The three brothers in the Kings of Leon trace their music back to childhood, touring with their father Ivan “Leon” Followill, a Pentecostal minister.
Living out of a purple Oldsmobile, they learned blues, gospel songs and hellfire preaching while traveling around the U.S. South. When Leon quit the church, the boys moved on. With their cousin Matthew, they formed a band based in Nashville, realizing that rock was their salvation.
While this official story of the Kings plays up their itinerant lifestyle over the five years they settled in Jackson, Tennessee, it suggests a base for authentic rock. “Come Around Sundown” shows them at their most potent.
The CD is raw, like 2008’s “Only by the Night,” which sold more than 6 million copies. Wisely, the edges haven’t been smoothed in the name of commercialism. Stadium rockers such as “Radioactive” come on like a feverish bar-room brawl with guitars thrown in. Rating: ***.
Lil Wayne has been busy, even with a jail term to serve after pleading guilty to gun-possession charges. “I Am Not a Human Being” is a mini-album released to mark his Sept. 27 birthday, which the star, born Dwayne Carter, spent behind bars.
While the result isn’t on a par with the 28-year-old rapper’s “Carter” series, the tracks are stronger than remixed leftovers. Awaiting his next proper album, this is a serviceable stopgap, littered with trademark sharp raps and four-letter rants. Rating: **.
Bob Dylan’s “The Bootleg Series Vol. 9: The Witmark Demos: 1962-1964,” released yesterday, marks the first official appearance of demos made for the publishing companies Leeds Music and M. Witmark & Sons.
Highlights include the civil-rights-inspired “Long Ago, Far Away” -- a song covered by Odetta -- and an unusual piano version of “Mr. Tambourine Man.” Dylan gives his all in passionate performances. These songs were written before he turned 24, yet their quality still impresses. Rating: ****.
Katy Perry’s “Teenage Dream” has been topping the charts, fired by the single “California Gurls.” The singer-songwriter, at 25, is hardly set to match Dylan’s acclaim. Still, she can be fun. As an antidote to many dismissive reviews, it’s worth stating that her third CD isn’t all bad.
The outrage of “I Kissed a Girl” is replaced by yearning numbers such as “Who Am I Living For?”
The question falls flat when you read that she’s engaged to actor-comedian Russell Brand. Well, the danceable disco pop helps pull it off. Rating: ***.
What the Stars Mean: **** Excellent *** Good ** Average * Poor (No stars) Worthless
The Kings of Leon CD is on RCA, Lil Wayne is on Cash Money Records, Dylan is on Sony Legacy/Columbia and Katy Perry on Capitol. The CDs are priced from $12.98, or 8.99 pounds in the U.K. Download fees vary across services.
(Mark Beech writes for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. The opinions expressed are his own.)