CD reviews

Iggy and the Stooges

It has been 40 years since we have seen an album with “Iggy and the Stooges” printed on it.

Sure, the pre-punk rock band regrouped a few years back and released a tepid comeback album, but that album, “The Weirdness,” was only listed as an album by The Stooges despite Iggy Pop’s participation.

So does “Ready to Die” bring back the hard-rock sound that made the band underground heroes in the early ’70s?

In a word, yes.

Just like “Raw Power,” which most cite as Iggy and the Stooges’ high point, this new album features roaring guitars, tight and economical songwriting, and Iggy Pop’s crooning vocals as the icing on the cake.

One listen to songs such as “Burn,” “Job” and “Gun” and you understand why the band is still considered to be one of the most influential punk rock bands in music history.

The appeal is even more amazing when you consider the fact that punk rock still wasn’t a widely recognized music style when “Raw Power” was released in 1973.

The new album’s title track is also worth noting, especially for the incredible guitar work of James Williamson.

For folks still a bit gun shy of the band after that dreadful 2009 comeback album, just know that it appears that Iggy and the Stooges have paid their penance and definitely come out swinging on this new album.

Key Tracks: “Burn,” “Job,” “Ready to Die”

Listening to the latest album by LL Cool J, one can’t help but be conflicted.

On the one hand, LL is one of those rap artists who helped pioneer the musical style alongside acts such as Run-DMC, Kool Moe Dee and Kurtis Blow. Among old school rap fans, LL Cool J tracks such as “I Can’t Live Without My Radio,” “Rock the Bells” and “I Need Love” are considered classics.

On the other hand, those same aficionados might consider LL lost to Hollywood. Currently starring on TV’s “NCIS: Los Angeles,” LL has also acted in several films. For hard-core musicians who do nothing but ply their musical trade, LL’s moonlighting as an actor might be a sign of going soft.

On LL Cool J’s latest album, there are songs that might support either side of that argument, depending on which track you happen to hear. And the guest list is surprisingly eclectic, with expected participants such as Chuck D and Snoop Lion rubbing shoulders with the likes of Tom Morello, Eddie Van Halen and Travis Barker.

For songs such as “Bath Salt” and “New Love,” you can almost hear the old school LL adjusting his trademark red Kangol cap before delivering his rhymes in his typical smooth style.

However there also are numbers, including “Give Me Love” (with Seal) and “We’re the Greatest” (with Van Halen), that just don’t quite work. There’s even a song with country star Brad Paisley, “Live for You,” that is only slightly less heinous than the pair’s other collaboration, “Accidental Racist,” which appears on Paisley’s most recent album.

So while LL might be doing more acting than rapping these days, he’s trying to keep it real. At times, he actually succeeds, but not always.

Key Tracks: “Bath Salt,” “New Love,” “Whaddup”

“There will be hurt. There will be pain. There will be a lot of tears, a lot of joy. What we have left cannot be destroyed.”

Those are a few of the lyrics from “In a Broken Promise Land,” the first track on “The Journey,” the new album from Scottish rockers Big Country.

Best known for the enduring ’80s hit “In a Big Country,” the band seemed over and done with when lead singer Stuart Adamson committed suicide in 2001.

Band member Tony Butler briefly took over as lead singer after Adamson’s death, but was later replaced by Mike Peters of The Alarm. These days, guitarist Bruce Watson and drummer Mark Brzezicki are the only original members left, but still they press on.

Listening to “The Journey,” two thoughts come immediately to mind: that Peters will never totally fill Adamson’s shoes as lead singer (and one gets the idea that Peters isn’t trying to do so), and that despite its trials and its unfair designation as a one-hit wonder, Big Country still makes some really good music.

With Peters as vocalist, the band sometimes threatens to sound like a really good U2 knockoff, as evidenced on the song “After the Flood,” but there is some genuinely good stuff here. Standout tracks include “In a Broken Promise Land,” “Another Country” and the album’s title track.

The same spirit that caused you to listen closer the first time you heard “In a Big Country” is still there, played by a band that refuses to let some major setbacks diminish its collective spirit.

Key Tracks: “In a Broken Promise Land,” “The Journey,” “Another Country”

By Devin Grant