Kid Rock – First Kiss (Rating 3.5 out of 5)

firstFirst Kiss, the latest from Kid Rock is good. It is a really good record. No need to adjust your ears, clean out your bongs, or find that old Gas,Grass, or Ass, Nobody Rides for Free bumper sticker from back in the day to get scratch your Rock and Roll itch, this is good old fashioned 70’s Night Moves, no frills Rock and Roll at it’s finest.

Belting out tunes like he owns the place, the transformation from Hip-Hop loving bawitbaba chip on his shoulder white rapper to New Country lameness courtesy of his image shattering collaboration with Sheryl Crow, and on to Classic Rock Superman is finally complete.

After whimpering into the public consciousness with the white trash, redneck funk of the unfortunately named andkid3 equally lame Grits Sandwich for Breakfast followed by two more obscurely forgettable efforts, the future was so dim for Kid Rock there was no reason to wear shades. With his first couple of albums sounding like a third rate imitation of The Beastie Boys, along with a career that quickly seemed to be going the way of Vanilla Ice without the one-hit wonder, the man under the fedora was attached to a rocket that had no tail and it was swerving out of control.

And then came Devil Without a Cause and “Boom Goes the Dynamite!” Completely ignored by the misguided “rap is crap” Classic Rock community, this one might be the best Rock and Roll record of the 90’s. If you don’t believe me, simply listen to “Cowboy” and picture Phil Lynott and Thin Lizzy performing the song instead of Kid Rock and Twisted Brown Trucker. Wrap your ears around the guitar licks and the Classic Rock vibe. Think about what the song would sound like with no lyrics at all, just hard driving, hard charging Rock. Listen to “Wasting Time” with it’s Fleetwood Mac “Second Hand News” opening, the soul sister backing vocals, and the smoking, drinking, and carousing anthem that seems to serve as the gateway drug and a definite harbinger of what would be to come in the making of a True Rock superstar.

Much like Dorothy found it necessary to overcome a few obstacles along the Yellow Brick Road, Kid Rock has found his journey from Vanilla Ice wannabe to the devil spawn of Bob Seger and Steven Tyler no less challenging. Cocky, the first post “Devil” release was interesting for the notable absence of Joe C., Kid’s little person party partner/hip-hop muse who was prominently featured in the cirque du soleil meets Dante’s inferno Fellini-esque anything goes live shows. But more importantly, the record featured “Picture,” a collaboration with Sheryl Crow which was a song that along with the accompanying video brought instant credibility with the Classic Rock listener-ship, and made him a favorite among the soccer mom and MILF sets.

With Kid Rock, released in 2003, the transformation from white-trash rapper and white-trash rocker to fully formed Blue-Collar Classic Rock Bob was pretty much complete. There is nary a hip-hop number on the record unless you count the bit of scatting that takes place on his cover version of Bad Company’s “Feel Like Making Love,” and it is a pretty decent Rock record. Heck, there even is a song called Rock and Roll on the album.
The trend continued with Rock and Roll Jesus, a record that features the pretty much brilliant mash-up of “Sweet Home Alabama” and “Werewolves of London” on “All Summer Long,” Born Free, a Rick Rubin produced clone of any of the latter day Seger records that features guest spots from Zac Brown and Seger himself, and finishing up with Rebel Soul where hisTrueblood,shape shifting journey the likes of which we haven’t seen since Hootie dumped his Blowfish and went all music row Country lame seemed to be pretty much complete.

But I digress.

With opening tracks that feature the title track, “Good Times, Cheap Wine,” and “Johnny Cash,” a three song opening salvo that serves to disrespect Coldplay and name check Tom Petty, Keith Whitley and Johnny Cash in the process, the sonic palate on First Kiss is locked, loaded and delivered.

kid4The Opener “First Kiss” is a throw back Thursday sort of a tune that waxes nostalgic about driving with the top down, an old Chevy and a couple of friends, and Tom Petty on the radio, the quintessential later teenage years American experience. The vibe here is driving pedal to the metal cool and would have snuggled in quite nicely on Seger’s Stranger in Town with a real “Hollywood Nights” feel to it.

The Seger meter get’s dialed back a few records to more of a Night Moves vintage with the Kid snarling it up Stevie Tyler style. There is not a lot if hidden innuendo on this one. “I like some good times, cheap wine, back beat, and rock and roll.” Heck, who doesn’t.

It is physically impossible for a song called “Johnny Cash” not to be good, and this one certainly doesn’t break that mold.

Sun is shining on Kentucky
they’re drinking bourbon by the batch
I’ll walk that line because you love me
and I want to be your Johnny Cash

With “Drinking with Dad,” a song that chronicles the sometimes troubled relationship with his Father and trying to live up to an image he felt he could never paint, Kid Rock has created his own “Cat’s in the Cradle.” It is a song every son and every father should experience together. Preferably over a cold beer. This along with “One More Song” and “Best of Me” represents an artist that has clearly found the crossroads in life, respects where he has been, and is ready to go down that road whether it has been less traveled or not.

Weighing in at a tidy nine songs not including the bonus track, this one hits all of the hot spots. A tight Rock and Roll Band, plenty of 20 feet from stardom soul singing background vocals, good time old- school themes of drugs sex, and Rock and Roll, and band leader that 10 years from now just might be the last true Rock Star standing.

Viva Kid Rock