Listen Up: Patti Smith, Alan Jackson and more
This week in music
By Elysa Gardner, Brian Mansfield and Jerry Shriver, USA TODAYJune 4, 2012
On her first album of original material since 2004, Patti Smith reaffirms both her punk-poet roots and her affection for a range of styles and influences. From the bittersweet doo-wop of This Is the Girl to the howling, pummeling intensity of the title track, Smith's vocals — sung, chanted or growled — are at once fierce and tender.
In his next life, Jackson sings as Thirty Miles West opens, he'd like to be a country song. Some songs do sound like past hits, but, after 23 years, he can be forgiven a few of those. He plumbs emotional depths, whether he's the bad guy as a relationship ends or imagining life without the woman he loves. Zac Brown Band guests, with excellent results.
The toughest transition for a rocker is from hell-raiser to sober family man. The 12-Step life just doesn't kick butt lyrically, even with muscular guitar. The Eagle has crafted some mildly witty, reflective and genial songs for his first solo outing in two decades. Yet even with Jeff Lynne producing and bro-in-law Ringo Starr on drums, Analog Man ambles rather than struts.
Cool concept, rudimentary execution. Americana, on which this beloved garage-rock ensemble applies the grunge treatment to mostly American folk songs, fails as political commentary. It fails as a thought-provoking original statement from the group's first album in nine years. And it fails as a consistently fun listen. But as a one-off goofball document, it hits on all cylinders.
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