Kiedis is confused, caught up in the melancholy of an identity crisis. What else could account for the Peppers' dippy trips into pop pulp when they've always excelled at slamming fonk rawk? The lyrics further reveal Kiedis' torn psyche: "So hard and lonely, too, when you don't know yourself," he sings on "My Friends" -- an almost verbatim echo of Mother's Milk's "Knock Me Down" ("It's so lonely when you don't even know yourself"). Time has changed little for po' Anthony, but for a better blast of the past, check out the homeboy funk of 1985's Freaky Styley.

-- Sam Prestianni

Emmylou Harris
Wrecking Ball

You might think a producer who's been hired to work for U2, Bob Dylan, and Peter Gabriel is little more than a marionette propped up at the control board, flogged by the whims of hotshot Hall of Famers and their battalions of lawyers. Daniel Lanois' own two records, Acadie and For the Beauty of Wynona, strongly suggest otherwise.

In his solo work, this New Orleans resident has perfected an amalgamation of French-Canadian and Native American folk songs and unstoppable guitar effects that rain like meteor showers. It's a mix that marries natural and supernatural phenomena -- one that the author has imprinted on each of the records he's produced, regardless of the individual artists' stature. Wrecking Ball, really Lanois' third solo outing, just happens to have been made with the estimable help of one of country music's most celebrated figures.

In her adventurous 25-year career, Emmylou Harris has worked extensively with country-rock pioneer Gram Parsons, scored seven No. 1 hits, and won six Grammy awards. For Wrecking Ball, the master interpreter reworks songs by Dylan, Steve Earle, Jimi Hendrix ("May This Be Love"), and Lucinda Williams (the dazzling "Sweet Old World"), as well as a bushel of Lanois' compositions and Neil Young's wistful title track. On that song, Young backs Harris with his patented falsetto, and the sound of the duo quietly tending to the wounded lyrics ("My life's an open book you read on the radio") is enough to shame the most die-hard stargazers. U2's Larry Mullen drums on the bulk of the tracks, Lanois' longtime multi-instrumental collaborator Malcolm Burn appears throughout, and rebel countryman Earle (fresh out of jail) plays acoustic guitar on several cuts. To Lanois' great credit, the release never sounds like a vanity project or a jumble of egos. Wrecking Ball is an affecting release that deserves as wide an audience as any this year.

-- James Sullivan
Daniel Lanois plays Fri, Sept. 29, at the Great American Music Hall in S.F.; call 885-0750.

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