Memory Almost Full | [3.5 stars]
If you thought that Paul McCartney’s bitter split from wife Heather Mills might have turned him into a grumpy old musician, think again. Kicking off his great new CD—which he actually began recording pre-breakup in 2003—with the sprightly, mandolin-laced “Dance Tonight,” he practically sounds as if he is doing a jig. And on romantic declarations like “Gratitude” he still seems to believe that all you need is love. Memory finds McCartney, who turns 65 this month, in a nostalgic mood on songs like the sweetly wistful “You Tell Me,” while on “End of the End” he faces death with his sunny side up: “It’s the start of a journey/To a much better place/And this wasn’t bad/So a much better place/Would have to be special/No need to be sad.”
DOWNLOAD THIS: “End of the End”
Good Girl Gone Bad | [3 stars]
Give Rihanna credit for being able to turn out a killer single: She did it in 2005 with “Pon de Replay” and last year with “SOS.” And she’s done it again with “Umbrella,” which pours on the heat, from the Jay-Z rap that kicks it off in big-pimpin’ style to the “umbrella-ella-ella-eh-eh-eh” hook that Rihanna delivers with her sultry Caribbean lilt. It’s sheer hip-pop perfection. But with help from Ne-Yo, Timbaland and Justin Timberlake, there’s more than just one great single. From New Order-inspired guitar pop (“Shut Up and Drive”) to rump-shaking reggae (“Lemme Get That”), this is good until the last beat drops.
DOWNLOAD THIS: “Umbrella”
Epiphany | [2.5 stars]
The T in T-Pain definitely doesn’t stand for teetotaler. On the club come-on “Buy U a Drank (Shawty Snappin’),” his No. 1 pop and R&B hit, he sings, “Let’s get drunk, forget what we did.” He keeps the cocktails flowing on “Tipsy,” another hip-hoppish midtempo number about igniting inebriated passion. Meanwhile, on “Bartender” he knocks back a triple shot of Patron while hitting on the “pretty young thing” behind the bar. (The latter track features Akon, who signed T-Pain to his Konvict Music label and shares a similar sound.) When T-Pain adopts a more sobering tone, though, the results are mixed: The nostalgic “Time Machine” shifts gears nicely, but “Suicide,” a cautionary tale of unsafe sex, is just painful.
DOWNLOAD THIS: “Buy U a Drank”
Big & Rich
Between Raising Hell and Amazing Grace | [3 stars]
REVIEWED BY RANDY VEST
The country duo’s third CD is, surprisingly, a ballad-driven vehicle with lyrics more religious than raucous: Jesus, the pearly gates and rosary beads are mentioned in the first three songs alone. The standouts include “Faster Than Angels Fly,” a heartfelt tale of doomed lovers from opposite sides of the tracks, beautifully rendered with B&R’s flawless harmony; and first single “Lost in This Moment,” which conveys a couple’s hopelessly-devoted-to-you commitment. Not to risk disappointing their rowdier fans, B&R bang out two arena roof-raisers, “Radio” and the appropriately titled “Loud,” as well as a countrified cover of AC/DC’s “You Shook Me All Night Long.” And with genre-busting cameos from John Legend and Wyclef Jean, they continue to flaunt their image as Nashville outlaws.
DOWNLOAD THIS: “Faster Than Angels Fly”
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