'CHAOS AND CREATION IN THE BACK YARD'
It feels kind of weird, yet oddly refreshing, to put it this way ... but Paul McCartney's new album holds its own against today's top power pop.
Weird because McCartney was, of course, one of the architects of the sound that informs today's power pop. Refreshing because of the gratification that comes from hearing him again attentive to quality control.
"Chaos and Creation in the Back Yard" is actually step two in a recording renaissance that began with 2001's "Run Devil Run." Where that album found McCartney revisiting his pre-Beatles, rockabilly roots, the new effort operates as a kind of White Album redux. At this pace, the 63-year-old musician will be up to his neo-Wings phase before the decade is out.
The album benefits immensely from that eye to design -- a craftsmanship that can be partly attributed to co-producer Nigel Godrich -- but it's also got an ear for adventurousness, at least by modern McCartney standards. With the mid-to-late-Beatles canon as a reference, he gathers familiar-sounding bits and pieces and twists them just so; the good thing about being
Latter-day Bonnie Raitt albums -- and by that we mean post-"Nick of Time," the 1989 Grammy-grabber that transformed her from highly regarded journeywoman to household name -- navigate tricky terrain between slide-guitar-fired soulfulness and too-easy listening.
"Souls Alike" leans, just enough, toward the former. Not that there's anything on this album (the first that she produced herself) that would raise too much of a ruckus if it came over the speakers at your local latte joint. But though Raitt wrote not a one of the 12 tunes, she has infused them with either enough personal resolve -- as in the steadfast "I Will Not Be Broken" and the emotionally frank "The Bed I Made" -- to keep
'GONE AIN'T GONE'
Everybody needs a shtick, it seems, so forgive Tim Fite his. It has to do with being born without blood, and making his home in a Brooklyn "graveyard" of old music surrounded by the stacks of bargain-bin LPs he sampled in constructing his debut album, "Gone Ain't Gone." Whatever.
Fite's previous endeavor, the jokey hip-hop duo Little T & amp; One Track Mike, was sillier still. But "Gone Ain't Gone" is anything but, despite such flippant titles as "Eating at the Grocery Store With William" and "If I Had a Cop Show." It's a terrific amalgamation of country, rap, punk and anything else that might work -- polka, anyone? -- that brings to mind other dabblers in hick-hop such as Beck and Buck 65.
Fite, whose real name is Tim Sullivan, builds one song around a recording of legendary actor, singer and political activist Paul Robeson opining that "music is always a weapon." And "Gone Ain't Gone" comes fully loaded with an excess of genre-jumping quality tunes, seamlessly assembled and wholly impressive.