Album Reviews: Luke Bryan, Elvis Presley, Simon and Garfunkel _lowres


Luke Bryan


On the songs “Fast” and “Way Way Back,” from Luke Bryan’s new album “Kill the Lights,” the perpetually upbeat star takes his first steps toward acknowledging the complexities that come with maturity.

Country music’s reigning entertainer of the year, Bryan fills stadiums with rhythm-driven, good-time songs about partying, friendship, love and the rural lifestyle. He doesn’t divert far from that path on his fifth album: songs like the escapist hit “Kick the Dust Up” and the down-home “Huntin’, Fishin’ and Lovin’ Every Day” could fit on any Bryan collection.

At age 39, however, the Georgia native is expanding his themes and sound, with help from longtime producer Jeff Stevens and his son, Jody Stevens. Bryan loads the album with seductive love songs: “Strip It Down,” “Love It Gone” and “Home Alone Tonight,” an engaging duet with Little Big Town’s Karen Fairchild, all deal with moving an evening from social to sexual. He also tackles disappointment on “Razor Blade” and nostalgia for his youth on “Fast.”

Bryan isn’t taking any big left turns with “Kill the Lights,” but he is showing he can grow in ways that reflect his age and experience.

Michael McCall

The Associated Press

Elvis Presley TODAY

Ahead of this weekend’s 38th anniversary of Elvis Presley’s death, RCA/Legacy re-released the singer’s final major studio album, 1975’s “Today.”

The 40th anniversary issue of “Today” features the complete, 10-song original album and undubbed session mixes on disc one and 22 concert performances from 1975 on disc two.

As usual, Legacy does a great job of repackaging the original recordings and expanding them with context-providing bonus audio and text.

Coming seven years after Presley’s 1968 comeback TV special and return to major music stardom, “Today” is a good, not great, addition to his discography. In 1975, the album and its singles fared better on country charts than pop charts.

Presley, who’d released a hit version of Chuck Berry’s “Promised Land” in 1974, echoes Berry again in the Jerry Chesnut-penned opening song, “T-R-O-U-B-L-E.” The rest of the songs fit him well, too. He tenderly interprets Don McLean’s “And I Love You So” and sings credible, though not definitive, versions of Tom Jones’ “Green, Green Grass of Home,” Billy Swan’s “I Can Help” and Faye Adams’ 1953 R&B hit “Shake a Hand.”

The bonus disc features Presley in concert from May and June 1975. It’s an up-and-down collection in which the star obviously has much more interest in his newer material than the hits that helped him become a star.

John Wirt


After spending most of their time apart following their 1970 breakup, Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel reunited on Sept. 19, 1981. The special occasion was a concert at New York City’s Central Park. A free show that drew an estimated 500,000 people, it was taped, filmed, subsequently released as a double album and broadcast by HBO.

Nearly 50 years after Simon and Garfunkel’s first hit, 1965’s “The Sound of Silence,” Sony Music Entertainment has re-released the out of print “The Concert in Central Park” album with concert film as a two-disc CD/DVD. Sony also issued the six-LP vinyl box set “Simon and Garfunkel — The Complete Columbia Albums.”

For their Central Park concert, Simon and Garfunkel, on stage together and apart, performed songs from their ’70s solo projects and the duo classics that struck nostalgic chords with the vast audience stretched over the park’s Great Lawn.

Garfunkel often joined Simon for Simon’s solo material, giving listeners an idea of what might have been had the pair not parted. The highlights include Garfunkel’s solo performance of the Simon-composed “Bridge Over Troubled Water.” Also duo performances of S&G’s ’60s classics, which manage to be intimate performances despite the half-a-million people in the park.

John Wirt