Let It Go
Tim McGraw is one of the music industry's surest things, a steady producer of hits and nine consecutive platinum albums since he first scaled the charts in the 1990s. He's done it with a safe range of pop-leaning country, and he sticks to a recent pattern of lightly stretching those boundaries without ever quite surprising on Let It Go, a collection of smoothly produced, soft-pedaled cowboy anthems.
Mild-mannered affability is a large part of the singer's appeal, whether he is barking the solemn, ascending swell of "Nothin' to Die For" or cribbing both attitude and sonic palette from Joe Walsh on the twangy "Last Dollar (Fly Away)." He complements his earnest hoots with occasional detours such as the dark one in the southern-fried "Between the River and Me," but his laid-back vocals don't smolder any more than his wife Faith Hill's plastic guest spot on "I Need You."
His instincts tend toward the accessible, as seen on a bland take on Eddie Rabbitt's "Suspicions," but he could certainly get by with an even more formulaic method, so it's encouraging that he occasionally broadens his approach on tunes such as the piano-laced country pulse of "Shotgun Rider."
I Need Mine
That Lil' Flip needs his is indisputable. The question is, do you need a double-disc set of hip-hop from Houston's self-proclaimed finest? Some of these tunes have reportedly been reclaimed from a version of I Need Mine that leaked last summer and are offered as a sort of bonus by T.I.'s former rival. Yet even Flip's most valuable asset - his sunny nature - isn't enough to ensure audience good will.
As is usually the case with double albums, enough decent tracks are spread across both CDs to make a worthy single outing. Flip's detractors may slag him as soft, but the R&B-inspired; collaborations with Mya on "Flippin'" and Lyfe Jennings on "Ghetto Mindstate" are the clear standouts, offering a diversion from gangsta snoozers like "Bustaclip" and the earnest but misguided celebration of a "Single Mother."
Still, the first 75 minutes often seem endless.
Yours Truly, Angry Mob
There were flashes of brilliance on Kaiser Chiefs' 2005 debut, Employment. The droll English quintet seems less inspired on Yours Truly, Angry Mob, a sophomore effort that rarely rises above middling.
The kinds of explosive guitar riffs that powered the first album are less in evidence here on denser tunes with slowed-down tempos. Singer Ricky Wilson spends a lot of time parsing relationships, envisioning the end of passion on the propulsive "Heat Dies Down," imagining himself alone on "I Can Do It Without You" and keeping score over strummed acoustic guitar on "Love's Not a Competition (But I'm Winning)." They're pretty enough songs, they're just not as memorable as the sonic Molotov cocktail the band heaved on its debut single, "I Predict a Riot."
Hints of the group's rollicking deadpan cheekiness surface on the paean to mediocrity "Everything Is Average Nowadays." Wilson is equanimous about it all on the short-fused "Learnt My Lesson Well," delivering this philosophical nugget: "Life could be worse/You know we all could be cursed."
Fair point. On the other hand, Kaiser Chiefs, take note: We all could use more brash, clever rock 'n' roll, too.
Hartford (Conn.) Courant