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Foo Fighters’ new ‘In Your Honor’ ambitious endeavor

From wire reports

Foo Fighters

“In Your Honor” (RCA) “““ 1/2

When Dave Grohl dies, the phrase “Nirvana drummer” will likely precede “Foo Fighters leader” in his obituary. That’s probably appropriate, because, in their decade of existence, the Foos have never delivered a world-shaking “Nevermind.”

“In Your Honor” doesn’t change that, but the double-disc set is certainly the quartet’s most ambitious effort.

The first rocks more relentlessly than anything else Grohl has done, with the possible exception of his metal side project, Probot. The second is entirely acoustic, complete with guest appearances by, of all people, a pair of unrelated Joneses – sultry vocalist Norah, who does the bossa nova on “Virginia Moon,” and Led Zeppelin’s John Paul, who plays piano and mandolin.

For a guy who can bash it out with the best of them, Grohl has always had a knack for melody. Cranked-up cuts such as the single “The Best of You” and “DOA” deliver grabby choruses along with well-muscled desperation, while the whole of disc two is gorgeously tuneful without succumbing for a second to singer-songwriter wimpiness.

Dan DeLuca, Philadelphia Inquirer

Fat Joe

“All or Nothing” (Atlantic) ““ 1/2

This talented Bronx rapper was the personification of hard-core New York hip-hop when he debuted in the early 1990s. But since the death in 2000 of his revered protege Big Pun, Fat Joe has gradually tried to assume Pun’s position as a Hispanic rapper who can make lyrically adventurous, radio-ready songs as well as gritty gangster material without losing his credibility.

Last year he scored one of the biggest hits of his career fronting his group the Terror Squad’s “Lean Back.” A sizzling, percolating remix, produced by Lil Jon and featuring blazing, boast-heavy performances from Eminem and Mase, is this album’s best song. His vocal energy and sense of purpose also emerge on the thunderous “Safe 2 Say” and the engaging two-part caper “Temptation.”

But Fat Joe generally misses when he aims for the ladies. On the lively “Get It Poppin’,” for example, he lacks the charisma and inventiveness to turn the upbeat cut into something special. It’s something that happens too often on “All or Nothing,” which in the end is somewhere in between.

Soren Baker, Los Angeles Times

Oasis

“Don’t Believe the Truth” (Columbia) “““

If you believed the truth, based on the evidence of its past three discs, Oasis was a spent force, surviving on snarky publicity and fumes from its first two albums, released about a decade ago.

But “Don’t Believe the Truth” is the first completely successful collection since the band’s glory days, featuring songs with actual melodies that can actually be heard, thanks to the considerable tear-down of that fuzz wall of sound. (Of course, it also means we can better hear the lyrics, which are only slightly less cringe-inducing than usual.)

The catchy “Lyla” has singer Liam Gallagher channeling “Street Fighting Man”-era Mick Jagger, “Mucky Fingers” should give a co-writing credit to Velvet Underground-era Lou Reed, and the straight-ahead time-keeping of new drummer Zak Starkey may be the best Beatleism the band has ever adopted.

And with “Let There Be Love,” Oasis finally has a ballad to equal “Wonderwall.”

Terry Lawson, Detroit Free Press

Ry Cooder

“Chavez Ravine” (Nonesuch) “““ 1/2

It’s been almost a decade since this respected American guitarist and songwriter started recycling old Cuban music under a global brand name, the Buena Vista Social Club. But while Buena Vista brought him new popularity, it also eclipsed his own voice and vision.

His new, non-Cuban CD once again finds the curious Cooder exploring musical history – or, in this case, history through music. His topic is close to home: the 1950s destruction of Mexican American barrios where Los Angeles’ Dodger Stadium now stands.

Cooder manages to make this work both cynical and idealistic. But most importantly, it’s authentic. This isn’t Cuba, where he poses as the savior of somebody else’s culture. In “Chavez Ravine,” Cooder is just exploring a hidden part of something that already belongs to him – his hometown.

Agustin Gurza, Los Angeles Times

Elizabeth Cook

“This Side of the Moon” (Emergent/Hog County) ““““

By all rights Elizabeth Cook’s major-label debut, 2002’s “Hey Y’all,” should have made her a star. Instead, it just earned the singer a trip back to the independent ranks.

The disappointment obviously didn’t dull her artistry – “This Side of the Moon” is even better.

Cook makes no attempt to take the edge off her bracingly straight-up country. The Florida native’s industrial-strength vocal twang and Loretta Lynn spunkiness enliven such breezy cuts as “Cupid,” “All We Need Is Love” and “Somebody’s Gotta Do It.”

But Cook, who co-wrote 12 of the album’s 13 songs, is also a thoughtful and deeply affecting balladeer. When she lays out for her man just what the consequences of a breakup would be, in “Before I Go That Far,” her mix of anguish and resolve is absolutely killer.

Country doesn’t get any better.

Nick Cristiano, Philadelphia Inquirer

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