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RECORDINGS : Quick Spins

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

REVIVAL

John Fogerty

The former Creedence Clearwater Revival frontman has called "Revival" his "truest" solo album yet -- and it's easy to see why. He went out of his way not to recycle Creedence's swampy signature sound in his early solo work, only to have Fantasy Records, the group's label, sue him for what amounted to plagiarizing himself. Now, not only is Fogerty back with Fantasy, he has made a timeless-sounding album that unabashedly evokes CCR even as it makes timely again the roots-pop the band patented.

"Broken Down Cowboy," for example, is an elegiac ballad in the vein of Creedence's "Someday Never Comes," while "Revival's" first single, "Don't You Wish It Was True," skips along to the rolling rhythm guitar riff from "Proud Mary."

Yet, as the album's title attests, this is a revival, not an exercise in nostalgia. "Long Dark Night" might be a choogling boogie a la "Born on the Bayou," but its searing message is utterly of the moment: "Georgie's in the jungle/Knockin' on the door/Come to get your children/Wants to have a war."

Elsewhere, after accusing the president of being "another fortunate son" and of lying about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, he shouts, "I'm sick and tired of your dirty little war/I can't take it no more."

On an earlier track, before reeling off some trademark bayou guitar, Fogerty sings, "You can't go wrong if you play a little of that Creedence song," a claim that "Revival" proves is as true today as it was 40 years ago.

-- Bill Friskics-Warren

DOWNLOAD THESE:"Long Dark Night," "I Can't Take It No More"

CEASE TO BEGIN

Band of Horses

With its debut record, "Everything All the Time," Seattle's Band of Horses was last year's breakout indie band. It wasn't hard to see why. Thanks to huge guitar-centric anthems and frontman Ben Bridwell's soaring Neil Young-style croon, the group proved it had mass appeal.

But even at 10 tracks, Band of Horses delivered too much of a good thing. Thankfully, on its excellent follow-up, "Cease to Begin," Bridwell perfects the ballads that sounded undercooked on the debut. "No One's Gonna Love You" may seem like a kiss-off, but the title belies Bridwell's sweetness when he croons, "Anything to make you smile." And despite the titular reference to the NBA basketball player, "Detlef Schrempf" is hands down the year's most gorgeous slow jam, the kind of tune you'd listen to while watching the sun set over the bayou.

Bridwell, who is not a trained musician, kicks things into high gear with some sterling, shambling rockers, from the scorching opener "Is There a Ghost" to the two-boot stomp of "The General Specific" to the slow-burn hippie-blues of "Marry Song." To compensate for his rudimentary guitar-playing skills, Bridwell oftentimes strums his simple riffs as recklessly as another Seattleite, Kurt Cobain. But Bridwell is hardly pessimistic; the combination of exuberant tunes and irony-free lyrics makes the group an absolute rarity in indie land. "The world is such a wonderful place," Bridwell croons on "Ode to LRC."

These days, it's hard to believe in such a sentiment -- but Band of Horses' joyful noise makes all seem right with the world.

The Band of Horses is scheduled to perform at the 9:30 c lub Nov. 2.

-- Kevin O'Donnell

DOWNLOAD THESE:"Is There a Ghost," "Detlef Schrempf"

ROCK N ROLL JESUS

Kid Rock

It has become increasingly difficult not to like Kid Rock a smidge, if only because he pimp-slapped Tommy Lee at this year's MTV Video Music Awards. Sure, the 36-year-old Kid is a weed-toking, potty-mouthed knucklehead, but he wants us to realize he's a redneck with a big heart. As female backup singers exalt, "Testify!" he kicks off this hick-rock CD with Vegas-large production, a party-hard guitar riff and a dance-floor declaration: He is the "Rock n Roll Jesus."

Godliness established, the preachy Kid ceases to rock. He consecutively goes poignant ("Amen"), reminiscent ("All Summer Long"), then power-ballad sappy ("Roll On"). These are life lessons about being kind to others and growing older and stuff. Sometimes, saxophone is involved.

More disconcerting, Kid Soft Rock has begun spelling like Prince -- but at least "Don't Tell Me U Love Me" is not a cover of the 1982 Night Ranger song. Kid Rock headbangs on the vulgar, cheesy "So Hott" and reverts to rapping on the profanity-laced "Sugar," which recycles his 1999 hit, "Cowboy."

These moments seem out of place. He seems happier pretending he's a jilted Brad Paisley on the honky-tonker "Half Your Age." When Kid Rock swipes the riff from Warren Zevon's "Werewolves of London" and references "Sweet Home Alabama" in the same tune, it's tough not to cringe. Yet, a certain type of listener (millions, probably) will enjoy the familiarity of Kid Rock's endless cliches. As illustrated on the final-track cover of John Eddie's "Low Life" -- renamed "Lowlife (Living the Highlife") -- what Kid Rock lacks as a singer (puh-lenty on the awful "New Orleans"), he often makes up for with attitude. Just ask Motley Crue's ex-drummer.

-- Michael Deeds

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