“Live from the Underground”
(Cinematic Music Group/Def Jam)
Big K.R.I.T. is an up-and-coming rapper from Mississippi. He’s built up anticipation for his debut with his soulful social commentary and slick Southern rhymes on several mixtapes, including “Return of 4Eva.”
Unfortunately, Big K.R.I.T. -- whose initials stand for King Remembered In Time -- falls short on his first album, “Live from the Underground.” The rapper produced all 16 tracks, but the collection of songs doesn’t measure up to his previous mixtape efforts.
The socially conscious, insightful lyrics that he had become known for are largely absent on “Live.” His rhymes are often too simple, failing to tap his full potential. Even guests like Ludacris, Bun B and Anthony Hamilton fail to generate much excitement.
Still, there are glimpses of promise, including “Hydroplaning” featuring Devin the Dude, “Rich Dad, Poor Dad” and “If I Fall,” with Melanie Fiona.
Check out this track: “Praying Man,” featuring B.B. King, is the album’s standout song where Big K.R.I.T. digs deep, displaying his skills as a compelling storyteller.
Wilson writes new Beach Boys album
“That’s Why God Made the Radio"
There’s a fine line between recreating your timeless signature sound and becoming a nostalgia act for your own music. It happens so much these days with older artists and their numerous comebacks, but not the Beach Boys.
The band reunited earlier this year for their 50th anniversary: They’re on a major tour and now they have a new album. “That’s Why God Made the Radio” has a retro sound as if they were following up their seminal 1966 album, “Pet Sounds.“ It even ends on a suite of songs like it does.
That baroque-pop classic bore such hits as “Wouldn’t It Be Nice,” and the haunting “Caroline, No." And while this new collection of songs may not hold an aesthetic candle to that great record, it does have some real catchy tunes. Tracks like “Shelter,” and “Daybreak Over the Ocean” feel more like newly discovered tracks from a session 40 years ago instead of being recorded last year.
Maybe that’s because Brian Wilson came back to the band after his decades-long absence. Regarded as one of popular music’s true geniuses, his return invigorates the album with the band’s trademark sound. His contributions came in a big way -- he produced the album and co-wrote 11 of the albums 12 tracks.
Wilson was the architect of the band’s California rock sound when mental problems and drug use led him to drop out of the band for some time, and it was never the same again. Now he’s back, and so are his incredible melodies and falsetto delivery. The songs harken back to a simpler time when people wore Huarache sandals, polished their surfboards, and raced their hot rods.
The album marks the bands 29th studio album, and first since 1992’s “Summer in Paradise.” All the surviving members appear on the album including Wilson, Mike Love (who also writes on the album), and Al Jardine. Early members David Marks and Bruce Johnston, who replaced Wilson when he left the band in 1966, are back for the album and tour.
Alan Jackson shines on new album
“Thirty Miles West"
Alan Jackson opens his new album “Thirty Miles West" with a song suggesting that if reincarnation exists, he will return as a country song. No other artist of his generation deserves this destiny more, for no other has better represented the traditions of country music than this Georgia native.
His first album to be distributed by EMI after more than two decades with Arista Records, “Thirty Miles West" accentuates Jackson’s best attributes -- an assured yet relaxed baritone; arrangements that accentuate melodies and rely on fiddle, steel guitar, and honky-tonk piano; and lyrics that are homespun and personal, all relaying a philosophy of living simply and with deep affection for family and roots.
A prolific songwriter, Jackson this time selects seven songs written by others -- a wise choice, considering they include “So You Don’t Have to Love Me Anymore," the best ballad of 2012 so far, and the swinging “Life Keeps Bringin’ Me Down"
Still, his songs are what set him apart. Those include the observational “Her Life’s a Song," about a young woman passionate about a variety of music, and the touching “When I Saw You Leaving (for Nisey)," about his wife’s cancer diagnosis, which ends with the emotions he felt when discovering it had gone into remission.
As usual, Jackson handles both real-life drama and sly humor with laid-back grace -- making “Thirty Miles West" another example of how to keep traditional country music relevant in modern times.