Cd Check

CD CHECK

November 24, 2005|By LOS ANGELES TIMES

Madonna

Confessions on a Dance Floor

[Warner Bros.] *** (3 stars)

Reinvention must be one of Madonna's favorite words. It was the title of her 2004 tour, and the press release for her new album proclaims that the record "re-invents dance music for a new generation."

It doesn't say what generation that is, and she isn't reinventing so much as revisiting. Or maybe it's retrenching. After the critical and commercial drubbing that met her last album, 2003's dour, sonically spare American Life, the singer has scampered back to the shelter of the grand, gaudy, glittering embrace of the discotheque.

Confessions on a Dance Floor is disco with a vengeance, a whomping, unapologetically airheaded engine of stroboscopic beats and succulent textures that exhumes dance music's time-honored values of celebration and affirmation.

Madonna seems at home in this artificial world, singing with more strength and sharper intonation than ever, happy to lie back and let her voice be snipped and shuffled, braided and layered, stretched like taffy.

Big & Rich

Comin' to Your City

[Warner Bros. Nashville] ** (2 stars)

The best thing about this duo's 2004 debut album, Horse of a Different Color, was the outsider attitude it brought to the country music mainstream.

They rode in on the skirttail of Gretchen Wilson, their higher-profile pal in Nashville's so-called Muzik Mafia, and they repeat that scenario with the arrival of their sophomore album.

The upstart attitude remains, but where Wilson has shown growth as a writer and singer on her second album, "Big" Kenny Alphin and John Rich are stuck treading water.

The loopy opening track, "Freak Parade," is followed by the raucous title song, a start that promises more than the rest of the album can deliver. "Soul Shaker" and "Caught Up in the Moment" are garden-variety social-rebel chest-beaters.

They work best when the calculated rowdiness settles down and they allow some human weakness and feeling in.

Kenny Chesney

The Road and the Radio

[BNA] ** 1/2 (2 1/2 stars)

Chesney watchers understandably will be scouring his first album since his marriage to actress Renee Zellweger fizzled for clues about what happened, especially in light of the curtain of silence that followed the announcement of their split.

The album supplies some insights but only in the most general terms. What Chesney delivers is an emotional road trip on which he alternately aims to escape the pain and then look for a few answers, and with any luck find a little solace.

It's a far more sobering work than his previous album, Be as You Are, which outlined the many facets of a life spent lounging on a sunny Caribbean beach. This time, the sun's gone down, emotionally speaking. Songs course their way through the moods of someone whose life has to some extent spun out of control.

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