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Velvet Revolver: Libertad

B+
Album: Libertad
Label: RCA

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From the outside, it seemed like a sure thing. How could a band featuring former members of Guns N' Roses and Stone Temple Pilots record anything but an explosive rock album? But Velvet Revolver's 2004 debut, Contraband, felt too safe. The first single, "Slither," came complete with a strutting hard-rock guitar line and an infectious grunge-lite chorus, but so did every other song on the record. In the end, nearly two million people bought Contraband, but that doesn't mean they got their money's worth.

With Libertad, that shouldn't be an issue. Though Velvet Revolver still mines sleaze-rock formula on songs like "She Builds Quick Machines," the band has also expanded its sound considerably, taking turns at rambling country and gauzy psychedelic pop before returning to the boozy classic rock that, years ago, turned guitarist Slash into a Hit Parader centerfold. On the downside, Libertad gets excessive: No one really needs more cowbell. But after such a tentative start, the excess may be exactly what makes these songs work.