Women + Country
Every so often a band releases a debut album that resonates so positively with listeners, it seems that no matter how hard the musicians try, they can never seem to bottle that lightning again.
Such was the case with the Wallflowers. After the excellent debut, "Bringing Down the Horse," which featured songs such as "One Headlight," "6th Avenue Heartache," and "Three Marlenas," the band, led by Jakob Dylan, never released another album that even came close.
Dylan is on his own for "Women + Country," a tranquil, mostly acoustic collection of songs. Produced by T. Bone Burnett, "Women + Country" definitely has its moments, with nice touches such as the horn section on the Dixieland jazz-influenced "Lend a Hand" and the background vocals of Neko Case and Kelly Hogan on "Holy Rollers For Love."
It still isn't "Bringing Down the Horse," but this low-key and at times beautiful album is one of the better things Dylan has put out in recent memory.
Key Tracks: "Lend a Hand," "Holy Rollers For Love," "Nothing But the Whole Wide World"
When the one-hit wonders of '80s metal are catalogued, one in particular stands out from the crowd.
Although the hair metal band Ratt only scored one major hit, "Round and Round," the band will forever be linked with the birth of MTV in the '80s thanks to its video for that song, which featured comedy legend Milton Berle.
Amazingly, aside from a brief break in the '90s while the whole grunge thing blew over, Ratt has continued to tour and record.
The band's latest release, "Infestation," is a surprisingly good collection of songs that takes the listener back to those '80s years when hair and spandex ruled. While there is definitely a retro vibe that flows throughout the album, it never wears out its welcome.
This is new material from a band still very much alive, and the quality of the music on this album came as a complete surprise.
It's a shame Uncle Miltie isn't around to star in another music video, not that MTV plays many of those these days.
Key Tracks: "Best of Me," "Lost Weekend," "As Good As It Gets"
No Guts. No Glory
Upon hearing the band Airbourne for the first time, if you mistakenly thought you were listening to new music by AC/DC, no one would hold it against you.
Like that legendary hard-rock band, Airbourne hails from Australia, and the no-nonsense working-class rock music it favors is identical in many ways to AC/DC. In the end though, Airbourne gets a pass from simply being lumped in as an AC/DC tribute band simply because the band members can write just as catchy a rock song as Angus Young and Company.
On "No Guts. No Glory," the follow-up to the band's 2008 breakthrough CD, "Runnin' Wild," Airbourne does little to change the formula that got it noticed in the first place. Catchy rockers such as "Blonde, Bad and Beautiful," "Steel Town," and "Armed and Dangerous" work well.
And while not every song measures up to Airbourne's previous release, there is plenty here to satisfy fans, as well as those tired of waiting for something new from AC/DC.
Key Tracks: "Blonde, Bad and Beautiful," "Steel Town," "Armed and Dangerous"
Hellbilly Deluxe 2
Once upon a time there was a horror movie-obsessed musician named Rob Zombie, who formed a group called White Zombie. That band proved to be one of the more exciting things to happen during the musical confusion that was the '90s.
When Zombie shut down White Zombie and went solo, he still put out amusing collections of music that mixed metal with the macabre, but alas; it wasn't White Zombie.
"Hellbilly Deluxe," which featured the single "Dragula," was the best of his solo efforts. Now, after a stint directing horror films, Zombie is back with "Hellbilly Deluxe 2," which supposedly continues the theme started on the first album.
While song titles such as "Mars Needs Women" and "Werewolf, Baby!" demonstrate that time hasn't diminished Zombie's love for the spooky stuff, the truth is that there is little of substance on this musical sequel. Nice try, Rob.
Key Tracks: "Sick Bubblegum," "Burn," "Werewolf, Baby!"