Ten Most Disappointing Albums of 2007
The list of the most disappointing albums of the year includes a few good albums, some great artists, disappointing studio sets from veteran acts and two poor debut records. Here’s hoping that everybody does better next time.
Gary Allan is at his best when he paints outside the lines. Smoke Rings in the Dark was unapologetic Bakersfield honky-tonk and Tough All Over was gritty, raw and mournful country rock. Living Hard features some very good songs (“Yesterday’s Rain”) and some very bad songs (“Wrecking Ball”) and on the whole isn’t a bad album. Still, it all sound a little too slick for Allan. Here’s hoping that his next effort will mark a return to what he does best.
I learned about all that I needed to know about Angela Hacker midway through the Nashville Star season when she threw an on-camera temper-tantrum after the judges chose “I Was Country When Country Wasn’t Cool” for her to sing on that week’s show. Hacker protested not having a song that better showed off her vocal abilities, because, “after all, this is a singing competition.” In the first few weeks of the competition, Hacker seemed like an undiscovered talent with a story to tell. Eventually, it became clear that she’s a one-trick pony content to bludgeon her way through every song with the same blanket interpretation. Her debut album showcases the worst of that tendency. That it was recorded during the show’s run and consists primarily of songs that Hacker performed on Nashville Star perhaps somewhat exonerates Hacker’s performance but makes the album even more disappointing.
Shanachie Record’s business plan for 2007 was to resurrect former recording stars to make albums of standard and undistinctive classic country covers. These three albums are more or less the same and the performances range from mediocre (Confederate Railroad) to good (Gene Watson). What’s more disappointing than the albums themselves is that these three artists retain nearly all their talent but aren’t being given the opportunity to record albums of original music.
Dwight Yoakam may be the best cover artist in the history of country music. When Dwight covers a song, it’s as if you’ve never heard it before. Under the Covers, Yoakam’s 1997 cover album, displayed his remarkable ability to improve seemingly perfected classics. Lead single “Close Up the Honky Tonks” suggested that Dwight’s tribute to Buck Owens was going to be another brilliant cover album. Instead, Dwight Sings Buck is a collection of high-fidelity reproductions of Owens classics and Yoakam sounds timidly reverent of his hero. It’s an enjoyable album, but it could’ve been a classic.
Kix Brooks and Ronnie Dunn’s solo projects can’t come soon enough. This duo’s music hadn’t aged along with them, and it’s painful to listen to songs like “Johnny Cash Junkie” and the numerous and meaningless cowboy odes on this album. Ronnie Dunn’s voice deserves much better material, and on this album, only “God Must be Busy” is worthy. Kix Brooks rises from the dead to take the microphone on a few tracks and the material is good enough to suggest that his solo album should be interesting but not good enough to save Cowboy Town.
It’s awfully hard for Rascal Flatts to disappoint me anymore, but Still Feels Good earns a spot on this list because the album that Jim Malec aptly described as “vanilla” seemed to disappoint even some members of Rascal Flatts’ fan base. The only songs on the project that can even be distinguished amongst the fluffy dreck are distinctive because they’re entirely out of place and non-sensical (“Bob that Head,” “She Goes All the Way”). Even by Rascal Flatts standards, this record is bad.
An artistic improvement on the disastrous All Jacked Up, One of the Boys is still very inferior to Here For the Party. Most importantly, it’s not what Wilson desperately needed: a comeback. Wilson navigates a collection of excessively pensive ballads and meaningless rowdy songs and there’s not a radio hit among the bunch. I know that it’s shocking, but it’s time to start asking how many more major label albums we’re going to get from Wilson.
The renegade duo finally got their big radio hit in 2007 with “Lost in this Moment,” but Between Raising Hell and Amazing Grace made it clear what Big & Rich had to sacrifice. It’s hard to believe that some of the painfully trite songs on this album (e.g., “Eternity”) were written by the same songwriting duo that brought us “8th of November.” Between Raising Hell and Amazing Grace is probably not among the worst albums of the year, but it’s miles below the duo’s first two studio efforts.
I didn’t have high expectations for Bucky Covington’s debut after hearing lead single “A Different World,” but the American Idol alumnus still managed to disappoint me. Bucky Covington illustrates the pitfalls of taking an artist from the karaoke bar to stardom in 12 months. Covington’s music sounds utterly rootless, as if Bucky is searching for his soul as his debut album vacillates between faux Southern rock and insultingly pandering pop country. Covington may have some talent and could find an identity in Southern rock. However, his debut album challenges Still Feels Good for the title of most startlingly artless project of the year.
I maintain that Carrie Underwood is the most talented female vocalist to hit the radio in a long time, but Carnival Ride makes that argument much more difficult. The songs on Underwood’s sophomore set are above average but not as good as one would expect when every songwriter in Nashville is pining for a Carrie Underwood cut. The album’s downfall, however, lies in Underwood’s shocking interpretive deafness. Carrie’s technical ability is undeniable, but the best songs on Some Hearts revealed a singer who, unlike some of her contemporaries, was very aware of how to use her vocal power to accentuate a great lyric. Carnival Ride sounds like it was recorded from the karaoke machine at the American Idol after party, as Carrie shouts her way through a series of overproduced tracks. It’s what I expected from Underwood’s debut album; instead, she makes an atavistic progression to Carnival Ride. It’s more of a terrible disappointment than a horrible album, but Carnival Ride demonstrates that much of the artistic maturity exuded by this overnight success was illusory and that some pronouncements about Carrie’s endless talent were premature.
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