Kid Rock: Born Free

RIYL: Bryan Adams, Bob Seger, Glenn Frey

It still hardly seems possible to those of us who remember the gleefully profane, barely conscious persona he cultivated with his first four albums (including his 1998 breakthrough Devil Without a Cause), but Kid Rock has somehow become the heir apparent to Bob Seger’s Motor City rock ‘n’ roll throne. In fact, modern rock is such a graveyard that Rock is damn near an elder statesman of the genre – the kind of artist who routinely draws fawning reviews from Rolling Stone, along with interviews where he’s given a forum to roll his eyes at Steven Tyler joining the judges’ table on “American Idol.” Actually, on that last count, Rock’s no guiltier than the rest of us. But you get the point – that stringy-haired honky rapper with the glassy-eyed stare and the fedora-and-wife-beater wardrobe was never supposed to grow up and give us songs like “Rock N’ Roll Pain Train,” “Rock N’ Roll,” “Rock N Roll Jesus,” and “Rock On.”

But here we are with Kid Rock’s eighth(!) studio album, the flag-wrapped Born Free, offering up a dozen mind-numbingly bland alternatives to actual old-time rock ‘n’ roll. If Seger’s classic records are as solidly unassuming as a cold can of Stroh’s, consider Born Free the equivalent of Natty Light – it’s cheap, and it’ll get the job done if you’re desperate enough, but it really should be better. Really, for the most part, this sounds a lot like an early ’90s Bryan Adams record – which is sort of fitting, considering that Adams’ Canuck take on heartland rock was just as counterfeit as this corny, Rick Rubin-produced collection of would-be anthems and motel ballads.

It feels strange to miss the guy who made songs as proudly brain-dead as “Bawitdaba,” but at least that song had balls and a dangerous vibe, however slight; these days, Rock’s gelded, commercial-ready music is slickly competent at best. On the Born Free album cover, he’s reclining in the back of a convertible, feet up on the seats, amber waves of grain in the background. You can’t tell that the car is rolling gently down the middle of the road, but you can definitely see that no one’s in the driver’s seat. (Atlantic 2010)

Kid Rock MySpace page


Slash: Slash

RIYL: Guns n Roses, Aerosmith, Alice Cooper

Duff McKagan is the newest member of Jane’s Addiction; Scott Weiland is back with STP; Matt Sorum has a Pussycat Dolls-like rock review with his Darling Stilettos, and Dave Kushner most recently co-wrote the theme song to “Sons of Anarchy.” What about the man in the top hat and the very soul of Velvet Revolver? Slash has left his Snakepit behind to release a guitar player’s record in which a different vocalist is featured on each track. So often these types of records are uneven because the vocalists skew the music so drastically apart, the end results feel like a series of singles slapped together. Most of the tracks are polished musical metal pop songs that his vocalists end up fitting into, adjusting their style to fit into his vision. On most of the songs, he doesn’t make the mistake of trying to build material for the singers except the collaborations with Adam Levine and Kid Rock, which feel more specific for those artists and sound like tracks that would be recorded by the vocalists on their records. Slash is fun, ripping good and more accessible then the two Velvet Revolver records. Contraband and Libertad had their moments, but weren’t very consistent regardless of the commercial and critical hoopla.

The formula mellows a bit for Kid Rock’s funky “I Hold On.” The Adam Levine-sung “Gotten” sounds a lot like a Maroon 5 groove. “Mother Mary” is an earthy effort by Beth Hart that conjures up a Janis Joplin vibe. “Watch This,” featuring Dave Grohl and Duff McKagan, is the lone instrumental and a tasty one at that. Slash compiles an eclectic guest list, but because the music is based on his bluesy soloing and magnificent crunchy riffs, the record has a remarkable consistency. Ozzy also appears on the very predictable sounding, “Crucify the Dead.” Doesn’t it seem like every Ozzy track these days kind of sounds the same? The copy available for this review also featured a Cypress Hill/Fergie collaboration for a cover of “Paradise City.” It has a weird sort of charm and works as does most of this record. Slash is a pleasant surprise and even with the diverse set of singers, is one of the better records thus far in 2010. (Dik Hayd 2010)

Slash MySpace page


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