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Noteworthy CDs

Notable CDs | Five new or recent reissues reviewed by Arsenio Orteza

The Heartbeat of Love

Style: Romance-themed country-rock from a longtime Christian, pastor, and founding member of Buffalo Springfield and Poco.

Worldview: "Some say love is like a 50-50 thing, / half from me, half from you. . . . / Pretty soon it's over. What happened to 'I do'?"

Overall quality: The lyrics, hooks, and harmonies eventually "hook in," becoming greater than the sum of their parts (which include cameos from Neil Young, Mark Volman, and Timothy B. Schmidt).

Love Grenade

Style: Blistering hard rock, some blues, an updating of Nugent's psychedelic-era nugget "Journey to the Center of Your Mind."

Cautions: PG cursing ("Still Raising Hell," "Geronimo & Me," "Stand," "Broadside," "Lay with Me"); tastelessly misogynistic inner art.

Worldview: "Rugged independence is a lot of fun. / I laugh so hard when I see 'em run" ("Stand").

Overall quality: The sound of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness cranked to a 10.

Everybody's Brother

Style: Honky-tonk gospel.

Cautions: "If You Don't Love Jesus" (PG vulgarity).

Worldview: Telling titles: "Jesus Is the Only One That Loves Us," "You Just Can't Beat Jesus Christ."

Overall quality: Now 68 and under investigation for an April 2007 shooting incident, Shaver remains the master of bare-knuckled revival music for outlaws and the only performer capable of singing, "If you don't love Jesus, go to hell," with a straight face.

Storyteller

Style: Live acoustic country songs about trains, cowboys, Indians, eternal life, and Willie Nelson.

Cautions: PG-13 vulgarity ("Willie the Wandering Gypsy and Me," the between-song storytelling).

Worldview: "The devil made me do it the first time. / The second time I did it on my own."

Overall quality: Poignant in that it was recorded in 1992, almost nine years before Shaver's son Eddy, who backs him on guitar, would fatally overdose.

Wattstax

Style: Three discs of soul, gospel, comedy, and exhortations from the August 1972 "black Woodstock" and Wattstax film.

Cautions: Richard Pryor.

Worldview: "We may be in the slum, but the slum is not in us! We may be in prison, but the prison is not in us" (from Jesse Jackson's introduction)!

Overall quality: Twenty-seven performers, 112,000 fans; a thrilling document of a precariously apolitical moment in Great Society black America.

Spotlight

In C.S. Lewis' That Hideous Strength, heroine Jane Studdock has a vision of an archetypically primal female spirit that, because Jane is not a Christian, she experiences as terrifyingly "raw . . . untransformed, demoniac." Ted Nugent is a real-life masculine version of Jane's vision. Whether as a Second Amendment advocate with his own hunting organization or a hard rocker notorious for excoriating bellwether liberals onstage, he's the alpha-male culture warrior of every secular-progressive's worst nightmares.

Love Grenade (Eagle) finds him at his fiercest and most focused since 1995's Spirit of the Wild, with "Stand" taking to task Ted Kennedy and "Al not so Sharpton" en route to the following climax: "Don't you think I'm taxed enough? / Pimps and whores and welfare brats, / too much government way too fat!" Warning: From his language to his volume to his sense of humor, Nugent is-sometimes for better, sometimes for worse-as raw as untransformed primal archetypes get.

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