By Chuck Arnold Reagan Alexander
August 06, 2007 12:00 PM

Prince

Planet Earth |

CRITIC’S CHOICE

FUNK-ROCK

Anyone who witnessed this year’s Super Bowl half-time show was reminded that Prince possesses more talent in his little pinky than your average musician. Really, though, he’s been on a resurgent roll since 2004’s Musicology, following that up with last year’s standout 3121. He’s got his purple mojo working again on Planet Earth, which, at its best, recalls his ’80s reign. A song like “Guitar,” the ax-slinging first single, is classic Prince, full of sexy swagger, Revolution-era riffs and cheeky humor (“I love you baby, but not like I love my guitar”). Meanwhile, the sumptuous, jazz-kissed “Somewhere Here on Earth” is the kind of vintage falsetto ballad that separates him from the Robin Thickes of the world. Elsewhere, the CD is bookended with two tracks—the title tune and “Resolution”—that reveal Prince’s concern for the world beyond his bedroom.

DOWNLOAD THIS: “Guitar”

Billy Ray Cyrus

Home at Last |

COUNTRY-POP

Billy Ray Cyrus is nothing if not opportunistic. Back in the spotlight after appearing on Dancing with the Stars last season and costarring with daughter Miley on the Disney Channel hit Hannah Montana, he is now angling to revive a flailing music career with a synergistic push. Home at Last is his debut on Walt Disney Records, and the first single, the Miley-inspired ballad “Ready, Set, Don’t Go,” was recently featured on Hannah. Even so, this disc is unlikely to return Cyrus to his “Achy Breaky Heart” glory. Country-pop originals like “Flying By” are listenable enough, but Cyrus hardly possesses the interpretive skills to cover “You’ve Got a Friend” or, in a very Disney-esque moment, “Over the Rainbow.”

Sara Bareilles

Little Voice |

POP

Kelly Clarkson, take note: Singer-songwriter Sara Bareilles used artistic differences with her record company as the creative inspiration for “Love Song,” the defiant first single from her major-label debut. “I’m not gonna write you a love song/’Cause you tell me it’s make or breaking this,” she sings. The result is a vibrant piece of piano pop that helped make Little Voice the No. 1 album download at iTunes. There’s more where that came from on this consistently rewarding CD. Bareilles, who possesses a rich, full-bodied voice and self-taught keyboard skills, delivers from the honeyed folk-pop of “One Sweet Love” to the funky strut of “Love on the Rocks.”

DOWNLOAD THIS: “Love Song”

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