Music Reviews: Celebrating the First Four

Greatest Hits, Volume I – Rascal Flatts
To discuss Rascal Flatts is to speak in superlatives – sold-out concerts, multi-platinum albums, peer and fan awards. Theirs is the sound of modern country music reaching the broadest possible audience, creating a level of excitement that has made them nothing short of a phenomenon.

This CD brings together the best of the first four of Rascal Flatts’ five studio albums, and its 13 cuts – seven of them No. 1 singles – bring into clear focus the path Gary LeVox, Jay DeMarcus and Joe Don Rooney have taken to the top. Songs packaged here include “Feels Like Today,” “Bless the Broken Road,” the group’s 2000 debut “Prayin’ for Daylight” and “Life Is a Highway,” which was originally cut for the Disney/Pixar animated film Cars and was included as a bonus track on later versions of Me and My Gang. A

That Don’t Make Me a Bad Guy – Toby Keith
Toby Keith’s 14th studio album features an artist whose music has sold more than 25 million albums and untold millions of concert tickets in this decade alone and who has formed the basis for an entertainment empire that includes movies, restaurants, a record label and more.

But That Don’t Make Me a Bad Guy is more than just another infusion of music by which the rest of Keith’s endeavors will benefit (though that will surely happen). “As we’ve evolved, I really don’t need to find a niche anymore,” Keith says. “I’ve got my own niche. When I come on the radio people know it’s me. Now I’m producing, and I think I’m getting better every time I do it.” His uniqueness is displayed on such gems as “Hurt a Lot Worse When You Go” and the CD’s first single, “She Never Cried in Front of Me,” which immediately had radio programmers and industry observers hailing it as the finest vocal of his career. Way to go, TK! B

Fearless – Taylor Swift
Taylor Swift’s 2006 self-titled debut has sold more than 3 million copies and produced five hit singles. The 19-year-old starlet now offers this encore, and she’s clearly not scared of the limelight on her 13-track sophomore effort, Fearless.

The new album features “Change,” a song that was selected as part of a soundtrack supporting Team USA’s efforts in the 2008 Summer Olympics. The song also was featured as part of the soundtrack to NBC’s broadcast package of the games. The lead single from the album, “Love Story,” was an instant hit with country radio back in September; the popular music video for the song is based on the story of Romeo and Juliet. It reached No. 1 on the iTunes Store chart and No. 5 on the Billboard Hot 100. Swift sang it at the World Series in Philadelphia, Pa. Other songs of note on the album are “Tell Me Why,” “Fifteen” and “The Way I Loved You.” A-