The man touted as the new Springsteen who never quite made it. A simplistic statement, but essentially true of an artist who has shifted almost 25 million albums to date.
This album covers a 10 year period in the musical history of the man born John Mellencamp, and whose career has seen him known( in order) as Johnny Cougar/ John Cougar mellencamp/ John Mellencamp ( yes 4 name ‘changes’ in 10 years), as well as going under the guise of ‘ Little Bastard‘ for a few years as the producer of his albums, and this album contains 14 tracks, 9 of which were top 10 hits in America (but hardly denting our charts), including the No 1 ‘Jack & Diane‘. J.M. started his recording career in 1976 and found his first hit with the gasoline powered ‘I Need a Lover‘ (which has a 2 1/2 minute intro). which kicks off this collection, before slipping in to the entrancing ‘Ain’t Even Done With The Night‘, The punchy ‘Hurts So Good‘ and the classic ‘Jack and Diane‘(an acoustic number with handclaps and intermittent electric guitar and a thumping drum solo) show Mellencamps growing lyrical belief as his career progressed and his popularity increased, and subsequently, musical experimentation came more and more into his music.
The swaying, rousing ‘ Crumblin’ Down‘ was another triumph, but it was the brilliance of ‘Pink Houses‘, a celebration of America’s white trash, which embedded J.M. in the hearts of millions of Americans. The growing Springsteen-esque similarities were reinforced by the likes of ‘Authority Song‘,’R.O.C.K. In The U.S.A.‘ and the awe-nspring ‘Small Town‘, but the truth is J.M.’s heart lay deeper than that of Springsteen’s, as ‘Lonely Ol’ Night‘ testifies. ‘Paper In Fire‘ and Cherry Bomb‘ highlighted J.M.’s musical variances as Violins and Accordions came to the fore of his music, lying alongside drums and guitars as lead instruments.
The album closes with the powerful ‘Cheak It Out‘ and the contrasting poignant ballad ‘Without Expression‘. No doubt next year will see the 1989-1998 collection, which will continue the musical journey of the man who was called the new Springsteen, but should have been known as the innovator Mellencamp.
Reviewed by Scotland Calling (Scottish Music Network)