Counting Crows Saturday Nights & Sunday Mornings
Sounds like: Magic from a decade ago
Short take: The Rain King returns
For a band that started out so promising, the Counting Crows sure turned into adult contemporary pablum pretty quickly. However, it appears singer-lyricist Adam Duritz finally got his shit back together on the band's fifth studio album, Saturday Nights & Sunday Mornings, decidedly the best Crows release since Recovering the Satellites. Not only is the guitar rocking again ("Insignificant," "Los Angeles" and "Come Around"), but the tunes are poignant ("Washington Square" and "Anyone But You"). And the dreadlocked singer has come out of his fog to write compelling lyrics: "This dirty life of mine / is hangin' me up all the time" ("Hanging Tree") and "And skinny girls who drink champagne / And take me on their knees again" ("1492"). Let's just hope they can stay in orbit this time around. John Benson
Capitol / Release date: April 1
Sounds like: Gavin DeGraw or Howie Day or ...
Short take: Have I heard this before?
Ferras can write songs, sing them and play instruments. Then again, so can thousands of aspiring musicians, and Ferras does little to separate himself from the masses on his debut, Aliens & Rainbows. His best tracks, "Blame, Blame, Blame" and album opener "Liberation Day, " use energetic piano chords and quick drum beats. His worst, "Rush" and "Take My Lips," feature quiet piano and soft vocals that slow the album. Good and bad, all his tracks feel vaguely familiar. Clichs abound in his lyrics the predictable first verse of "Rush" goes, "What is this feeling? / I am on cloud nine / Guess I'm still reeling / From your body next to mine." The instrumentation on the album sounds like anything an adult-contemporary station would play. And Ferras' voice, though lovely, is not distinctive in any way. Meghan Loftus
13th Planet/Megaforce / Release date: April 1
Sounds like: A bad Ministry karaoke album
Short take: Disappointing end note
Considering Al Jourgensen has announced Ministry's farewell tour for this spring/summer, the decision to release covers album Cover Up as its final soire is simultaneously conspicuous and disappointing. The entire album reeks of the influential industry act attempting to milk every dollar out of its swan song. More so, Jourgensen takes the easy way out with Cover Up, which features mostly blues-based songs pured in the Ministry blender. The Rolling Stones' "Under my Thumb" combines an '80s New Wave melody with grating vocals. The blitzkrieg approach on The Doors' "Roadhouse Blues" results in a thrash feel, while T. Rex's "Bang a Gong" comes off as safe. At least a peaceful-turned-aggressive version of Louis Armstrong's "What a Wonderful World" ends the abomination on a palatable note. John Benson