Ready to Die
Iggy and the Stooges
Really, Iggy? Ready to die? Not possible. I always thought it would be you and cockroaches at the end of time, man.
Ready to Die is the first album from Iggy Pop and members of his old band, the Stooges, since 2007 and the 2009 death of bandmate Ron Asheton. And it’s the first to feature former guitarist James Williamson since the 1970s.
It’s classic Raw Power-era Stooges from the get-go on Burn, a heavy-duty groove that kicks off the collection. And there’s no letup for the next several tunes, including Gun, which skewers a violent culture that just might lead its lone-wolf protagonist astray.
Yet the highlight of the collection might be when the assault lets up: on the un-Stooges like Unfriendly World. Over spare, acoustic country blues, the 66-year-old Iggy is less your wild uncle and more wise elder, singing in a tender, wistful growl: “Hang onto your girl, cause this is an unfriendly world.”
Even after more than four decades, Iggy doesn’t go down easy — in all senses of the phrase. But the man and his band have some things worth saying before the cosmic end of the tour.
— Jeff Karoub
Will Robie, a government assassin seen in last year’s The Innocent, returns in a bigger and bolder adventure in David Baldacci’s new novel, The Hit. Robie’s superiors know he’ll obey orders without question, so when one of his colleagues goes rogue, he’s given the task of termination.
Jessica Reel was ordered to assassinate a dictator, but she executed someone else. Robie has worked with Reel, so he’s considered the perfect candidate to bring her out of hiding and take her out. The more he digs — and the more targets she eliminates — the more Robie questions his orders.
Conspiracy novels aren’t new, government traitors aren’t original and a killer hired to take out another killer has been used countless times. But Baldacci puts a fresh spin on the cliches, and the end result is the best Baldacci novel in years. Robie is an assassin with ethics, and the nonstop action and twists help move the story along.
What makes The Hit live up to its title is the payoff at the novel’s end. By then, Baldacci has planted an emotional hook that remains long after readers have turned the last page of the book.
— Jeff Ayers
To Be Loved
Canadian crooner Michael Buble projects a strange dichotomy in his eighth studio album, To Be Loved. It combines old and new, happy and blue, romance and more romance. His evident penchant for the golden standards, which he covers with aplomb, is what saves the record from sounding too modernly hollow. It’s also the reason it sounds uneven, meandering from harried contemporary pop like Close Your Eyes to the smooth, seductive Dean Martin tune Nevertheless (I’m in Love With You).
The four originals on the 14-track album were all co-written by Buble, but apart from his joie de vivre and emotive voice, they mostly fail to capture the imagination. Not even the Bryan Adams collaboration on After All, or Buble’s deceivingly upbeat single, It’s a Beautiful Day, can save it from a big yawn chain.
Buble is at his best when reclaiming beloved classics as his own. Frank Sinatra’s Come Dance With Me becomes playful and electric in his interpretation. Some songs, like the unexpected duet with Reese Witherspoon on Something Stupid, are wild cards that can bring down the house.
Yet it’s Buble’s love for middle 20th-century music that keeps this album in the middle of the road: As an artist, Buble needs to become his own man.
— Cristina Jaleru