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Album review: Kid Rock, "Born Free"

By Sean Fennessey

kid rockMaturity doesn't suit Kid Rock particularly well on "Born Free." (Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images)

"Bawitdaba," where have ye gone? One of the very best things about Kid Rock, the polymorphous Detroit schlockmeister and recovering rap-rock aesthete, was his shamelessness. It was a revolutionary pose, being a swaggering up-North country boy, rapping in furs, hanging with small friend Joe C., exploring the finer points of Motor City machismo. He always seemed to be having more fun than everyone else. But Kid Rock's long, slow transformation to respectability is complete with "Born Free," a mannered, simplistic take on maturity.

"Born Free" is Kid's eighth studio album, and his first shepherded by producer and walking cred factory Rick Rubin. He reportedly pushed the singer to work harder and write better songs, not settle for the Fun With Classic Rock slash-and-grab approach taken on hits like 2007's "All Summer Long," a gloopy mixture of "Sweet Home Alabama" and "Werewolves of London." So Kid Rock appeases with aphorisms and unctuous phrasing.

"You can knock me down and watch me bleed / But you can't keep no chains on me," he sings on the title track, with hopes of a little Bob Seger in his voice. He settles for Sebastian Bach. Seger is Kid Rock's foremost deity these days - he even shows up to play piano on the Sheryl Crow duet, "Collide," a highlight here. But Kid lacks Seger's wolfish melancholy, and his songs, swathed in a particular kind of studio-rock gauze, sound like a focus group's version of rebellion. What we'd do for our cowboy to come home.

Recommended tracks: "Purple Sky," "Collide"

By Sean Fennessey  | November 16, 2010; 10:45 AM ET
Categories:  Quick spins  | Tags:  Kid Rock  
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