RICK SPRINGFIELD – Rocket Sience

RICKSPRINGFIELD_RSWhen I was growing up, well in my twenties and a huge fan of melodic rock and AOR, I never considered Rick Springfield rock at all. To me, he was just a pretty boy with nice little pop songs like “Jessie’s Girl”, “Love Somebody” and “Souls” and I never ever listened to a Springfield  record back to back. To be honest, I never even had a Springfield record in my home, never even borrowed one from a friend – I just wasn’t interested. But back in 1988, my brother brought home Springfield’s then brand new album Rock Of Life which he had borrowed from a friend. I took the time to listen through it after my little brother had been raving about just how awesome it was and lo and behold, wasn’t the little bastard right. For once. I mean, he was the little brother, he didn’t get me into new music, I was the one showing him the new stuff, dammit! Well, with song like “World Starts Turning” and “Tear It All Down”, I realized that Rick Springfield was rock alright. Maybe not the harder kind but this was right in the vein of the stuff that dominated my record collection at the time. I still love that record! But for some reason, I still didn’t bother to check out any of Springfield’s past music, I thought that Rock Of Life was an experiment in rockier territories – in my mind, Springfield was still a pop guy. It would take me years, years and more years to get it through my skull that Springfield really is a rocker, not a pop guy. What got me to finally get that through my thick head was Rick’s “come back” album Venus In Overdrive from 2008, a rocking AOR pearl that I still hold dear. Looking back at Springfield’s discography, I realize that I had no clue just how much music he have put out throughout the years. Since his debut album back in 1972, Beginnings, he have released no less than 20 albums, including the new one and that also includes a nine-year break between 1988 – 1997 and a five-year break between 1999 – 2004 without any albums at all. Looking at the album titles, I also realize that I haven’t heard much of his music at all. The only older Springfield that I really know is the brilliant Living In Oz (1983) and even though I have heard Working Class Dog (1981), Success Hasn’t Spoiled Me Yet (1982) and Hard To Hold (1984) I can’t say I have been giving them my full attention. This have to change so there are shitloads of Springfield albums I have to sink my teeth into. Still, after his latest album, the brilliant Songs For The End Of The World from 2012 and his amazing performances at Sweden Rock Festival in 2010 and 2013, I definitely call myself a Springfield fan. That also makes my expectations on everything he does heaven high!

“Light This Party Up”. Just taste that title. The album’s opening track says it all – this is a party stomper, a stadium rocker that Bryan Adams would have sacrificed one of his nuts for, a party anthem if there ever was one – a brilliant tune that will probably open Springfield’s future concerts. He follows that track with “Down”, but it should have been called “Up” because there is nothing down with it all. Instead, it’s an energetic melodic rocker with the chorus from Hell – memorable doesn’t even begin to describe this tune. The pace slows down a bit for “The One”, but make no mistake, this isn’t dull at all. It’s a softer kind of pop-rocker with another intoxicating chorus, impossible not to like. The so awesome “The Best Damn Thing” takes us back to the glory days of “Jessie’s Girl” and “Love Somebody” cathiness but with the addition of both mandolins and slide guitar which gives it a bit of country smell. The song is catchier than catchy and the whole thing just sticks like glue. “Miss Mayhem” is the sore thumb of the album as it really breaks the mold and stands out with its southern swamp-blues sound and the twang of the banjo and slide guitar brings some country vibes into the tune. The tune is groovy and quite heavy when it kicks off. I love this one, one of my favorite tunes on this record! “Pay It Forward” is a somewhat happy-go-lucky pop rocker, but the whole country shebang, like fiddles, banjos and steel guitar makes it the most country flavored song on the album. The Hooters would kill for a song like this – brilliant! We continue our stroll down country road with the ballad “Found” and come to think of it, THIS is the most country tune on the record. But that is not a bad thing at all – the brilliant pop feel and the magnificent melodies makes it a winner anyway. “Crowded Solitude” – more country vibes, but for the most it’s a damn good pop pearl with a rocking groove and not even a fishing boat have more hooks than this. “Let Me In” is a fantastic ballad that some might have heard before. It was re-leased on some of the best-buy editions of the last album (the blue one, if I’m not misinformed). Only minor changes have been made to the song, so if you liked it on the last album, you’ll probably dig it here. I think this version sounds fuller and more finished. With the brilliant pop number “All Hands On Deck”, Springfield goes Celtic on us. It differs a lot from what we’re used to from this guy, but with the melodies and the swinging groove, I must say there’s a lot of Springfield over it as well. It also happens to be so catchy it’s ridiculous. “We Connect” is a bit darker, more mellow and a little moody. It’s a good, solid pop-rocker, but it’s the only one on here that don’t stick on the spot for me. Maybe it’s a grower and it’s not bad at all, it’s just the only song on here that is just “good” instad of great. Had enough of killers yet? No? Thought so. Here’s “(I Wish I Had A) Concrete Heart”, a bit softer but at the same time it sports some more “modern” sounds with the odd sample here and there. But at the end of the day, the tune is another magnificent pop / AOR / West Coast stomper with a chorus to die for. To wrap this album up, here’s another brilliant piece of music – “Earth To Angel”. And he brings us bagpipes! How cool! There’s a small country vibe on this as well, but all in all, this is a brilliant pop/rock number with a big sound and a rocking groove and a perfect way to close an almost perfect album.

All of you who have read as far as this have probably figured out that this record will get a really high rating. I mean, it goes without saying and really, it’s not, um, rocket science (pun intended) we’re talking about here. And yes, it will get a high rating because once again, 66-year-old mr Richard Lewis Springthorpe have produced a brilliant record, an AOR gem. Also, Rick Springfield have managed the art of writing AOR / West Coast / pop without being predictable and he’s finding new interesting ways with every album. Sure, there will probably be voices raised about him using country influences, the Celtic vibes and the bluesy swamp rocker because there is always people around who want their favorite artists to record the same album over and over again. The way I see it, it’s in the fact that Springfield don’t, where much of his musical strength lies – apart from the fact that he always writes catchy pop tunes, but those pop tunes are always dressed in different costumes which makes for an interesting listen. Think about it, he did that with Venus In Overdrive and he did that with his last album and my guess he will keep doing so as long as he keeps on releasing music. And to be unpredictable is not the most common thing within AOR camps. So, for all of you who are scared to death of country, this is not a country album at all. No, this is a Rick Springfield album, full of pop rockers, catchy as hell, but with influences from other genres as well. You can choose to miss this and be sorry or give it a shot and be happy – your call. Me, I’m happy!

9/10

Other Rick Springfield reviews:
Songs For The End Of The World

Tracklist:

1. Light This Party Up
2. Down
3. That One
4. The Best Damn Thing
5. Miss Mayhem
6. Pay It Forward
7. Found
8. Crowded Solitude
9. Let Me In
10. All Hands On Deck
11. We Connect
12. (I Wish I Had A) Concrete Heart
13. Earth To Angel

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