Epic; Release date: April 24, 2007
The Deal: Rage Against the Machine/Audioslave guitarist Tom Morello goes acoustic for activist album.
The Good: Musically, this is a different side of Morello. Hearing the unique guitarist move to the opposite side of the familiar spectrum is a surprise on first listen. The music is simple but straightforward -- the focus is on the words. He's been performing as The Nightwatchman since 2003, so it's about time he finally got his message recorded. As he states on "Maximum Firepower," "This blues guy I met/That never had a hit/Said you don't gotta be loud, son/To be heavy as shit." The album looks at the world with eyes of change. He gives the listener plenty to ponder, whether it's "Colin Powell's lies" during "House Gone Up in Flames" or the claim "Jesus, Mary, Joseph and the apostle Paul were black" in "Flesh Shapes the Day." He's got a hint of Bob Dylan, a spark of Johnny Cash and a smattering of Woody Guthrie. He's not breaking musical ground, but that's not the mission.
The Bad: Though his message is clear and he's straight to the point, Morello lyrics are, at times, too simplistic. His vocals are weak at times as well (though it is his first time singing), but, thankfully, the message speaks louder than the words.
The Verdict: It's as political as RATM, but uses a far calmer method to get the message out without preaching. Check him out at Tremont Music Hall on June 22.