record reviews


Album: “Magnetic”

Grade: B

Even though the Goo Goo Dolls celebrated their 25th anniversary as a band last year, they continue to find ways to tweak their now-trademark sound.

For their 11th album, “Magnetic” (Warner Bros.), the Goos sound more upbeat and more interested in sounding current than they have in years, working with a squad of producers including label boss and Green Day collaborator Rob Cavallo; Van Halen and Bon Jovi producer John Shanks; Train and Phillip Phillips producer Gregg Wattenberg, and Greg Wells, who’s worked with Adele and Katy Perry.

All that input only seems to strengthen the songs of Johnny Rzeznik, bassist Robby Takac and drummer Mike Malinin. The single “Rebel Beat,” co-written with Wattenberg, adds one of the band’s poppiest choruses ever to the more traditionally Goos verses, delivered with a bit of R&B-influenced swagger. The soaring ballad “Bulletproof Angel” works well, with Wells adding an Adele-ish lushness that plays effectively against Rzeznik’s tough vocals.

However, it’s the anthemlike “When the World Breaks Your Heart” that makes the strongest impression, with its uplifting chorus and sweeping production. “When the world breaks your heart, I will put it back together,” Rzeznik sings, as the strings swell, before declaring, “You’re not alone.” It fits well with the growing catalog of supportive, “it gets better” pop from recent years.

And “Breaks Your Heart” may be the Goo Goo Dolls’ finest song since their blockbuster “Iris,” proof positive that their best may still be yet to come.

—Glenn Gamboa, Newsday


Album: “13”

Grade: B+

The biggest surprise on “13” (Universal Republic), the first Black Sabbath album in 35 years, isn’t how good singer Ozzy Osbourne sounds with guitarist Tony Iommi and bassist Geezer Butler. It’s how good the three heavy-metal pioneers sound with Rage Against the Machine drummer Brad Wilk, who replaced Bill Ward after a contract dispute, with the help of producer Rick Rubin. Together, they make the epic “God Is Dead?” sound as fresh as any of the countless bands inspired by Sabbath over the years, as well as poundingly true to the band’s legendary heyday. This is the rare reunion that’s as strong as the original.

—Glenn Gamboa, Newsday


Album: “Wrote a Song for Everyone” (Vanguard )

Grade: B

Sure, it’s a bald marketing ploy — revisit your older work with a passel of younger rock and country stars. And so what if the music John Fogerty wrote and sang with Creedence Clearwater Revival (and some of his solo work) is so timelessly vibrant it doesn’t need any updating?

The good news is the versions here live up to the legacy of one of the great canons in rock. Give credit first to Fogerty. At 68, he remains as robust as ever, as does his bayou-by-way-of-the-Bay-Area howl. Nothing is radically remade, but the best performances tweak the originals in engaging ways, whether it’s bringing country elements to the fore in “Bad Moon Rising” (with the Zac Brown Band) and “Have You Ever Seen the Rain” (with Alan Jackson) or engaging in a blazing guitar duel with Brad Paisley on “Hot Rod Heart.”

“Proud Mary” ends the set on a rousing note, “rolling on the river” with an infusion of Louisiana spice.

—Nick Cristiano, Philadelphia Inquirer


Album: “Southeastern” (Southeastern/Thirty Tigers)

Grade: A-

Jason Isbell’s fourth studio album since leaving the Drive-By Truckers is the 34-year-old songwriter’s first true solo album. Recorded largely without his band, the 400 Unit, it finds Isbell confronting grown-up stuff: getting married (to his second wife, fiddle player Amanda Shires); getting clean and sober; and, on “Elephant,” thinking about the implications of mortality while he’s at it. Early reviews are dropping “Tunnel of Love” comparisons, and there’s a Springsteen influence for sure, on the superbly wrought opening love song, “Cover Me Up,” as well as the two-faces-have-I duality of “Live Oak.” The tone is mostly subdued, save for “Super 8,” a raucous rocker and a terrific tune, but jarring in the more contemplative context. “Southeastern,” though, is the strongest set of songs yet from the Alabama writer who distinguished himself in his days with the Truckers but who hadn’t realized his full potential until now.

—Dan DeLuca, Philadelphia Inquirer

Copyright 2013 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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