Thursday, April 26, 2012

John Mellencamp Whenever We Wanted 1991

I like plenty of Mellencamp's work. He did several good ones in the eighties and nineties. I haven't heard much of his more recent music, and not for any real reason except you just can't hear everything. And besides, after you've been blown away by a really great record, sometimes you get tired of chasing the old thrill and being disappointed.

This is a one-off for Mellencamp. It rocks harder than anything else he ever did. In 1983 Uh Huh sounded like his Rolling Stones record. This one's more like AC/DC, but with Mellencamp's more natural way with melody, and Kenny Aronoff's exceptional drumming. The band is relatively stripped down; bass, drums, two guitars, keys, with a guest trumpet on two songs. The songs are non-stop, hard-rocking, and Mellencamp sings them with soul and verve. There are no clunkers.

The opening barrage, Love And Happiness, opens the album with a huge riff, and the wailing trumpet is reminiscent of Andy McKay's saxophone on Mott The Hoople's All The Way From Memphis in its skronky abandon. Now More Than Ever follows and keeps the quality, pace, and tight, snapping, loud guitars coming right in your face. The twangy guitar of I Ain't Never Satisfied complements the cheerleader chorus. Get A Leg Up's safe sex message rocks hard and fast, with a Stones-y chorus and hot guitar lead. Crazy Ones is a rollicking mess of an ode to eccentric women. The slow burn of Last Chance explodes into another fine solo.

The last four songs are as good as the six before; They're So Tough (more Stones styled rock), Melting Pot (steaming, fast and furious riff rock), Whenever We Wanted (smoldering, slow-building, with a fine chorus and great lyric) and Again Tonight (dancin' at the bar, happy, with that rhythmic sway that Mellencamp does really well), all are killer.

The sales pitch here is the guitars. Mike Wanachic and David Grissom are absolutely on fire, and Mellencamp hands them his hardest rockers. The recording of those guitars is hot and up front, but it is also a very nice dynamic recording. The softer parts are actually lower in volume, and the choruses and the lead guitar breaks leap from the speakers. There are many Stones references, but they haven't done one this good since the seventies, so who cares. Besides, Mellencamp is more than an imitation of anything.

This one goes on my very short list of near-perfect rock and roll albums.

No comments:

Post a Comment