POP/ROCK: Joss Stone,"LP1" (Stone'd/Surfdog)
The British soul singer starts and ends "LP1," her first album for her own label, with songs calling for world peace. But peace between lovers is even harder to find. For most of the album she lets her big, smoky voice rip into songs of all-out romantic strife. She's an all-out belter, an unapologetic admirer of Janis Joplin's most heated moments; anything less than tragedy or fury leaves her sounding overwrought.
Stone shares production and songwriting with Dave Stewart of Eurythmics. He and a band of Nashville sidemen often situate Stone in Southern soul, with the 1970s cackle of a clavinet or the gospel underpinnings of piano and organ. The album's best songs are platforms for near-hysteria. With strings and backup vocals urging her on, Stone tearfully, angrily insists she won't "Cry Myself to Sleep"; by the end of "Last One to Know," she is almost screaming, "I don't want to be, I don't need to be in love!" Her voice is a loose cannon; "LP1" figures out how to aim it.
- JON PARELES, NEW YORK TIMES
POP/ROCK: Sublime With Rome, "Yours Truly" (Fueled by Ramen)
Eric Wilson and Bud Gaugh would truly have been androids to reuse the Sublime name with some hack attempting to fill the late, visionary Brad Nowell's shoes. But Rome Ramirez, 23, is no hack. He's a fanciful upstart with a breathy croon that never annoys. So "Yours Truly" begins with a miracle, the expectations-exceeding "Panic," which nails the original Sublime's toothy edge and juggle of three styles in one song (ripping guitar and horn solos, too). But only two other tracks try to rock, making the album's other miracle, the huge-hit-in-waiting summer reggae "Lovers Rock," an achievement all Rome's. The rest of the album is mostly pleasant and too corny.
- DAN WEISS, PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER
FOLK: Tom Morello, "Union Town" (New West)
The Rage Against the Machine guitarist has a long history as an activist, so it was no surprise that he turned up at a rally last February in Madison, Wis., protesting efforts to restrict union rights. Morello was so galvanized by the experience that he quickly recorded this EP, with profits benefiting the America Votes Labor Unity Fund. It consists of five covers and three originals, mostly fist-raising, folk-punk exhortations. Though Morello's blunt originals don't leave much room for poetry or subtlety, his "Union Song" invokes a certain rabble-rousing spirit that Billy Bragg surely would recognize. Morello's functional baritone is best suited to evoking Bruce Springsteen's somber "The Ghost of Tom Joad" album on working-man classics "I Dreamed I Saw Joe Hill Last Night" and "Which Side Are You On?" He also digs up the most caustic verses in Woody Guthrie's "This Land Is Your Land," reminding listeners that the troubadour's anthem was as much a protest as a promise.
- GREG KOT, CHICAGO TRIBUNE