MATTHEW MORRISON "Matthew Morrison" Grade: B
As unlikely as it sounds, Broadway-star-turned-"Glee"-teacher Matthew Morrison's debut "Matthew Morrison" (Mercury) could use, well, some more Matthew Morrison.
When he's at his best — in the pop-rocker "Still Got Tonight," co-written by "American Idol" Kris Allen, and the Jason Mraz-ish, island-tinged "Hey," co-written by Morrison and 'N Sync's JC Chasez — TV's Mr. Schue is clearly ready for broader stardom as a new adult pop leading man.
Unfortunately, even on what should be a sure thing like Morrison's debut, there's still unnecessary bet-hedging.
The weakest parts of "Matthew Morrison" are the celebrity-driven hedges. His duet with Sting on the already-corny "Let Your Soul Be Your Pilot" is leaden, while the weird mash-up of Elton John's "Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters" and "Rocket Man" is too long and kind of droning, even when Elton shows up to help out.
Even "Somewhere Over the Rainbow," which Morrison has turned into his signature after singing it on "Glee" and numerous TV appearances, can't be allowed to be only his, becoming a duet with Gwyneth Paltrow.
It's too bad, since those slots could have been replaced with sweet little surprises like the Broadway-styled ballad "It's Over," which Morrison co-wrote with Marc Shaiman, or the club-pop number "Dancing in the Rain." Luckily, Morrison's debut is good enough to give him plenty of chances to get the mix right.
THE CARS "Move Like This" Grade: B-minus
For its first new studio album in 24 years, The Cars latch onto the same mix of new wave and rock that put them on the road to success in the late '70s. "Move Like This" (Hear Music) doesn't quite handle the way it should, due to the hole left by the late Ben Orr. However, Ric Ocasek makes the lovely "Take Another Look" work on his own, while the perky "Sad Song" shows how The Cars' legacy lives on in The Killers. Too much of "Move Like This" needs a little "Let's Go" spark, though.
ALSO NEW IN STORES
Tyler, The Creator's "Goblin" (XL)
Christina Perri's "Lovestrong" (Atlantic)
The Lonely Island's "Turtleneck and Chain" (Universal Republic)
Raphael Saadiq's "Stone Rollin"" (Columbia)
Warren Haynes' "Man in Motion" (Stax)
Sloan's "The Double Cross" (Yep Roc)