LP Review: Bob Seger, ‘I Knew You When (Deluxe)’ – A Near Miss

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I grew up in the American midwest, so Bob Seger was an early and immediate member of my rock and roll firmament. Seger is to the midwest as Springsteen is to the northeast. I think it was Bob Dylan, on his Theme Time Radio Hour, who said it best when he said, “A lot of people consider Bob Seger a poor man’s Bruce Springsteen, but I always considered Bruce Springsteen a rich man’s Bob Seger.” I never thought Seger would do anything I would review on B&V but last Friday saw the release of his new album, I Knew You When. I sprung for the deluxe version and the three extra bonus tracks. My wife, the Rock Chick, despises Seger, so I literally had to listen to and review this album in secret…

Seger’s early career was marred by shoddy production and non-existent support from his record companies. Despite his mammoth talent, the guy couldn’t catch a break. He put out a string of really strong albums, from Mongrel (1970) to Back In ’72 (1972, duh), Seven (1974) and Beautiful Loser (1975). None of which ever really broke him outside of his home base of Detroit. He appears to want to forget about all those great albums as they remain unavailable for purchase anywhere. I’ve mused as to why he won’t release those early records in these very pages, Conspiracy Theory: Who Is Holding Bob Seger’s Early LPs Hostage?. It wasn’t until Seger’s monumental live LP with his backing band The Silver Bullet Band, Live Bullet (1976), that Seger finally broke nationally. After that he released a string of albums that cemented his legacy as one of the great ones: Night Moves (1976), Stranger In Town (1978), Against The Wind (1980) and The Distance (1982). He even had time to squeeze out another fantastic live album with The Silver Bullet Band, Nine Tonight (1981).

Stranger In Town was the album where I got on the bandwagon. My sainted grandmother on my mom’s side bought me the album for Christmas. I’d had it on my wishlist. She had a number of records to choose from and she chose Stranger In Town because she said Bob Seger had nice eyes. I don’t know about that, but the music on that record was simply phenomenal. I saw Seger for the first time on the Against The Wind tour (Bob Seger’s KC 1980 Concert, Jack Daniels, & My Mom’s Knee). It was an amazing show and I’ll never forget the virtuoso playing of the Silver Bullet Band’s lead guitarist Drew Abbott. It’s rare I’m lucky enough to catch an artist at his zenith but I did that night.

Unfortunately, the 80s seemed to confuse Seger, as it did a lot of artists. Synthesizers crept into his music for the first time on Like A Rock (1986). That was the first album that showed some cracks in Seger’s impeccable songwriting. There were still some great tracks but the album as a whole was pretty uneven. The best song on that whole album was a B-side cover of Credence Clearwater Revival’s “Fortunate Son.” (Seger’s straight ahead rock has much in common with CCR, so it was a fit). The Silver Bullet Band was also pretty fractured by that time. Only keyboardist Craig Frost, bassist Chris Campbell and intrepid sax player Alto Reed remained in the band. Everybody else had quit or had been fired. After Like A Rock, the wheels really came off. If the 80s had been bad to Seger, the 90s were worse. The Fire Inside (1991) was just plain bad, and worse it was judge-y and preachy in places. It’s a Mystery (1995) was stunningly awful and was for the most part, unlistenable. I’m not sure what went wrong.

Seger went into semi-retirement. He stopped recording or touring for over a decade. It wasn’t until 2006 that he re-emerged with what was described as a “comeback” album, Face The Promise. I picked that album up and it’s where I gave up on Seger once and for all. Despite all the celebratory “comeback” talk, there was nothing on that album that I could connect with. The odious presence of Kid Rock and Patty Loveless didn’t help either. Seger’s voice just didn’t seem the same. It wasn’t the ragged instrument that say, Bob Dylan or Leonard Cohen’s voices became in their later careers, but something was off. It only got worse when Ride Out came out three years ago. I listened once, and moved on.

In large part for me, Seger’s music was resigned to the patina of the past. But then, a few months back, he put out a tribute single for his old friend from Detroit, the Eagles’ Glenn Frey Bob Seger’s Tribute Single For Eagles’ Glenn Frey: “Glenn Song”. And while it wasn’t a great, great song, Seger admitted it was never meant to be commercial, I thought it was a lovely gesture. Those guys had been friends for a long time. Frey plays the awesome guitar solo on “Til It Shines” from Stranger. It sparked my interest in Seger again, and that hadn’t happened in a long time. I knew an album was coming but I really didn’t pay that much attention. I mean, it’s been thirty years since I cared.

But then I was riding in my car and I heard the first single from I Knew You When, and I was stunned to hear Seger covering Lou Reed’s “Busload of Faith,” from Reed’s masterpiece New York. If anybody had told me thirty years ago that Seger would be covering Lou Reed, I’d have laughed at you. And I will admit, despite the fact I thought I was done with Seger, that single pulled me back in. In the interest of full disclosure, Seger changed the lyrics. He deleted an entire verse about murder, rape and abortion, which, who can blame him. There’s a line in Reed’s original version that goes, “You can’t depend on any churches, unless there’s real estate you want to buy,” which was a confusing swipe at the rapaciousness of most churches (I guess, I mean it’s Lou Reed, who knows). Seger changed it to “You can’t depend on the President, unless there’s real estate you want to buy,” which is an obvious swipe at our current POTUS. Seger gets a bad rap from the rock press because his fan base is from the “red states.” Just because his fans hail from out here in fly over country doesn’t mean ol’ Bob Seger is anything but an old hippy. He’s never been as outspoken as Bruce Springsteen or Jackson Browne, but by covering this song, I think he’s letting us know where he stands. I like the song. Seger does a strong version. Nobody will ever match the venom of Lou Reed’s original, but it’s a great track.

After hearing “Busload of Faith,” I really wanted to love this album. Unfortunately I’d compare it to John Mellencamp’s last album, Sad Clowns & Hillbillies. There’s some good music here, but as a whole the album doesn’t quite click for me. Seger recorded the album with a bunch of Nashville studio guys. Gone are the days when he recorded half an album with the Silver Bullet Band and half with the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section. And I don’t know, maybe it’s because he’s using studio pros, some of these performances just seem bloodless. Many of the rockers, like “The Sea Inside” or “Runaway Train” are plodding. In the latter track, he makes the ill-advised decision to break into a spoken word section… never a good idea, unless you’re Elvis Presley. Seger’s production oddly doesn’t put enough air into the rockers, they don’t have space to breath.

I will say, the opening cut, the rocker “Gracile” which is a word I had to look up on Webster’s Dictionary site, is a great start. There is even a nice guitar solo. For some reason it conjured memories of cuts off of Mongrel, which in my opinion was Seger’s hardest rocking album. “Gracile” leads into “Busload of Faith” and then into a song “Highway” which is another of the better rock tunes. Seger is in finer voice than I’ve heard him in a long time. Maybe he finally quit smoking. The title track, like “Glenn’s Song” is clearly another tribute to his lost friend, Glenn Frey a man with “dangerous charisma.” It’s an “Against The Wind” type acoustic, mid tempo song and it’s the best thing here. His sense of loss over his friend is palpable. It’s a beautiful song, sung beautifully.

Alas, after those first four tracks, the album starts to lose steam. The ballad, “I’ll Remember You” is overly-labored and somewhat dull. Ballads used to be Seger’s stock in trade, so I was a little surprised that this one left me cold. He covers Leonard Cohen’s song “Democracy” and it’s complete with fiddle, fife and drum. It’s a confusing choice to me. It’s not bad, it’s just not something I could connect with. If you’re going to cover Leonard, you need to bring something special to the tune. “Marie” is another ballad, this time with a Spanish flair, and it’s better than “I’ll Remember You,” but I’ve heard so many better Seger ballads.

The first half of this record is the best stuff Seger has put out in years. Unfortunately the album loses momentum in the back half. Of the bonus tracks, you’ll find “Glenn’s Song” and another good upbeat track, “Forward Into The Past,” which might have been a better title for the album… “Blue Ridge” has some interesting instrumentation. Overall I’d say the bonus tracks are worth the purchase. While I can’t recommend this album as a whole, I will say, there is more to be interested in here than anything Seger has done in years. This might be his swan song, or it might be the sign of a rebirth. Don’t get me wrong, I realize most of these songs were written years ago but if the guy has some strong material in the vaults and wants to record it, I’m all ears. Besides, when I think about it, maybe Grandma was right… Seger still has nice eyes…

Cheers!

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BourbonAndVinyl’s Rock Chick’s AC/DC Playlist, “This ones for you, Mal”

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If you’re like me, the sad news of the passing of AC/DC’s co-founder, rhythm guitar player, and songwriter Malcolm Young hit you hard. AC/DC has always been a big favorite of mine and I never thought Malcolm got the credit he deserved. The Rock Chick has always shared my proclivity for AC/DC and as documented, AC/DC was our first concert together. Alas, that was the last time I saw AC/DC. It’s another sobering message from the cosmos that came in loud and clear – always, always buy the ticket and go see the show. Pretty soon we won’t have the option to buy the ticket… but as usual I digress.

Needless to say, the Rock Chick and I were both down yesterday after hearing the news. I saw there were a tremendous number of great condolence statements from all across the music world. The quiet, unassuming Malcolm was quite a force in hard rock. So like everybody else, I went to the stereo to put on some AC/DC. It would have been easy to just slip Back In Black on the turntable and turn it up. But that seemed too perfunctory.

Then I realized, The Rock Chick had put together an AC/DC playlist years ago. It’s one our favorite playlists. We’ve played it at parties and it always goes over well. I couldn’t help but think it would be a more fitting tribute to Malcolm to listen to a broader spectrum of his music than just one album. And I must say, turning this music up loud was the balm my soul needed.

Now, like everything in marriage, music is a compromise. I’ve often described my musical tastes and the Rock Chick’s as being a classic Venn Diagram, the famous overlapping circles. And even though we both love AC/DC, inexplicably, my wife doesn’t like the Bon Scott-era. She’s all in for Brian Johnson. I chuckle to think that when I first got into AC/DC I couldn’t tell the difference between the two. As my listening became more sophisticated, I realized that Bon had a raspier, bluesier vocal style. I’d also say Bon had a better sense of humor, but the Rock Chick might debate me on that topic. I don’t always subscribe to the theory of “happy wife, happy life,” but in the case of this playlist, I pick my battles.

The Rock Chick’s playlists are always better than anything I can come up with. Her party playlists always get somebody running up to me to ask what these songs are… my playlists tend to get people running up to me to ask if we can change the music. “Yes, Rich, we have some Oasis we can put on…” The Rock Chick tends to avoid songs that were over-played or that were big hits (like say, “You Shook Me All Night Long,” a great tune but we’ve all heard it 1000 times). She goes to the deeper album tracks. There always seems to be the right mix of popular tracks and deep cuts. This playlist is heavy on Brian Johnson tracks, and on their later albums, which is what BourbonAndVinyl is all about in the first place. I am slowly bringing The Rock Chick over to the Bon Scott stuff… track by track she’s getting into Highway To Hell. And I play the criminally overlooked LP, Powerage as often as I can get away with it…(LP Look Back: The Overlooked Gem, AC/DC’s “Powerage”) It was bound to seep in.

So for those of you who were saddened by yesterday’s Malcolm Young news, I will share this, the Rock Chick’s AC/DC playlist. It’s meant to help the healing. I have put it out on Spotify under the title, BourbonAndVinyl.net The Rock Chick’s AC/DC Playlist. As mentioned, you’re not going to find “You Shook Me All Night Long” or much Bon Scott. But as I listened to this yesterday it gave me a real appreciation of Malcolm and his brother’s work across the latter part of their career. It’s not meant to be a complete, best-of, kind of retrospective. It’s just something that gave me solace and I wanted to share it in these sad days.

Without further adieu, here are the Rock Chick’s AC/DC Playlist tracks. This one’s for you Mal:

From Back In Black:

  1. Hells Bells
  2. Shoot To Thrill
  3. Back In Black
  4. Have A Drink On Me  (Something I did in Malcolm’s honor)
  5. Shake A Leg

From Ballbreaker:

  1. Hard As A Rock
  2. The Furor  (I realize this was banned in Germany, but it’s a wicked good track)
  3. Hail Caesar
  4. Whiskey On The Rocks (The perfect BourbonAndVinyl track)

From Black Ice:

  1. Rock ‘N Roll Train
  2. Skies On Fire
  3. Anything Goes

From For Those About To Rock:

  1. For Those About To Rock
  2. Put The Finger On You
  3. Let’s Get It Up
  4. Evil Walks
  5. C.O.D.

From Highway To Hell

  1. Shot Down In Flames
  2. If You Want Blood (You Got It)

From The Last Action Hero Soundtrack or Backtracks (Box Set)

  1. Big Gun

From Powerage:

  1. Gone Shootin’

From Razor’s Edge:

  1. Thunderstruck
  2. The Razor’s Edge
  3. Are You Ready
  4. Shot of Love
  5. Let’s Make It

From Rock Or Bust:

  1. Rock or Bust
  2. Play Ball
  3. Sweet Candy

From Stiff Upper Lip:

  1. Stiff Upper Lip
  2. Hold Me Back
  3. Can’t Stand Still
  4. Give It Up

From Who Made Who:

  1. Who Made Who
  2. Sink The Pink

 

RIP Malcolm Young, Rhythm Guitarist Extraordinaire of AC/DC

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Oh man, not another one. I awoke this morning to the sad news that Malcolm Young, the extraordinarily talented rhythm guitarist for AC/DC, one of the world’s (and one of my) favorite hard rock bands, had passed away. He had been suffering from dementia and had to retire from the band prior to the tumultuous recording of their last record, Rock Or Bust. Dementia claimed my maternal grandmother and it’s a tough way to go. By every account that I’ve read, statements from other musicians, Malcolm was described as being a “sweet” guy. Being that talented and that nice are some pretty great things to be remembered for. He was preceded in death by his older brother George Young, who was in the Easy Beats, an early Aussie rock band and who was later a producer for AC/DC. Tough couple of months for the Youngs.

It had to be somewhat difficult for Malcolm. He’s always been a bit overshadowed by his brother Angus on lead guitar who, in his school uniform, was the visual symbol of the band. He was also probably overshadowed by the lead singers – who wouldn’t be overshadowed by larger than life Bon Scott and later Brian Johnson. The front man always gets the attention and the chicks. Yet, Malcolm cowrote every song they did with Angus and Bon Scott and later with just Angus. I would say Malcolm was more important than anybody on the microphone to AC/DC. His riffs were the foundation of every tune they put out. Even though he retired prior to the recording of their last album, Rock or Bust, Angus said most of the song ideas and basic riffs were written by and demo’d by Malcolm. He was as important to rhythm guitar as Keith Richards. That bedrock rhythm guitar allowed his brother Angus to soar on so many great solos.

One of the first albums I remember buying was AC/DC’s Back In Black. I was working as a bus boy at a steak joint named York Steak House in Oak Park Mall out in the suburbs of Kansas City. The crew I worked with there was one of the funnest, most degenerate group of people I’ve ever met. And believe me, I know a lot of degenerates, but these guys took the cake. One of the managers had a big keg party for the employees, most of whom were underage for drinking, but why split hairs over silly rules. We were out at some lake in western Johnson County. Somebody dropped the Back In Black cassette into the boom box and it was like an explosion in my head. My life had changed. Listening to that album, and marveling at the monster guitar riffs, I thought it was some band’s greatest hits album. I remember we were so fiercely air-guitaring I fell and hit my head on a park bench… maybe that’s why I remember that party so clearly… it was literally jarring. Talk about your head banging, I lived it, baby.

It was shortly after almost wearing out Back In Black, that I started researching AC/DC. It was then that I realized that they had just replaced their lead singer Bon Scott with Brian Johnson. I thought it was Brian singing on Highway To Hell, their vocals were so similar. Now, I can hear the difference clearly. One of the reasons their sound stayed so consistent was Malcolm and Angus’ monster riffage. I remember going to the mall and for some inexplicable reason I bought Highway To Hell on cassette instead of vinyl. The mistakes of youth… I think I wanted to play it in the car. That album underscored to me, it doesn’t matter whose up front singing, it’s the guitars that power that band.

I saw AC/DC on the Ballbreaker tour with my buddy, The Accountant, and they were just so spectacular. A lot of that was due to Malcolm’s perfectionist tendencies. He was so committed to the fans. He even quit AC/DC in the 80s to go to rehab to quit drinking. He’d realized his playing was suffering and he loved guitar more than booze. That’s commitment.

I had drifted away from AC/DC, even after seeing that great Ballbreaker show. It wasn’t until I met the Rock Chick and she turned me onto some of their great later albums, The Razor’s Edge, Stiff Upper Lip, that I reconnected with this great band. The Stiff Upper Lip tour was the first concert I ever took the Rock Chick to, chronicled on this very blog, AC/DC’s Stiff Upper Lip Concert – I Discover I’m Dating The Rock Chick. I’m very glad I saw that show, and glad that Rock Chick reintroduced me to this wonderful band. AC/DC remains and will remain in high rotation here at the B&V home.

Today the rock and roll world has lost another foundational player. We down here at the B&V lab will be flying the rock flag at half mast. Me, I’m going to pour a tumbler full of something strong, brown and murky and turn on the Rock Chick’s fabulous AC/DC play list. RIP Malcolm!

 

Review: Greta Van Fleet, ‘From The Fires’ LP, er, Double EP

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Once again my corporate overlords had me traveling most of this week. I returned home from California just in time to watch the Rock Chick pack her car and abscond to points out west to meet our daughter for some sort of “Thelma and Louis” adventure. Actually, our daughter is moving and the Rock Chick felt compelled to help her find a new apartment in her new city. In the old days, when I was left to my own devices, to a “bachelor’s weekend,” I’d end up face down, slathered in bourbon and pizza sauce. The Rock Chick came home one weekend to find me weeping over the death of Clarence Clemons. It had been a tough weekend…and perhaps I’d overdone it. Luckily, this weekend I discovered that those Led Zeppelin-obsessed youngsters, Greta Van Fleet, have released a new album, er, I mean a double EP, whatever that is, entitled, From The Fires. At least I’ll have something upbeat to listen to all weekend… and yes, I did stop by the store for a fresh bottle of Bulleit rye and ordered a pizza, so I’m ready to rock.

I reviewed their first EP, Black Smoke Rising,  a few months ago (Greta Van Fleet: Kids Channeling Zeppelin On ‘Black Smoke Rising’ EP). And as those of you who read that know, I love these kids. Yes, I described watching their YouTube videos as like watching really hip baristas running amuck, but that doesn’t mean I don’t like them. It was actually the Rock Chick who first came into the B&V Lab and said, “I don’t know who this Greta Van Fleet chick is, but she sounds like Zeppelin.” Hearing these four new songs – inexplicably From The Fires contains all 4 songs from Black Smoke Rising – I believe the Rock Chick is going to be very happy. My friend West Coast BG says the versions of the first four tracks are more polished versions here, but I did what I think most people did – I bought the four new songs and added them to the old ones.

After reading my review of Black Smoke Rising, my dear friend Doug wrote, in the comments section, “I’m surprised Led Zeppelin isn’t getting royalties from these guys…” (or something like that), and yes, they do sound like Led Zeppelin. My friend in Salina, Drummer Blake, when I went to see his new band said, “I can’t tell you how many people come up to me and ask if I’ve heard these kids that sound like Zeppelin, Greta Van Fleet.” Drummer Blake is more fond of Rival Sons, but we’re splitting hairs here. Even my friend West Coast BG sent me an enthusiastic note about GVF. He compares them to the young energy (not the sound) of Def Leppard when they first came out. We both saw Def Leppard open for Nugent back in the day and Greta Van Fleet does bring back memories of that youthful exuberance both of Def Leppard and us. I mention all of this because there are many people out here who have been yearning to hear some new, kick ass rock and roll and the word on GVF is getting out!

I don’t want to rehash the review I put out for the four songs that were contained on Black Smoke Rising, but I will say these kids really are channeling Zeppelin. You can listen to those four songs and literally play the which-Zeppelin-song-is-this game. My favs are probably the galloping “Highway Tune” and the title track. “Safari Song” starts off with a banshee wail that Plant would envy. I will say, someone is going to have to get lead vocalist (and one of three brothers in the band) John Kiszka a glass of hot tea with honey and a shot of Gentlemen Jack in it to help him sooth his vocal chords. As my friend West Coast BG said, “someone needs to tell him to reign it in, he’s going to shatter his vocal chords.” But damn if I don’t love this kid’s shrieking vocals. I can’t say enough about his brother Jake on lead guitar. I can understand how a vocalist can sound like Robert Plant, but this Jake kid makes guitar sounds that I’ve only heard on Zeppelin records, and I mean that as a huge compliment.

If I was going to say one thing about GVF, to me they’re in the larval stage (I was corrected by BG when I said “larva stage”). They’ve got the chops and the skill, but they can only survive as an act if they can develop their own sound and write their own distinctive songs. I remember so many bands in the 80s, including Kings X and Jason Bonham’s band (creatively named, Bonham) who were hailed as the second coming of Zeppelin but flamed out pretty quickly. I think these guys have the tools to be a long term force in rock and roll but someone, maybe Jason Flom, needs to do what Andrew Loog Oldham did for Mick and Keith – sit them down in a room and force them write and write and write. I think given time these guys will develop into something special, I just hope they hew closely to this swaggering, hard rock sound.

Of the new batch of material, my favorite might be the cover of Sam Cooke’s “A Change Is Gonna Come.” Again, kudos to John Kiszka for the lead vocal. The band brought in some gospel-y background singers, which is a perfect accent. The first time I heard GVF’s version of the tune, I thought, these guys sound too joyful for this track, but I think I misread it. It’s anguished and triumphant all at the same time. And hats off to any band with the balls to tackle one of the greatest songs of all time. It shows they have really good taste in music.

“Edge of Darkness” is a crunchy rocker. I love John Kiszka’s riffage on this song. And, just to play the, which-Zeppelin-tune game, I get a real “What Is And What Could Never Be” vibe from this tune. The guitar time changes and different riffs, just evoke that song for me. “Meet Me On the Ledge” brings to mind “Our Time Is Gonna Come.” It starts with a heavy riff, then vocals/acoustic guitar that builds to the chorus. It’s rocky and spacey. I mention the influences just to underscore what these tracks sound like, not as a jab at GVF. The guitar solo at the end of “Edge of Darkness” is a unique, crazy flurry of guitar that points the way to great things for Greta Van Fleet. The last of the four new tracks is “Talk On The Street,” a baby I’m hearing bad things tune. It reminds me of a less bluesy “When the Levee Breaks.” I know I shouldn’t do the Zeppelin comparison, but I can’t help it.

When I listen to all eight songs on From The Fires I will admit to being baffled by the whole “double EP” thing. Why not just call these eight tracks your debut album. Houses of the Holy only had four tracks per side, eight in total. Take the homage all the way, baby. Anyway, this is a great slab of rock and roll. Turn it up loud, grab a slice of pizza and some bourbon and try not be weeping when your spouse gets home….

Cheers!

 

Review: U2’s Two New Songs from ‘Songs Of Experience’

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As happens this time of year, my corporate overlords have kept me out on the road all week. Traveling has taught me one thing: Civility and good manners are dead, folks. Anyway, I wearily returned home to find the great news that U2 have made a number of announcements in regard to their upcoming album, Songs of Experience, the “sequel” to 2014’s Songs of Innocence. It’s all so very William Blake of them… “Tyger Tyger, burning bright, In the forests of the night.” We have a release date of December 1 for the full album, just in time for Christmas. And, in other great news, U2 have announced a short spring tour through the United States beginning in May and running through June. Sadly it looks like I’ll have to fly somewhere to see them. Hopefully the early dates are just a framework from which they can hang additional dates in additional cities on to.

The build up for Songs of Experience has been impressive. I think this album is going to be an important one for U2… After two rather lackluster records, No Line On The Horizon (2009) and Songs of Innocence (2014) one gets the sense that U2 is bearing down to re-take over the world. These guys are like Muhammad Ali, they always seem to be fighting to regain the World Title. One could view their recent tour to celebrate the 30th anniversary of their landmark album, The Joshua Tree, as a concerted effort to reconnect with their fans and reignite the passion they so often inspire. (That tour was reviewed in B&V, Concert Review: U2 with Beck, Kansas City, Sept 12, 2017: A “Night of Epic Rock And Roll” – Bono, #U2TheJoshuaTree2017).

They released the first single a month or so ago. That song, “You’re The Best Thing About Me” is simply put, sensational and the best first single they’ve put out since “Vertigo.” I reviewed that single (U2: “You’re The Best Thing About Me,” The Strong New Single From ‘Songs Of Experience’) and it gives me a lot of hope for this new album. Never count U2 out, especially if they feel they have their backs against the wall. The announcements they made this week were accompanied by the album art, the track list and the release of two new songs. Looking at the track list, I don’t see much on the “Deluxe” version to recommend it, the bonus material appears to be all remixes. I say new songs, but one, “Get Out of Your Own Way,” they apparently debuted on The Joshua Tree Tour and the other, “Blackout” was out on YouTube and other social media platforms.

“Get Out of Your Own Way” is a mid tempo, ballad type track. It’s got big choruses. I usually love U2’s ballads, but this one is going to have to grow on me. The track fades in a little bit like “Where The Streets Have No Name.” I think my biggest obstacle on this song are the drums. They sound tinny or metallic. I think Larry Mullen, Jr is U2’s secret weapon so I’d like to see them let that guy go a little more. He does pick it up in the middle of the track. There is some good, signature Edge guitar in the middle and a nice but brief solo. The track is more polished than “You’re the Best Thing About Me.” There’s some audio tape of someone, a rapper, a preacher or somebody at the end that I could have done without. Like I said, not a great track,  but not bad.

“Blackout” is just a great song. The Rock Chick was in the B&V Lab when I played the two tracks and she took to this one immediately. It’s catchy and has some good guitar. I especially like Bono’s impassioned vocal on this track. I love the lyrics, “In the darkness is where you learn to see…” It’s a slinky, funky affair. I think you could dance to it or rock out to it and I mean that in a good way. If “Blackout” and “You’re the Best Thing…” are any indication, this album is headed in the right direction. Although, I will caveat that by saying, it’s hard to take a handful of songs and hear them out of the context of the full album and make any kind of guess about the overall package. I only have my hope for this album to go on and I haven’t had that on a U2 album since How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb.

Keep your fingers crossed for a great U2 album! Cheers!