Grammy recap; Kid Rock proves versatility
The Grammy Awards have come and gone, and those of you who used my Grammy "cheat sheet" last week to check off your own choices for who you wanted to win, know that I only scored a little better than 33 percent in picking the award winners this year. The tricky part, this year, was in deciding whether a song would win in the Rock or Pop categories. I knew U2 and Train would probably take home multiple awards and they did (U2 cleaned up, taking Record of the Year and Best Rock Album, Train nabbed Best Rock Song and took home an award for the instrumental arrangement of "Drops of Jupiter").
But wherever I chose Train, U2 won, and vice versa. And while India.Arie seemed a natural to take home an armful of awards since she was nominated seven times, in a surprising upset she was shut out in every category – three times by Alicia Keys, as well as by U2 and the O Brother Where Art Thou? soundtrack.
As a home viewer, you might not have caught most of these politics, however. In what has been a continuing trend in the Grammy broadcast, the show devoted the bulk of its air time on performances rather than on actually handing out awards. Many of the major awards were given off-camera and the results flashed across the screen whenever the show went to commercial. As I've written in the past, if this is a Grammy Awards show, shouldn't the focus be on giving awards?
Soundtracks, Reissues & Compilations
Queen of the Damned, the film version of Anne Rice's vampire novel of the same name, opened in theaters a couple of weeks ago. The movie follows the vampire Lestat (who played a central role in the book and movie "Interview With a Vampire") as he rises from the grave after a sleep of decades and decides to become a rock star, because the pounding beat, distorted guitars and wicked grandeur of the music revives the energy of his ancient soul. His band is (naturally) very goth-rock, and consequently the Queen of the Damned soundtrack, on Warner Bros. Records, includes a wealth of edgy, metallic goth-leaning artists. Marilyn Manson offers the metallic gloss of "Redeemer," Static-X delivers "Cold" and Chester Bennington of Linkin Park steps out of his normally rappish demeanor to deliver a surprisingly gothic grinder in "System," growling with perfect vampire lyrics: "why won't you die/your blood in mine." Jay Gordon of Orgy, and Papa Roach, Deftones, Godhead and Tricky also turn up with pounding and mysterious dark-rock anthems.
The Epic Legacy label continues to reissue old Kansas albums. The latest is one of the band's best and most successful. The band's 1977 album Point of Know Return is on the shelves again in a newly remastered format, and includes the hit title track, as well as "Dust in the Wind" and fan favorites "Portrait (He Knew)" and "Paradox." The reissued CD also includes two bonus tracks recorded during the period in which the album was made – a live recording of "Sparks of the Tempest" and a remix of "Portrait."
In the early '80s, as most of the world was getting in tune with synthesizer pop, a la Eurythmics and Naked Eyes, some people were going back to basics, and producing roots rock. Illinois' own Elvis Brothers released a couple of major-label, rockabilly-based discs at that time, but it was The Stray Cats who ultimately would break through to the masses with roots rock hits. During the period that the Cats and the Elvis Brothers were tracking their rockabilly anthems, another rootsy band was releasing albums to critical, if not popular acclaim. The Blasters, an L.A. band with a yearning to put Carl Perkins-style singles back on the radio, centered on the singing and songwriting of brothers Phil and Dave Alvin. In 1981, Time named their eponymous debut one of the 10 best of the year, and the band seemed poised for Stray Cats stardom. That never happened, but the band did release three albums and a live EP with its original lineup, before dissolving in 1985. Slash Records and Warner Bros. have compiled that material, including nearly a dozen live recordings to create Testament: The Complete Slash Recordings. It's a two-disc, 52-song set that includes "Colored Lights," the song John Mellencamp wrote for the band (an attempt to give them a radio hit) as well as their staples "Marie Marie," "Long White Cadillac" and "Samson and Delilah."
Opening with a twisted take on the theme song of the evil guards in The Wizard of Oz, Kid Rock and his metallic carnival-wild posse of a band run through an amazing amalgam of rap, hard rock, R&B and country on Cocky.
While I can't quote most of the lyrics in a family newspaper (yes, this one definitely earns its Parental Advisory warning with liberal doses of expletives and sexual explicitness), if you're looking for some lewd, loud, pumpin', pounding braggadocio rock to play away from the kids, this one has some good jams and even a few ballads.
"Forever" is one of the best here, resting on a funky groove as the Kid outlines his musical formula: "I make punk rock, and I mix it with the hip hop/got money like Fort Knox/I'll forever be the Kid Rock."
In "Lay it on Me," he melds a smooth R&B groove with a funky rap about sex and living large and in the title track, he offers a riff as infectious as his first hit, but this one isn't clean enough to play on the radio. "Cocky" has soul singers and scratching in the background of a smart groove as the Kid answers critics who rail against his attitude; the chorus boasts back "They say I'm cocky, and I say what? It ain't bragging if you back it up."
But Cocky isn't all about boasting and ranting and swearing. About halfway through the disc, the ranting raps start softening out to R&B and country crooning (usually, but not always, mixed at least somewhat with his trademark metallic rap style).
"What I Learned Out on the Road" starts out like the classic easy rock strains of fellow Detroiter Bob Seger before kicking into a rap-ish Aerosmith-style chorus. While overly indulgent and ridiculously boastful, Kid Rock does prove on Cocky that sometimes he can back it up – however crude, he can write potential hits in the rap, hard rock and country forms.