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Granted, with a release this ungainly, there are bound to be plenty of hits and misses. Even so, My Homies is the most consistently enjoyable rap double album since Shakur's All Eyez on Me. (***)

-- Craig D. Lindsey

Scott Weiland
12-Bar Blues
Atlantic

Given the title, you'd think that 12-Bar Blues is Scott Weiland's attempt to recast himself as a roots artist. But within the first few bars -- bars that recall that great master, Tone "Wild Thing" Loc -- you realize that this is the blues as defined by a guy with no musical home. Glam and grunge offered temporary shelter for Weiland's Stone Temple Pilots, but here he's patched together a solo debut of random influences -- a stray hip-hop beat, a Jane Fonda movie title, Iggy Pop's voice -- and tries to make sense of all the clutter. For the most part, he can't -- and for reasons that may be personal, more than musical.

It's always dodgy to speculate on a stranger's mental health, but 12-Bar Blues seems most logical if you consider Weiland's long struggle with drug addiction. With promising starts, blown endings and bouts of sheer confusion, it adds up to a kind of 12-step blues, with Weiland borrowing the terminology of rehab ("Can't you see that it's a disease?") when he isn't off on some relapse from reality. "Chateau Mars" does indeed sound like a man lost in space: just an acoustic guitar and Weiland playing a word game of states ("California, Arizona, Minnesota") before lashing out at the listener or some imaginary enemy: "I want to bring you down / I want to get high."

12-Bar Blues isn't a bad album so much as a deeply discomfiting mess. Weiland has always tried on other artists' costumes, but he's generally stayed true to some central persona (Pearl Jam clone, Bowie/Beatles pop star). Here, he wanders off in half a dozen different directions, from cocktail jazz ("Cool Kiss") to Kurt Weill cabaret filtered through Jim Morrison (the cheesy, but surprisingly satisfying, "Lady Your Roof Brings Me Down"). At its most unfinished, 12-Bar Blues is as heartbreaking as watching Dirk Diggler struggle to reinvent himself as a pop singer in Boogie Nights.

In the end, the song that rings truest is also the saddest and most chilling: "Son" is a father's simple appreciation ("coolness is driving with my son") as well as an apology for what an unreliable parent he's been. As fathers of newborn babies, Kurt Cobain and Sublime's Brad Nowell had every impetus to live, too, but neither quite convinced himself of it. "Son" is reason enough for Weiland to continue making music; let's hope the song's real-life inspiration is enough to help him stay clean. (** 1/2)

-- Keith Moerer

Montell Jordan
Let's Ride
Def Jam

On his third effort, Let's Ride, Montell Jordan distinguishes himself as the Pierce Brosnan of new-jack R&B. With his handsome voice caressing each track as if he were singing from a penthouse terrace overlooking the French Riviera, Jordan dresses his playboy image in jet-setter duds. While the album's title could easily be perceived as purely sexual, it's really Jordan's invitation to journey inside his politely exotic soul.

Then again, maybe he does just want to get down and dirty. A good portion of Let's Ride has him continuing the balancing act between heartfelt balladeer and uncouth mack daddy. But this time, the former keeps tabs on the latter. Jordan's smooth, globetrotting facade comes into full relief on the leadoff "When You Get Home," on which he smoothly interjects verses from Marvin Gaye's classic "I Want You." "Don't Call Me" has him doing a sly, slippery take on Usher's "U Make Me Wanna...," just before he springs into thrust mode on the title track and "Anything and Everything." Meanwhile, enlisting the help of Silkk the Shocker, Redman and Houston's homey of the moment, Master P, ought to score Jordan some points in the street-cred department.

Still, Let's Ride takes a strange detour in its final minutes, during which our suave man of the world is suddenly compelled to kneel and pray. An interlude by Los Angeles pastor Clarence E. McClendon sets up two spiritual numbers that bring Ride screaming to a halt. Suddenly, I feel so dirty. (***)

-- Craig D. Lindsey

Montell Jordan performs Friday, April 17, as a part of the Box Birthday Bash at Compaq Center.

Izzy Stradlin
117i
Geffen

In 1991, when Izzy Stradlin walked away from Guns N' Roses at the height of the band's brief but brilliant brush with fame, most fans thought he was crazy. Shortly thereafter, in the wake of GNR's self-destruction, they called him prophetic.

What's more, he surprised many with the warm pleasures of 1992's Izzy Stradlin and the Ju Ju Hounds. Indeed, it was a bluesy, beer-sippin', joint-passin' effort in which Stradlin -- the Ron Wood to Slash's Keith -- ably staked his own musical turf with appealing, energetic material and an effective, if limited, croak of a delivery. So why does 117i, arriving some six years later, register like flat backwash from the Ju Ju Hounds' party keg? Simple. Stradlin's brew has grown stale in that lengthy interim, and despite the title, registers only as lukewarm.

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