus discs that accompany Page's remastered versions of the original albums, which rewrote rock 'n' roll. Even completists will probably be disappointed at the collection of castoff mixes, alternate takes and work tapes. The few pieces we've truly never heard before are ephemeral bits, rightly abandoned as Zeppelin blazed ahead with better material.
The best thing here is the live concert included with "Led Zeppelin." The set, recorded in Paris in 1969, is energetic and on the verge of falling to pieces. It's a pretty fascinating glimpse of the band pre-fame, but the group hadn't quite pulled it all together and there are other live sets that are more fulfilling.
Like "Celebration Day."
Review: Joe Henry weighs risks and rewards of love
Steven Wine, Associated Press
Joe Henry, "Invisible Hour" (Work Song)
Joe Henry has produced artists ranging from Aaron Neville and Billy Bragg to Me'Shell Ndegeocello and Bonnie Raitt. Yet when he makes his own albums, they sound like no one else.
"Invisible Hour" is an enchanting 60 minutes of music packaged in 11 songs that reveal their charms slowly. Henry opens with a seven-minute ballad, and a subsequent one runs even longer. Clearly Henry's in no hurry as he expresses his thoughts on the risks and rewards of love.
Hooks are few and the accompaniment is spare, with the thrum of guitar interrupted by occasional spasms of percussion and woodwinds from Henry's son, Levon, who merges the sounds of klezmer, New Orleans and Stravinsky.
Even amid trilling clarinets, the focus remains on Henry's lyrics, which read like literature, with unpredictable rhythms and noun-verb combinations. Hearts wane. Shadows wait. Angels rumble. Days flee.
He sings these words with the timbre of a soul man and scoops into them like a country artist. Henry is both, and neither, producing music beyond category. This is what makes "Invisible Hour" time well spent.
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