Posts Tagged ‘Mercury Records’

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After he emerged in the pregnant pause between pub rock and punk, stardom never quite happened for the Camberley rocker, although his band’s spiky sound has echoed through artists from Elvis Costello to REM.
A few months before punk, the first sign a new order on the way was an awkward little rocker called Graham Parker. he appeared on the bill at Dylan’s concert at Blackbushe Aerodrome in 1978, only a few miles from his Camberley stamping ground, it was already clear by that time that the superior sneer, machine-gun delivery and catchy tunes of Elvis Costello

He was a skinny, T-shirted figure in shades; rough, honest, and angry. Heat Treatment has a Dylanesque snarl to it; a thirst for revenge in the light of the lost years mentioned above, and a sense of cutting to the chase, that there was no more time to waste.

One of the finest English songwriters of the past several decades, Graham Parker made a name for himself as the “angry young man” before the flurry of punk rock took over his native U.K. Sailing in on the smouldering embers of the pub rock scene, Parker came armed with attitude, amplification and an armload of great songs. From his first classic LP ‘Howlin’ Wind’ (produced by Nick Lowe) and right up to his most recent outing with the reunited Rumour, ‘Three Chords Good,’ GP has never stopped traveling his own unique road. Caught between the preceding wave of Bruce Springsteen and subsequent rise of Elvis Costello, GP, through no doing of his own, somehow got lost in those waters.

Howling Wind

‘Howlin’ Wind’ (1976)

For most intents and purposes, Graham Parker emerged fully formed on his debut album, Howlin’ Wind. Sounding like the bastard offspring of Mick Jagger and Van Morrison, Parker sneers his way through a set of stunningly literate pub rockers. Instead of blindly sticking to the traditions of rock & roll, Parker invigorates them with cynicism and anger, turning his songs into distinctively original works. “Back to Schooldays” may be reconstituted rockabilly, “White Honey” may recall Morrison’s white R&B bounce, and “Howlin’ Wind” is a cross of Van’s more mystical moments and the Band, but the songs themselves are original and terrific. Similarly, producer Nick Lowe gives the album a tough, spare feeling, which makes Parker and the Rumour sound like one of the best bar bands you’ve ever heard. Howlin’ Wind remains a thoroughly invigorating fusion of rock tradition, singer/songwriter skill, and punk spirit, making it one of the classic debuts of all time.

‘Don’t Ask Me Questions’ put the lid on Parker’s debut, ‘Howlin’ Wind,’ with a perfect swagger. Employing a reggae inspired backdrop, GP delivers an attitude-laced gem. Lines like, “Well I stand up for liberty but can’t liberate /Pent up agony I see you take first place” are delivered with pure venom as GP has this little conversation with God. Often accused of being too much the “angry young man,” Parker used that anger to his benefit. Meanwhile, the Rumour never let up from their rocksteady groove. A live version of the song was released as a single in the U.K. in 1978 and made it up to No. 32.

Heat Treatment

‘Heat Treatment’ (1976)

On his second album Heat Treatment, Graham Parker essentially offered more of the same thing that made Howlin’ Wind such a bracing listen. However, his songwriting wasn’t as consistent, with only a handful of songs — like “Pourin’ It All Out” and the title track — making much of an impression. Unfortunately, the record was also tamed by the production of Mutt Lange, who polishes the record just enough to make the Rumour sound restrained. Which means, of course, the sheer musicality of the band can’t save the lesser material. Heat Treatment still remains an enjoyable listen — at this stage of the game, Parker hadn’t soured into a curmudgeon, and his weaker songs were still endearing — but it’s a disappointment in light of its predecessor.

In Parker’s early years, the influences of soul music and Van Morrison were a constant presence. ‘Heat Treatment’ is a perfect merger of those influences and one of the highlights of his second LP. The jumpin’ R&B feel of the song is complimented by the horn section, a staple of his early records. The song’s chorus is so irresistibly catchy that if your toes aren’t a tappin’, you better check your vitals. The other great track. ‘Fool’s Gold’ from Heat Treatment is again indicative of Parker’s affinity for soul, and while producer Mutt Lange would go on to fame and fortune after aligning himself with pop-metal sounds of Def Leppard, his production here is crisp, direct and well suited to the sounds Parker was dishing out. A soul classic.

Stick to Me

‘Stick To Me’ (1977)

Released in the fall of 1977, ‘Stick To Me’ was Parker’s third LP in less than two years. The album was recorded once again with Mutt Lange at the board, but a problem with the tapes forced a re-recording with Nick Lowe back in the hot seat. The result was a more stripped-down approach that, despite critical indifference, ultimately suited the album perfectly. ‘Watch the Moon Come Down’ is as perfect a GP song as you’re likely to stumble upon. The air of despair never sounded so beautiful. Graham Parker and the Rumour’s third new studio album to be released in 18 months finds the bandleader running short of top-flight material; “Thunder And Rain” and “Watch The Moon Come Down” are up to his usual standards, but songs like “The Heat In Harlem” find him dangerously out of his depth. As a result, although fiercely played, this star-crossed release (it had to be re-recorded when the first version suffered technical problems) is a cut below Parker’s first two albums.

The Parkerilla

Parkerilla (1978)

In 1978, Graham Parker & the Rumour’s career was on the rise in the U.K. but going nowhere in America, despite rave reviews for his first three albums and a growing reputation as a powerful live act. Most observers, including Parker himself, blamed his U.S. label, Mercury Records, for failing to give him the promotion he needed Stateside; eager to find a more suitable corporate partner, Parker opted to finish off his contract with Mercury via that time-honored form of contractual obligation filler, the double-live album. In many respects,

The Parkerilla practically screams “Let’s get this over with,” from the skimpy running time (54 minutes, including a studio re-recording of “Hey Lord, Don’t Ask Me Questions” that filled side four) and unimaginative set list, to a slightly dodgy mix that keeps losing track of the horn section, and a sequence that has a hard time keeping one of the most exciting acts of the day in forward gear. However, Parker and the Rumour were too good on-stage for The Parkerilla to feel entirely like a throwaway; Parker’s vocals are tough and soulful at every turn, the Rumour get more of a chance to show off their instrumental prowess here than they did on their studio recordings, and when the players connect with the right song, as they do on “Back to Schooldays,” “Soul Shoes,” and “Gypsy Blood,” it’s hard not to wish this hadn’t been such an obvious rush job, since the potential for a great concert set was clearly there. (The live take of “Hey Lord, Don’t Ask Me Questions” is also superb, and makes mincemeat of the silly disco-influenced studio recut that closes out the album.) The Parkerilla has a reputation as a tossed-off disaster, and while it’s a lot better than that, you don’t have to know the back story to hear a band biding their time until something better comes along on this set.

Squeezing Out Sparks

‘Squeezing Out Sparks’ (1979)

Generally regarded as Graham Parker’s finest album, Squeezing Out Sparks is a masterful fusion of pub rock classicism, new wave pop, and pure vitriol that makes even his most conventional singer/songwriter numbers bristle with energy. Not only does Parker deliver his best, most consistent set of songs, but he offers more succinct hooks than before “Local Girls” and “Discovering Japan” are powered by quirky hooks that make them new wave classics. But Parker’s new pop inclinations are tempered by his anger, which seethes throughout the hard rockers and even his quieter numbers. Throughout Squeezing Out Sparks, Graham spits out a litany of offenses that make him feel like an outsider, but he’s not a liberal, he’s a conservative. The record’s two centerpieces  “Passion Is No Ordinary Word” and the anti-abortion “You Can’t Be Too Strong” — indicate that his traditionalist musical tendencies are symptomatic of a larger conservative trend. But no one ever said conservatives made poor rock & rollers, and Parker’s ruminations over a lost past give him the anger that fuels Squeezing Out Sparks, one of the great rock records of the post-punk era.

With the 1979 album ‘Squeezing Out Sparks,’ Parker and the Rumour were finally starting to make headway in the American market. Ironically, the band was capitalizing somewhat on the success of acts like Elvis Costello and Joe Jackson, both of whom came late to the party Parker helped establish. Regardless, this new-found “spark” was full of charge, making one of GP’s finest all-around albums. The R&B influences had been usurped by an urgent, straight-ahead pop approach. This proved to be a good move commercially, as well as artistically, as the songs here are all vibrantly full of life. The Rumour are rock solid throughout what may be Parker’s finest LP. ‘Saturday Nite Is Dead’ is a real raver this full-on rocker stands as a testament to the power and urgency of the Rumour in their prime. Straight ahead, no frills, traditional rock ‘n’ roll, delivered full steam ahead, ‘Saturday Nite Is Dead’ was one of many high points on the fourth GP album. The Rumour tear it up while Graham spits it out. Perfection in action.

‘Squeezing Out Sparks’ ranks as one of Parker & the Rumour’s finest hours, and ‘Local Girls’ is one of their catchiest singles. The sound of 1979 is in full bloom here as Parker does his thing amid a pure pop setting. It was released as a single in America with video to accompany it, but failed to even make the Top 100. It’s a shame, since to this day, there’s pop gold to be mined from these grooves.

The Up Escalator

‘The Up Escalator’ (1980)

‘The Up Escalator’ (1980) would be the final album Graham would make with his legendary backup band, the Rumour, until their fine reunion effort ‘Three Chords Good’ in 2012. Produced by mainstream mainstay Jimmy Iovine, the album was an attempt to push Parker more into the mainstream, which worked modestly, as the album barely dented the U.S. Top 40. Chock full of great songs like the classic ‘Stupefaction,’ the album kicked off a rough decade for Parker artistically, as ’80s production values often clashed with his style. Not so on this one though, as the pure pop washed with grit here ranks as one of Parker’s best.

While it was something short of a hit, Squeezing Out Sparks did win a measure of richly deserved American recognition for Graham Parker & the Rumour, and for the follow-up, Parker’s American record label, Arista, paired him up with hotshot producer Jimmy Iovine. The idea looked good on paper; Iovine had produced or engineered great sounding hard rock records for Bruce Springsteen, Tom Petty, and Patti Smith, and his tough but vibrant sound would seem the perfect match for Parker and his band. But one listen to The Up Escalator reveals that Iovine’s trademark sound somehow escaped him for this project; the recording and mix are flat and poorly detailed (Brinsley Schwarz’s lead guitar and Stephen Goulding’s drums suffer the most), and the often mushy audio manages the remarkable feat of making the Rumour, one of the most exciting rock bands of their day, sound just a bit dull. But Parker fights the muddy sound every step of the way, and if his batting average as a songwriter is a shade lower than on Squeezing Out Sparks, he certainly offers up his share of A-list material, including the incendiary “Empty Lives,” the passionate “The Beating of Another Heart,” and “Endless Night,” which features one Bruce Springsteen on backing vocals. Parker’s singing is sharp and commanding, and even though the mix lets them down, the Rumour’s performances are tough and precise throughout. The Up Escalator failed to catch the ears of the mass audience, and Parker would soon part ways with the Rumour, but if this album doesn’t present them in the best light, it shows that they could play tough, passionate rock & roll that could survive even the most adverse recording conditions.

The Real Macaw

The Real Macaw’ (1983)

Parker’s 1983 album ‘The Real Macaw’ was another solid offering, stocked full of instantly catchy tunes and a solid crisp production. Despite all the checks in the plus column, no one was taking the bait. The album wandered up to No. 59 in the U.S. charts, but fell as quickly as it arrived. ‘Just Like A Man’ is another in a long run of dead-on, glowing pop songs from GP. Street-smart lyrics over a power-pop backdrop should have gone a long way to turn people’s heads, but by 1983, Parker sadly at this point was yesterday’s news to most.

Also check out the “Live at Marble Arch” album, On this promotional live album, Graham Parker and the Rumour combine selections from their just-released debut album, Howlin’ Wind, and their upcoming second album, Heat Treatment, with such influential oldies as “Chain Of Fools” and “You Can’t Hurry Love.”

1977 BBC Top of the Pops with their version of The Trammps “Hold Back the Night” from The Pink Parker EP

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Formed out of the ashes of Scottish punk band Skids by their guitarist Stuart Adamson, Big Country became one of the biggest British alternative rock bands of the 1980s, with a huge reputation as a live band to rival the likes of U2 and Simple Minds.

After their initial success with a string of albums on Mercury Records, Big Country continued throughout the 1990s with new albums on a variety of labels, playing as ever around the world to their devoted fanbase. Sadly, Stuart Adamson’s untimely death in 2001 closed a chapter on Big Country’s story forever…

“We’re Not In Kansas” pays tribute to the tour de force that was Big Country were in the Nineties, with recordings of five live shows released officially for the very first time and with the full blessing of the band.

The new box set We’re Not In Kansas (The Live Bootleg Box Set 1993-1998) (Cherry Red CRCDBOX43) seeks to fix this, offering fans a handsome, band-approved chronicle of a worthy era.

The story of Big Country up to the time covered in We’re Not In Kansas goes like this: the quartet, featuring ex-Skids guitarist Stuart Adamson on vocals and guitar, guitarist Bruce Watson, bassist Tony Butler and drummer Mark Brzezicki, hit the U.K. Top 10 with singles like “Fields of Fire,” “Chance,” “Wonderland” and “Look Away” during the early-to-mid-’80s; the hopeful, ringing guitars of “In a Big Country” gave the band a taste of American success, too. But by the late ’80s, consistent hits were harder to come by, with the Peter Wolf-produced Peace In Our Time (1988) a particular misstep, overly reliant on middle-of-the-road pop production. Brzezicki left the group at decade’s end, but served in a session capacity on the fraught 1991 follow-up, No Place Like Home, which turned out to be the band’s last major-label effort. 1993’s The Buffalo Skinners saw the trio go back to basics – effective, guitar-driven melodies coupled with fiery lyrics in praise of the hopes and dreams of the working class – and the ensuing tour found the classic lineup whole once more. The full band continued for two more albums and a final tour in 2000, one year before Adamson took his own life after a prolonged battle with alcohol abuse and depression.

Included on this 5CD set are selections from six different shows: a gig at Minneapolis’ First Avenue in 1993, right after the release of The Buffalo Skinners; an acoustic theatre show at the University of Stirling in the band’s native Scotland from 1994; two shows from the summer of 1995 (an electric performance at Glasgow’s Tower Records store and an acoustic one in Rotterdam) in support of that season’s seventh album Why The Long Face; a portion of a 1998 acoustic set in the group’s hometown of Dunfermline, Fife, Scotland (recorded at Tappie Toories, a pub run by Adamson and his second wife); and a final cover of The Monkees’ “Daydream Believer” from a 1995 set.

For a band so known for electric guitar tones, the presence of so much acoustic material here is a particular treat. (As John Gouveia writes in his liner notes, the band’s first acoustic appearance at an American show in 1993 was in fact out of necessity, after the venue’s power failed before the group took the stage.) The songs retain their power even without their distinctive solos, and at a time when “unplugged” shows were in fashion, it ceretainly fits the mood of the day.

Indeed, “In a Big Country,” “Chance” and “Look Away” don’t lose much power when de-amplified, nor do newer tracks like “We’re Not In Kansas,” “All Go Together” and “Ships.” And both acoustic and electric sets from the same tour have enough unique songs among them: the First Avenue set includes powerful renditions of Buffalo Skinners cuts “What Are You Working For” and “Pink Marshmallow Moon,” while the Stirling set features a gorgeous, quiet take on Steeltown (1984) closer “Just a Shadow” and a slowed-down “One Great Thing,” one of the fine singles from The Seer. The electric set at Tower Records in Glasgow is more devoted to then-new selections from Why The Long Face, like “You Dreamer,” “I’m Not Ashamed” and “Send You.” Meanwhile, the acoustic Rotterdam show (punctuated by some interesting interactions between Adamson and the audience during the set) features some of those same tracks alongside the hits you’d come to expect.

Of particular note across the entire set is the presence of exciting covers. The quartet, eager to experiment on stage and nod to their musical influences, tackle tunes by Neil Young (“Hey Hey, My My,” “Rockin in the Free World”), Blue Oyster Cult (“(Don’t Fear) The Reaper”), The Miracles (“Tracks of My Tears”) and even a fun, faithful acoustic take on the Gin Blossoms’ “Found Out About You.”

If there’s one caveat to the material on We’re Not In Kansas, it’s that is very much an official bootleg. These aren’t soundboard-quality recordings by any means, and even the better of the audience recordings tend to flutter quite a bit in the headphones. For some, that may drop it down from “must hear” to “fans only” status – which is a shame, as it’s not only good material, but packaged far better than any unofficial release. Cherry Red put each disc in its own cardboard wallet, accompanied by a fine booklet with band photos and a new interview with Butler and Watson – all in a compact clamshell box.

We’re Not In Kansas may not appeal outside of Big Country’s fan base, but if you’re part of that base, you should absolutely check it out. Adamson’s tragic passing means we only have Big Country’s music and memories to commemorate him as a frontman – and, speaking wholly from personal experience, his music has uplifted me long and far enough to consider any opportunities to hear him on record. The output of Big Country, as heard on We’re Not In Kansas, feels like home to those who feel that familiar lift whenever those guitars ring out. And you know what they say: there’s no place like home.

Across these various in-concert recordings, which have previously been available only on elusive, under-the-counter bootlegs, you’ll hear a band touring to promote their most recent albums The Buffalo Skinners (1993) and Why The Long Face (1995), with live sets which often climaxed with impassioned cover versions of ‘Don’t Fear The Reaper’ (Blue Oyster Cult), ‘My, My, Hey Hey’ and ‘Rockin’ In The Free World’ (both Neil Young) and ‘Tracks Of My Tears’ (Smokey Robinson & The Miracles).

Founder members Bruce Watson and Tony Butler have been interviewed for the Q&A sleeve-notes, which document a fascinating and largely undocumented period in the band’s history.

Also included, as one would expect, are rousing versions of many of their evergreen hits – ‘In A Big Country’, ‘Look Away’, ‘Chance’, ‘Wonderland’, ‘Peace In Our Time’ and ‘King Of Emotion’.

Track List:

DISC ONE:
MINNEAPOLIS 6/11/93

1. ALL GO TOGETHER
2. WE’RE NOT IN KANSAS
3. LOOK AWAY
4. WHAT ARE YOU WORKING FOR
5. CHESTER’S FARM
6. WONDERLAND
7. PINK MARSHMALLOW MOON
8. SHIPS
9. LONG WAY HOME
10. ALONE
11. THE ONE I LOVE
12. IN A BIG COUNTRY

DISC TWO:
(MINNEAPOLIS 6/11/93)(continued)

1. CHANCE
2. LOST PATROL
3. DON’T FEAR THE REAPER
4. HEY HEY, MY MY

GLASGOW TOWER RECORDS 23/06/95
5. YOU DREAMER
6. LOOK AWAY
7. I’M NOT ASHAMED
8. ONE IN A MILLION
9. SEND YOU
10. WE’RE NOT IN KANSAS
11. HEY HEY, MY MY
12. ROCKIN’ IN THE FREE WORLD

DISC THREE:
STIRLING 29/4/94

1. ALL GO TOGETHER
2. HARVEST HOME
3. KING OF EMOTION
4. LOOK AWAY
5. THIRTEEN VALLEYS
6. ONE GREAT THING
7. WINTER SKY
8. LONG WAY HOME
9. SHIPS
10. THE STORM
11. EVERYTHING I NEED
12. RIVER OF HOPE
13. JUST A SHADOW
14. WE’RE NOT IN KANSAS
15. COME BACK TO ME

DISC FOUR:
STIRLING 29/4/94 (continued)

1. PEACE IN OUR TIME
2. IN A BIG COUNTRY
3. CHANCE
4. ROCKIN’ IN THE FREE WORLD
5. DON’T FEAR THE REAPER

ROTTERDAM ROTOWN 28/08/95
6. INTRODUCTION BY MARK
7. ALL GO TOGETHER #1
8. ALL GO TOGETHER #2
9. YOU DREAMER
10. LOOK AWAY
11. SHIPS
12. I’M NOT ASHAMED
13. JUST A SHADOW
14. LONG WAY HOME
15. THE STORM
16. THIRTEEN VALLEYS

DISC FIVE:
ROTTERDAM ROTOWN 28/08/95 (continued)

1. DON’T FEAR THE REAPER
2. WE’RE NOT IN KANSAS
3. IN A BIG COUNTRY
4. PEACE IN OUR TIME
5. FOUND OUT ABOUT YOU
6. ROCKIN’ IN THE FREE WORLD
7. CHANCE
8. TRACKS OF MY TEARS

TAPPIE TOORIES (1998)
9. YOU DREAMER
10. LOOK AWAY
11. CHANCE
12. IN A BIG COUNTRY

TUNBRIDGE WELLS HIGH ROCKS 09/06/95
13. DAYDREAM BELIEVER

On June 18th, 1986, John Mellencamp performed at an unusual venue: the Senate Subcommittee on Agricultural Production and Stabilization of Prices. Still using the Cougar moniker at that time, which an early manager saddled him with, Mellencamp had recently wrapped up touring behind the big blockbuster album “Scarecrow” a clear-eyed look at an America he felt alienated from.

“With Scarecrow, I was finally starting to find my feet as a songwriter,” he wrote in a 2016 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame exhibit. “For the first time, I realized what I thought I wanted to say in song. … I wanted it to be more akin to Tennessee Williams, John Steinbeck, Faulkner.

With the simple, Steinbeckian tunes of Scarecrow fresh in his mind, Mellencamp came to Washington, D.C., with fellow Farm Aid activist Willie Nelson to testify in support of the Family Farm bill sponsored by Democrat senator Tom Harkin from Iowa. In a few short years, Mellencamp went from singing “When I fight authority, authority always wins” to facing the nation’s mightiest authority.

“In Seymour, Ind., the town I grew up in, there used to be a John Deere dealership. It is no longer there,” he told the Senate committee. “When I am out on tour and I am talking to people, they are afraid. Their vision of the future is, ‘What is going to happen to my children in 20 years when, all of a sudden, three farmers are farming the state of Indiana and they also own all the food-processing plants?’”

“It seems funny and peculiar,” he added as the opposition against Harkin’s bill began to file out of the room. “After my shows and after Willie’s shows, people come up to us for advice. It is because they have got nobody to turn to.”

Most of Scarecrow mined deeply personal stories — “Rain on the Scarecrow,” “Small Town,” “Minutes to Memories.” But his work with Nelson and Farm Aid, and his growing connection to the national consciousness, turned his eye from personal to public pain as he penned songs for the follow-up album, The Lonesome Jubilee.

Released on August. 24th, 1987, a year after his Senate testimony, The Lonesome Jubilee became another Mellencamp blockbuster. It went triple platinum and spun out two Top 10 hits in “Paper in Fire” and “Cherry Bomb.” But today fans remember the album not as a pair of hits surrounded by album cuts, but as the singer’s most unified thematic and sonic vision. The Lonesome Jubilee is the ninth studio album by American singer-songwriter John Mellencamp, credited as John Cougar Mellencamp. The album was released by Mercury Records. 

Lyrically, The Lonesome Jubilee took on unemployment, poverty, homelessness, xenophobia, racism and the heavy burden of disillusionment Mellencamp saw weighing down his generation. The pain and contemplation show right there in the song titles: “We Are the People,” “Empty Hands,” “The Real Life,” “Down and Out in Paradise,” “Hard Times for an Honest Man.”

The album’s thesis statement came together in the lyrics of the opening track “Paper in Fire”: “There is a good life right across this green field/And each generation stares at it from afar/But we keep no check on our appetites/So the green fields turn to brown like paper in fire.”

The song burns with an intense energy while stinking of ache and angst. Even the famously cantankerous Mellencamp admitted it was an achievement. “After Scarecrow, the critics all kinda went, ‘Whoa, now we gotta pay attention to this guy,’” . “I think ‘Paper in Fire’ is the ultimate John Mellencamp song. I wasn’t trying to be on the radio anymore. Radio was on my side. There wasn’t any Woody Guthrie influence. There wasn’t any Rolling Stones influence. There wasn’t a Bob Dylan influence. I made the decision, much to everyone’s dismay, to use violins and accordions, and incorporate an Appalachian sound of original country. I tried to figure out how to make that work in rock ‘n’ roll.” “We were on the road for a long time after Scarecrow, so we were together a lot as a band,” Mellencamp said in a 1987 Creem Magazine feature. “For the first time ever, we talked about the record before we started. We had a very distinct vision of what should be happening here. At one point, The Lonesome Jubilee was supposed to be a double album, but at least 10 of the songs I’d written just didn’t stick together with the idea and the sound we had in mind. So I just put those songs on a shelf, and cut it back down to a single record. Now, in the past, it was always ‘Let’s make it up as we go along’ – and we did make some of The Lonesome Jubilee up as we went along. But we had a very clear idea of what we wanted it to sound like, even before it was written, right through to the day it was mastered.

Despite the themes, the album isn’t a sermon. Mellencamp’s words don’t come with solutions, or even wisdom. Instead, they just chronicle the mess and occasional but sustaining joys of life. While a big chunk of the album has the singer using his voice to speak for others — parents struggling to feed their families, but between the not-so-beautiful losers Mellencamp inserts his own stories. “Cherry Bomb” may be the most personal song he’s ever written.

The Band 

  • John Mellencamp – vocal, guitar
  • Kenny Aronoff – drums, percussion, backing vocals
  • Larry Crane – guitars, mandolin, harmonica, autoharp, banjo, backing vocals
  • John Cascella – accordion, keyboards, saxophone, melodica, penny whistle, claves
  • Lisa Germano – fiddle
  • Toby Myers – bass guitar, banjo, backing vocals
  • Pat Peterson – backing vocals, cowbell, tambourine
  • Crystal Taliefero – backing vocals
  • Mike Wanchic – guitars, dobro, banjo, dulcimer, backing vocals