Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Kneejerk: John Mellencamp - Sheryl Crow - Black Crowes

Kneejerk is a new feature here on BMF - we preview some new releases and give our short, "kneejerk" reaction...

John Mellencamp "No Better Than This"

"No Better Than This" marks John Mellencamp's debut record for Rounder. These thirteen new tracks, produced by the acclaimed T. Bone Burnett were recorded live using a half-century year-old Ampex tape recorder and vintage microphone. Mellencamp says of the album, "It was absolutely the most fun I've ever had making a record in my life. It was about making music - organic music made by real musicians - that's heartfelt and written from the best place it can come from". When I see the name T. Bone Burnett these days, I think boring and slow, and this new one from the great John Mellencamp is no exception. Continuing along the lines of his last 2 releases, this CD is also full of intimate roots rock that sounds very old-fashioned - nothing wrong with that as long as the songs are interesting. Unfortunately, there isn't much on this record that makes me want to come back for a second listen anytime soon. However, the record makes for interesting background music for a Sunday morning. The graceful and modestly melodic "Save Some Time To Dream" was the highlight for me. Dylan fans might appreciate the folksy feel of "Thinking About You" and "Clumsy Ol' World". Here's hoping for a return to the classic Mellencamp sound next time around...

Sheryl Crow "100 Miles From Memphis"

Another huge disappointment from Crow, even moreso than her last record, "Detours" (review here). This record, her seventh, was supposed to capture the soul and passion of music, best exemplified on the opening track "Our Love Is Fading". But all of the horns and blue-eyed soul in the remaining tracks amounts to window dressing on a condemned house because the songs lack any interesting hook as a foundation. A couple of senseless covers also bring down the record - she does a sleepy, lifeless version of Terence Trent D'Arby's "Sign Your Name" and a note by note reiteration of "I Want You Back" as a tribute to the late Michael Jackson, who gave her a start as a backup singer. Keith Richards can't even save the reggae-influenced "Eye To Eye", which goes in one ear and out the other, lacking any ability to get trapped in your mind. Let's hope for next time Crow takes her own advice as she sings on "Peaceful Feeling": "When you fly off in the wrong direction, turn it around, see your own reflection".

Black Crowes "Croweology"

The latest from Black Crowes is not a new studio effort, but rather a collection of greatest hits and deep tracks reworked in a more or less acoustic style. The music of the Black Crowes lends itself well to this format and overall the record, with its mix of recognizable and not-so recognizable songs, is an engaging listen. "Croweology" does stretch the limits of your attention though - it is a double album because most songs exceed five minutes and some clock in at near ten minutes. There is little point in songs like "She Talks To Angels" - which were acoustic-based to begin with - but reworkings of "Jealous Again", "Under A Mountain", and "Soul Singing" are very enjoyable. Not for the casual fan, but it is a great way to cleanse the palate after listening to today's overly processed rubbish.

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