After lead singer Zack de la Rocha left Rage Against the Machine in 2000, ex-Soundgarden front man Chris Cornell started jamming with the three remaining Ragers, resulting in this supergroup. Audioslave's debut disc melds the slinky, neopsychedelic tendencies of Soundgarden with the funkish roar of Rage. With air-tight musicianship, the Rage posse provides a suitable soundscape for Cornell's raw baritone and brutal lyrics. "And when you ask for light, I set myself on fire," he sings on the punishing "What You Are." The fusion works best, though, when they give the feedback a breather on the achingly melodic "I Am the Highway."
BOTTOM LINE: Hear this Audio
Album of the week
The Roots (MCA)
Erykah Badu helped the Roots plant themselves in the mainstream hip-hop consciousness by singing on their 1999 Grammy-winning hit "You Got Me." Here the pioneer alternative-rap band (imagine a Tribe Called Quest with live instrumentation) gets vocal assists from Nelly Furtado, Musiq and Jill Scott. All three collaborations (particularly Musiq's D'Angelo-esque turn on the hypnotic first single, "Break You Off") are excellent, as is nearly all of the Roots' fifth studio disc. Anchored by the one-two punch of heady emcee Black Thought and funky drummer ?uestlove, the Roots artfully demonstrate how rap can be musical without relying on samples. Giving a rock edge to some tracks, while imbuing others with a jazz or neosoul sensibility, they make hip-hop that is meant to be played live.
BOTTOM LINE: You'll dig these Roots