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Published: 10/21/2006

Sounds: Janet Jackson returns with an uneven '20 Years Old'

Janet Jackson returns with an uneven '20 Years Old'

The 20 years referenced in the disc's title are those that have passed since the release of "Control," and Janet Jackson says she's now looking in a new musical direction. She also is no doubt trying to re-establish herself after the public-relations meltdown following her controversial Super Bowl appearance.

But though the lead single from this CD already topped the R&B/Hip-Hop charts, the disc as a whole doesn't come across as challenging or a stylistic breakthrough. Mostly it's fairly bland, despite Jackson saying in a spoken intro that she wants to have fun.

She starts off hot on the slow-burning "So Excited" with racy lyrics. But after that the disc is often in a rhythmic rut, a smooth sway instead of a strong groove. Tough beats like those on "This Body" could use the pace moving beyond a crawl, though the more mellow arrangement on the chart-topping single "Call On Me" with Nelly better matches the tempo.

If "20 Years Old" represents Jackson's new musical path, it's not clear she's heading the right way.

- RICHARD PATON

Open your CD player, slip in "Sacrament," and ride the 21st-century heavy metal roller coaster.

A ferocious band with an emphasis on doubled-up rhythms, Lamb of God's riffs rival Metallica's, and the group's uncompromising focus is on all that is miserable about life, death, and everything in between.

Like Tool, the Richmond, Va., band plays in idiosyncratic time signatures and builds relentlessly fast beats on top of rhythms that'll break your neck. What makes it work is the crystalline guitar riffs, which is inventive and appropriately gothic, like Black Sabbath on amphetamines.

Lyrically, it's one long rant about god, the devil, and the inherent unfairness of it all. As with most post-'90s metal, the vocals sound like the Cookie Monster on a sugar rampage, robbing the music of the kind of personality that could deliver the goods more effectively.

The fun, though, is in the whiplash ride through a dark world that's scary and real. Not for the faint-hearted, but intriguing.

- ROD LOCKWOOD

By no stretch of the imagination is this great music. It is irreverent, mostly silly, occasionally hysterical, and often profoundly politically incorrect, but it is worthwhile and listenable Texas-style country music that deserves more than being dismissed offhand.

The Jewish cowboy turned politician (he's running for governor of Texas) made a living in the 1970s with these songs as he and his band, the Texas Jewboys, shattered all molds for country singers. Of course, this collection includes the tunes synonymous with the Kinkster, such as "Get Your Biscuits In The Oven & Your Buns In The Bed," "Ride 'Em Jewboy," and "They Ain't Makin' Jews Like Jesus Anymore," among 12 others.

It took nerve to sing most of this in public, kind of like the chutzpah that prompts this performer, now a cigar-chomping, successful mystery writer, to run for governor under the slogan: "How Hard Can It Be?"

- KEN ROSENBAUM

It's rare when a jazz sampler jumps out at you. This is one of those times. Noted DJ Gilles Peterson makes good use of the access he's been given to the Impulse! label's archives, coming up with a 10-song set that includes legends John Coltrane and Yusef Lateef, along with four previously unreleased songs by others. Many of the songs were recorded in the 1960s. No predictable standards here. And there's enough of a cross-section of jazz sub-genres to make this worthwhile.

- TOM HENRY



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