- - Monday, November 5, 2012

Music From Another Dimension

Aerosmith

Columbia

★★★

Back in the saddle after years of squabbling, Aerosmith sounds loose and limber on “Music From Another Dimension,” the band’s first album of original material since 2001.

The album cover is a parody of a poster from a 1950s monster movie. A giant and a reptilian monster are shown stomping across a city, laying waste to every building and pedestrian in their path, while the Aerosmith logo stretches across the sky like some rock ‘n’ roll equivalent of the Bat-signal. “Rock music saves the day” seems to be the message, if there’s any real message.

It’s a cheesy cover, but it’s also a fitting introduction to an album that kicks off with three raunchy, old-school rock songs, all of which channel the bluesy boogie-woogie of Aerosmith’s glory days. This isn’t contemporary music; it’s vintage stuff, filled with all the meaty guitar muscle and macho swagger of an earlier, simpler era.

The album grows older as it moves along, though, eventually hitting a string of midtempo ballads aimed at fans who still listen to “I Don’t Wanna Miss a Thing.” These are the least exciting parts about “Music From Another Dimension.” Yes, they show off Steven Tyler’s voice — still a surprisingly elastic instrument, as screechy and stratospheric as a monkey’s wail one minute and soft, pleasant, even croon-worthy the next — but they do so at the expense of the full band. Mr. Tyler may be the famous one, the one who reignited public interest in the band by joining the judging panel of “American Idol,” but Aerosmith always sounded best during its louder moments

Luckily, there are plenty of loud moments to go around. Joe Perry does his share of the legwork, singing lead vocals on a pair of songs and splashing his guitar licks across the album like paint. His playing is loose on the Rolling Stones-ish “Oh Yeah” and focused on the hard-rock stomper “Street Jesus.” During “Can’t Stop Lovin’ You,” a duet with Carrie Underwood, he tips his hat to country music without relying on hammed-up Nashville licks.

The whole thing is produced by Jack Douglas, the man behind some of Aerosmith’s best albums. “Music From Another Dimension” doesn’t quite earn that distinction, but it’s better than it might have been. For a band that’s been around for more than 40 years, “pretty good” might be good enough.

The Abbey Road Sessions

Kylie Minogue

Parlophone

★★★

Dance diva. Disco queen. Pop icon. Mature torch singer?

On “The Abbey Road Sessions,” Kylie Minogue takes a handful of her biggest pop hits and reworks them into grand, symphonic tunes with help from a full orchestra and the wonderful acoustics of Abbey Road Studios. It’s a grown-up album, free of the glitzy production and pulsing, electronic dance beats that permeate her studio recordings. It’s also a showcase for Miss Minogue’s vocals, which sound thin and girlish on her albums but take on a grown-up, soulful resonance here.

There are a few mistakes. “Locomotion” is given a vintage girl-group makeover, which makes it different from Miss Minogue’s 1988 cover but pretty much identical to the 1960s original. A similar problem plagues “Where the Wild Roses Grow,” a 1995 duet with Nick Cave that sounds more or less unchanged in its Abbey Road makeover. Why rerecord these songs if the new arrangements don’t put some sort of clever, unexpected spin on the initial version?

“Slow” is different, though, an electro-pop hit turned into a slow, smoky ballad steeped in jazz, lounge and blues textures. It sounds like the soundtrack to a film noir, and Miss Minogue appropriately vamps up her singing, whispering the chorus like a 1940s femme fatale. On “Can’t Get You Out of My Head,” the string section plays short, accented chords where the drums used to be, a move that evokes the symphonic intro to Coldplay’s “Viva la Vida.”

Who knew Miss Minogue’s hits had this sort of depth? Moody and cinematic, “The Abbey Road Sessions” proves there’s more in this pop singer’s arsenal than pulsing electronica and contemporary disco.