Yes (2.5 stars)
The Word is Live
These progressive rock virtuosos have a fan base that allegedly cares about every note they play. The Word Is Live tests that premise by drawing much of its material from the band's lesser incarnations.
Except for its opening two tracks, every song on the third disc either lacks guitarist Steven Howe, or if Howe is present, vocalist Jon Anderson. Also missing are essential songs such as "Starship Trooper." That just scratches the surface.
Even serious fans normally willing to pony up for a Yes box-set should pause to consider how much is missing here. Disc two, for example, focuses on the classic lineup in its nascent and final years, but missing like the hole in a donut are the glory years of the early '70s that produced the phenomenal live set Yessongs, a 1973 double-disc masterpiece of tour recordings that could use serious remastering to its compact disc version. Also missing are any live recordings of the critically acclaimed 2003 reunion of the classic Yes lineup. If nothing else, and sure to please the hard-core aficionados, most of the music here is previously unreleased.
Deep Dish (4 stars)
George Is On
The Iranian-American duo of Ali "Dubfire" Shirazinia and Sharam Tayebi are back on the charts—and climbing steadily—with the Grammy-winners' first studio album since 1998's Junk Science. And for good reason. The 21 tracks over two discs are full of thumpingly good music. The second disc offers up variations of the European hit single "Flashdance," with a driving guitar by Morel's John Allen and haunting vocals by Anousheh Khalili; four remixes of "Say Hello," also a hit single; and videos of both.
But as great as those numbers are, the real treasures are on the main disc. Stevie Nicks went into the studio to re-record her vocals from Fleetwood Mac's "Dreams" for the Deep Dish version, and the result meshes surprisingly well with Ali and Sharam's treatment. Who'd have thought the mystical siren's sound would go so well with modern drum breaks, synths and guitar? The mash-up of Dire Strait's paean to MTV, "Money For Nothing," with "Flashdance"—"Flashing for Money"—has the two merging perfectly. And if "No Stopping for Nicotine" isn't your drive-home music, seek help immediately.
Staind (2 stars)
As successful as Staind were with the straightforward, aggressive metal of their 1999 breakthrough album, Dysfunction, the way they broke out of the wishy-washy nu-metal pack was not by staying heavy, but by embracing another dubious hard-rock tradition: the power ballad.
The band's fifth album, appropriately enough titled Chapter V, shows that they know exactly what formula has worked for past hits like "Outside" and "It's Been Awhile," and exactly how to exploit it. Singer Aaron Lewis has gotten a lot of mileage out of baring his tortured soul, and Chapter V is loaded with similar variations on Lewis' core angst. All you have to do is read the song titles to get the idea. Lewis is the "King of All Excuses." He's got a "Cross to Bear." When he's "Falling," he tends to "Run Away."
The lyrics and the music all run together into one mid-tempo mush, punctuated only occasionally by blasts of heaviness or a tight solo from guitarist Mike Mushok. Opener "Right Away" and lead single "Run Away" have decent hooks, but nothing grabs your attention like "It's Been Awhile." The band's whine has only gotten more tired with age.