Right before Rick Springfield’s last album Rocket Science was released the word got out that Springfield was about to release a country album. A country album! I was worried plenty because even though I don’t have anything against mixing up rock music with a bit of country, plain country music really isn’t my keg of beer, so to speak. Well, it turned out that the whole country thing was a bit exaggerated. Sure, there were country vibes all over that album but for the most I think that album had all the right ingredients a Rick Springfield album should have – rock, pop, AOR, west-coast but with country influences here and there. And there was no need to worry – that album was awesome and I see it as a true Springfield record. For his new effort it was time for another change. This time Springfield is about to release a blues record. A blues record!
I like the blues but it’s almost the same thing as with country. Plain blues, like the stuff Robert Johnson, Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf, works for me for a couple of songs now and then but it tends to bore me easily. Blues is an ingredient that is what rock music is built upon and I love rhythm & blues influenced rock bands – Rolling Stones, AC/DC, Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, Aerosmith… well the list is very long, but again, when an artist like Springfield says he’s gonna release a blues album, the worrying sets in again. Will this be a pure blues record or will this be like the “country” album he made? I know I might sound conservative here but I know what I want on a Rick Springfield album – and it’s not pure blues. So it was with both a bit of a fright and interest I let the record take its first spin.
The first thing I think when opener “In The Land Of The Blind” is through is; is the blues they have been talking about? Because, I can’t find much blues in this song. This is an uptempo pop-rocker, based on acoustic guitars and pretty straight forward. Sure, it’s pretty rootsy and earthy but it still sounds a lot like the Rick Springfield I’m used to. And I’m not complaining one bit because it sports a stellar melody and an über-catchy chorus and it is a brilliant tune. I love it! But the blues do shows up in the second song “The Devil That You Know”. It’s a very groovy blues-rocker with a late 60’s / early 70’s vibe. It’s raunchy and swinging with a good, down-to-earth, meaty sound but it do sport a somewhat melodic rock-like refrain. Another great tune.
First single “Little Demon” is a kicking, pretty hard rocking blues-injected rocker with a good groove and a riff-happy swagger. The middle-section makes me think of Jeff Healey and the whole thing is ballsy and rough. Still I think it’s more hard rock than actual blues. Great stuff! The Jeff Healey influence comes back with “Judas Tree”, a real blues-rocker with a real down-to-earth sound, lots of meat n’ potatoes with a dirty groove, a good swing and echoes of the south – very good. “Jesus Was An Atheist” rocks rough with a damn fine blues swing where the groove is infectious and the whole tune brings on a very good party mood – I feel like drinking beer and raising hell when I hear it. The lyrics are awesome, very funny at times and the catchiness is stupendous. What a killer!
The title track holds a swampy, delta blues vibe and it also comes with a slide that takes us back to his country roots with a twang. But it also holds some very sure-of-aiming pop melodies albeit in a darker mood but they sure brings out some major catchiness where the Springfield of pop and AOR is recognizable. Brilliant stuff! “God Don’t Care” is a rootsy blues-rocker that kicks away with a Texas-feel, kind of like Rick Springfield meets ZZ Top. Very groovy, very pop-catchy and very raw. The big grooves continues with “The Voodoo House”. There’s a hard beat that the song is built upon and the whole tune have a live-feel over it, like it is a one-take recording – very gutsy. But the song also comes with a very melodic arrangement and the refrain is very typical Springfield – melodic and catchy as hell. I have feeling it will work like a charm on stage. “Suicide Manifesto” is a short blues-pop number, uptempo with a nice groove. It’s a good song but it doesn’t really stick like the rest of them.
“Blues For The Disillusioned” is a slower paced, ballad-like blues-pop tune with a catchy enough melody that’s very much Rick Springfield. However, the tune doesn’t get me hooked – it’s a good tune but not a great one. “Santa Is An Anagram” (Santa – Satan) is an old-school rock ‘n’ roll stomper. The Chuck Berry influence here is obvious – and pivotal to the song’s outcome. It’s groovy, swinging and again – the lyrics are just awesome! It’s short, in-your-face and very, very good. Springfield closes the album with a 10+ minute long rocker called “Orpheus In The Underworld”. Now, a 10 minute blues rock track might seem like overkill deluxe but the fact is, it’s not. The tune is in a mid pace and goes in an all-american blue-collar John Mellencamp vibe albeit with all the pop-friendly Springfield melodies in the world. The tune really moves me and grabs a hold on me and the ten minutes doesn’t even feel like five. A brilliant tune with some killer lyrics and a great way to close this album.
So is this a blue album then? Well, sure, it is – in some ways. I mean, the blues is what this record album is based on but it’s not Muddy Waters, so to speak. Hell, it’s not even Jeff Healey or Stevie Ray Vaughn blues. The way I see it, this is a Rick Springfield album with blues influences waved in. Fact is, most of the melodies and arrangements sounds a lot like the Rick Springfield we’re used to – this is as much a pure blues record as Rocket Science was a country album. Sure, it’s more rootsy than what we’re used to and on many songs way more stripped but it’s very easy to recognize Springfield’s very personal way of writing pop melodies and catchy choruses. Some old fans might have to give it a few spins to get it but with an open mind I think that most will be able to embrace this album. Me, I dug it right from the off. A great mix of blues-rock and melodic rock.
More Rick Springfield reviews:
1. In The Land Of The Blind
2. The Devil That You Know
3. Little Demon
4. Judas Tree
5. Jesus Was An Atheist
6. The Snake King
7. God Don’t Care
8. The Voodoo House
9. Suicide Manifesto
10. Blues For The Disillusioned
11. Santa Is An Anagram
12. Orpheus In The Underworld