New albums get low grades


The Last Temptation (Murder Inc./Def Jam, 3 stars) The solid “Temptation” is filled with sage storytelling, mellifluous mid-tempo melodies, scuffed rhythms and choruses ripe with choice divas.

On “Mesmerize,” Ashanti’s sinewy singsong accompanies Ja Rule’s gruff vocals in an ode to rough impromptu sex that is genuinely pretty. And the title tune, with Philly’s Charli Baltimore, makes a mean street sweet.

Ja wants to get back to his true self, but like Michael Corleone, the charts keep pulling him back. So he duets with underemployed Bobby Brown, summons the ghosts of 2Pac (via sample) and mobster Albert Anastasia, and viciously rips his rivals, as if to make the old `hood a reality in his pop-present.

Ja sounds weary issuing his warnings one minute, filling his tunes with cheery melodies and Philly-soul flutters the next. It’s a great juxtaposition, but like his Seagal pairing, it’s oddly comic more “Analyze This” than “The Godfather.”

– A.D. Amorosi (KRT)


More Than You Think You Are (Atlantic, 2 stars) Matchbox twenty lives at the middle of the road in a cookie-cutter development with Train and 3 Doors Down as neighbors, but at least it attempts to dress up its drab vanilla pad with some musical feng shui.

Shaking things up just enough on its third album so that the usual litany of overwrought rockers and ballads is offset by a few moments of moderate musical re-examination.

This isn’t a radical overhaul. The “grass isn’t always greener, baby” cautionary tale “Bright Lights” is essentially a more rocking interpretation of Train’s “Drops of Jupiter,” but the violent guitar rage in the explosive opener “Feel,” the smart jangle of “All I Need,” and the sultry rhythms and barbed chords pulsing through “Disease” (written by lead singer Rob Thomas and legendary Rolling Stones’ rocker Mick Jagger) prove that, at the very least, Matchbox twenty has fairly cool digs on an otherwise dull block.

– Patrick Berkery (KRT)