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RECORD REVIEWS



Published: Sun, May 5, 2013 @ 12:00 a.m.

Kenny Chesney

Album: “Life on a Rock” (Blue Chair/ Columbia Nashville)

Grade: B

Kenny Chesney opens his new album “Life On A Rock” with the hit “Pirate Flag,” a rowdy beach-bum anthem reminiscent of his many fun-in-the-sun party songs of the last dozen years.

While most of the rest of “Life on a Rock” references island life, instead of rocking out, the songs are about unplugging from the chaos of the daily grind and reflecting on quieter pleasures.

Writing four songs by himself, and co-writing four more, this is the East Tennessee singer’s most personal album since 2005’s “Be As You Are (Songs From A Blue Chair).”

There are light moments, as in the duet with Willie Nelson on “Coconut Tree,” but the focus is on off-beat, real-life characters (“Lindy”) and on taking a moment to count one’s blessings (the title song).

It’s a bold move, considering that a new crop of country rockers are selling millions of albums modeled on Chesney’s pounding arena rock sound. But, to his credit, Chesney follows his muse and offers up an album that exposes his weathered soul. The result is as appealing as it is surprising.

—Michael McCall, Associated Press

LL Cool J

Album: “Authentic” (429 Records)

Grade: A-

LL Cool J knows how to play well with others.

On his 13th studio album, “Authentic,” he delivers an eclectic mix of songs with a variety of guest singers that elevate the material to a worthy listening experience.

This is not a rap album, but more of a hip-pop/hip-rock one, hitting all the right notes from romantic to raucous to punk.

The 12-track record sees a roster of stars lend their voices, including Eddie Van Halen, Snoop Dogg, Travis Barker, Monica, Seal, Earth, Wind & Fire and Brad Paisley (not “Accidental Racist,” thankfully. Their other collaboration, “Live for You,” is a rock ballad that is enjoyable.).

From the sarcastically cinematic intro “Bath Salt,” to the delightfully cheesy lust song “Between the Sheetz,” to the vivacious, Charlie Wilson-assisted “New Love,” the rapper sounds fresh.

—Cristina Jaleru, Associated Press

Iggy and the Stooges

Album: “Ready to Die” (Fat Possum Records)

Grade: A-

Really, Iggy? Ready to die? Not possible. I always thought it would be you and cockroaches at the end of time, man.

“Ready to Die” is the first album from Iggy Pop and members of his old band, the Stooges, since 2007 and the 2009 death of band mate Ron Asheton.

And it’s the first to feature former guitarist James Williamson since the 1970s.

It’s classic “Raw Power”-era Stooges from the get-go on “Burn,” a heavy-duty groove that kicks off the collection.

And there’s no letup for the next several tunes, including “Gun,” which skewers a violent culture that just might lead its lone-wolf protagonist astray.

Yet the highlight of the collection might be when the assault lets up: on the un-Stooges like “Unfriendly World.” Over spare, acoustic country blues, the 66-year-old Iggy is less your wild uncle and more wise elder, singing in a tender, wistful growl: “Hang onto your girl, cause this is an unfriendly world.”

Even after more than four decades, Iggy doesn’t go down easy — in all senses of the phrase.

But the man and his band have some things worth saying before the cosmic end of the tour.

—Jeff Karoub, Associated Press


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