Candlebox's Lucy shows what can happen when a million-selling band thinks it can do no wrong -- and it's already screwed up plenty. As the first breakthrough signing on Madonna's Maverick label, these Seattle-scene tagalongs accompanied their self-titled debut on a speedy trip through MTV's Buzz Bin and beyond. So imagine the guys' surprise when, just as quickly, Madam Boss called them into her office, cracked her leather whip -- clutching its handle ever so firmly -- and pointed them in the direction of the studio. "You mean we have to put out another one of these things?" the perplexed flannel-glamour poseurs likely asked.
The resulting effort ambles its way through a 12-song clog of woeful mock-grunge sludge, never making a defined assertion of anything resembling a purpose -- other than to emphatically insist that Candlebox has nothing new to say. From the hollow wailing of singer Kevin Martin to the perfunctory fuzz-blast guitar histrionics of Peter Klett, Lucy is a compendium of things heard before -- over and over and over again. Eventually, Candlebox's frightening lack of wit and conviction should assure its demise. Until then, this shell of a band will continue to be modern rock's worst enemy. -- Greg Barr
Revolutions of Time E the Journey
There was a time -- odd as it seems -- when only serious students of country songwriters and those within range of the handful of TV stations that carried Austin City Limits had ever heard of Willie Nelson. That ended in 1975, when the Red Headed Stranger horse opera did to country what the Who's Tommy had done to rock, and everybody got wind of Willie. Now, Nelson's 18-year run on Columbia Records has been encapsulated in Revolutions of Time ... the Journey. It's a long journey to condense into a three-hour travelogue, and the result is, in some respects, a greatest hits compilation dressed up to look like a box set. Still, reading the titles of the number one tunes -- from 1975's "Blue Eyes Cryin' in the Rain" to 1989's "Nothing I Can Do About It Now" -- underlines Nelson's rare gift for making magic out of the most unlikely songs. Either that, or Willie's sense of humor just tickles our collective consciousness.
The collaboration laden Sojourns disc that serves as the centerpiece of Revolutions in Time (Pilgrimage and Exodus flank it with samplings of the solo Willie) highlights Nelson's legendary flair for musical camaraderie. His linking up with Merle Haggard and Ray Charles results in what are arguably two of the most entrancing and lyrically baffling country hits of all time. "Pancho and Lefty" (the Haggard collaboration) and "Seven Spanish Angels" (his duet with Charles) are cowboy songs the way Unforgiven was a cowboy movie. Equally pleasing, though more conventional, are Nelson's collaborations with Faron Young on "Hello Walls" and with Lacy J. Dalton on "Slow Moving Outlaw." Also included are some true groaners: Neil Young's moaning on "Are There Any More Real Cowboys?" will have you rolling around on the carpet, and rug chewing will begin when Bob Dylan's nasal whine chimes in behind Nelson on "Heartland."
Aside from noting that Nelson's association with Columbia ended about the same time that his tax problems blew up in his face, this collection should bring few complaints. Along with the hits are plenty of stellar B-sides, including musicians' anthems such as the road weary ballads "Me and Paul" and "Write Your Own Songs," the latter with its frustrated chorus of, "Why don't you just kiss my ass E or write your own songs?" Over this many years and releases, there are bound to be some glaring omissions -- such as "Bloody Mary Morning," which is still the best variant of "Whiskey River" Nelson's ever done. If you've worn out your half-dozen Nelson CDs (figuratively speaking) and regretted not buying the other 30 or so he's produced, much of what you're missing can be found in this set. And remember, if you work hard, talk honest and smoke just enough dope to stay normal, you'll go to Willie's house when you die. -- Jim Sherman
Life of Agony
Abrasive, mock-prophetic molten-metal phlegm straight outta Brooklyn. The band's name is a bit of a stretch; 53 Minutes of Discomfort is more like it. Actually, a short quarter-hour under a set of headphones is more than enough time to gauge just how accurately the CD's title speaks for its contents. -- Hobart Rowland
Talk about side projects: Pantera's Philip Anselmo, Corrosion of Conformity's Pepper Keenan, Eye Hate God's Jimmy Bowe and Crowbar's Kirk Windstein and Todd Strange combine to make Down sound like a head-banger's wet dream. The band's music, however, is nowhere near as impressive as its membership. Sure, die-hard heavy-metal fan boys will undoubtedly love it, but they'll probably be equally entranced by the "Jesus smoking a joint" cover packaging. Nola's 13 songs are virtually devoid of identity, other than the menacing pose implied by Anselmo's growling vocals. The Black Sabbath influence is obvious, but, like with Sabbath, much of the music is overblown and drawn out. Keenan describes Down's music as "shit [that kicks] unholy ass." He's got the "shit" part right. -- Joe Hon