LORETTA LYNNStill Country (Audium Records)
Loretta Lynn is sweet and pure as gold in her first solo album of original material in 12 years. The album “Still Country” is dedicated to her husband, “Doo,” who died in 1996. Among others, two of her good friends contributed to the album: Randy Scruggs was the producer and also plays the guitar, along with Earl Scruggs on banjo.
The songs carry you on a journey back to her roots in Kentucky, “God’s Country.” You can hear her sadness in “I Can’t Hear the Music” (written with Cody James and Kendall Franceschi).
Still, the cuts I like the best are the up-tempo songs, such as “Working Girl” and “Somewhere Someone’s Falling in Love.” This album is a must for country music lovers young and old.— Diana Wallace
RADIOHEADKID A (Capitol)
Radiohead could have psyched itself out in coming up with a follow to 1997’s “OK Computer,” one of the most universally praised releases of the 1990s. To complicate matters, “OK Computer” followed the acclaimed “The Bends” (1995) and “Pablo Honey” (1993).
Apparently, the band from the United Kingdom has been unfazed by its accolades, because “Kid A” makes no attempt to duplicate the group’s past and no attempt at commercialization. The release is at times an inside-out version of previous works: Guitars are scaled back in favor of electronics, and singer Thom Yorke’s sometimes-beautiful voice is often processed and buried.
The New Age-gone-wrong sound is certainly too austere for the mainstream, yet the bold release is periodically persuasive with its synthetic air of depressed reflection. While the domineering bass and cacophonous horns on “The National Anthem” and the propulsive drum loop on “Idioteque” temporarily divert the album’s placid disposition, “Kid A” is most provocative when it bottoms out.
The disconnected “How To Disappear Completely” is the nadir, with a mournful Mr. Yorke singing his most straightforward set backed by soft acoustic guitar and dark keyboard effects. Much of the rest of “Kid A” is merely a serviceable update of the same kind of distorted art-rock that self-important musicians have toyed with for decades.— Scripps Howard News Service
THE CORRSIn Blue (Atlantic Records)
The Corrs are not nearly as popular in the United States as they are in their native Ireland, which seems unusual for a rock band that specializes in the kind of radio-friendly pop music that dominates U.S. airwaves — and this is not necessarily a compliment.
Formed by three sisters and one brother of the Corr family, the group has been popular on Irish and British airwaves for the past decade with a blend of pop rock, dance-floor beats and just a touch of the Corrs’ Celtic musical roots.
The Corrs’ fourth album, “In Blue,” unfortunately, falls short of the promise shown in their last one, “Talk on Corners.” Instead, it dilutes their Irish heritage for a bland pop sound that mimics that of the all-female 1980s rock band the Bangles.
Except for the somber ballads “At Your Side” and “Rain,” the Corrs keep their “blue” album relatively up-tempo. The one striking exception is the final instrumental track, “Rebel Heart,” a haunting, wistful musical meditation that should have set the tone for the album — but did not.
Elements of the Corrs’ talent are present — such as Caroline Corr’s fierce drumming and Andrea Corr’s powerful vocal range — but the material they’ve picked does not live up to their skills.— Derek Simmonsen
SHERRY WINSTONLive Is Love & Love Is You(Orpheus Records)
On the cover of her latest CD, flutist Sherry Winston poses in water up to her calves. Could those shapely legs end in dainty hooves? “Life Is Love & Love Is You” certainly suggests that if Pan has a daughter, Miss Winston is she.
She has a lovely touch with a flute. Her music dances on the ear like Tinker Bell dances on a flower. Playful, powerful, poetic. Miss Winston draws effortlessly on New Age, world beat and traditional jazz to weave her enticing spell, aided occasionally by friends Grover Washington Jr., Najee, Jon Lucien and Curtis Harmon.
Though “Life Is Love” is mostly Miss Winston’s compositions, she also draws upon the works of Michael Jackson and Stevie Wonder, and makes them her own. She even raps delightfully — and when was the last time you saw those two words side by side?
Saving the best for last, Miss Winston joins with Bobby Lyle, Nik Rariluk, Luico Hopper, Phil Hamilton and Tony Smith in her composition, “Symphonic Rock Suite #3,” and it’s time to hold onto the roof.
This recording has one serious flaw: Whoever mastered it brought the percussion too far to the front, and the flute is too delicate to take that kind of treatment lightly. Nevertheless, this is a CD to toss into the machine any time you’re in the mood to smile.— Judith Kreiner
HEAVY D AND THE BOYZHeavy Hitz (MCA)
Everybody’s putting out greatest hits albums these days, from huge stars to small ones. Heavy D’s is a little bit of both.
The self-proclaimed overweight lover proudly flaunts his size on songs such as “The Overweight Lover’s in the House” and “Mr. Big Stuff” on “Heavy Hitz,” which ironically features few. When a guest appearance in a Levert song (“Just Coolin’ “) represents the highest charting song on a greatest hits album, it’s sad.
In fact, Heavy D hasn’t had much radio play since 1994’s minor hits “Got Me Waiting” and “Black Coffee,” both of which appear here. His best two songs — “Now That We Found Love,” featuring Aaron Hall, and “Is it Good to You” — appear on the 1992 album “Peaceful Journey.” Beyond those four songs, the rest of “Heavy Hitz” is nothing but filler.— Scott Silverstein
CINDERELLAThe Best of Cinderella:The Millennium Collection(Mercury)
The fairy tale isn’t over yet for Cinderella. In the liner notes for its new greatest hits album, the 1980s hair-metal band promises that new music is forthcoming. The group also went on tour this summer — even if it did open for Poison.
Still, the prospects for Cinderella, perhaps the most artsy of the hair bands, once looked much better. As for most bands of its ilk, the onset of alternative music killed the genre. But as this compilation shows, Cinderella nearly made the transition with a unique transformation.
Whereas many of its early songs, such as “Nobody’s Fool” and “Shake Me,” are derivative of the painful sound of the 1980s, Cinderella tried to adapt. Tom Keifer reduced his inimitable scream, and the band added a bit of country twang and blues to its songs, here represented by “Gypsy Road” from 1988’s “Long Cold Winter.” Cinderella later moved even more in that direction, especially on “Heartbreak Station” from the album with the same name.
Of course, that direction didn’t exactly lead to a happy ending, at least not yet. But the band is working on its Portrait/Sony debut, and this is a good way (and a cheap one at less than $10) for Cinderella’s five-or-so fans to bide their time waiting for it. — S.S.