The Album Review Club - Week #11 (page 169) - Planetary Unfolding

RobMCFC

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The Album Review Club – Week #1

The Lonesome Jubilee – John Cougar Mellencamp (1987)


Selected by RobMCFC

Jubilee.jpg

How I discovered the album


I was a relatively late starter when it came to serious music listening, and as a 17-year-old in 1986, most of the stuff I got into early on was American rock. Although I bought a couple of Bruce Springsteen albums, most of the stuff was more traditional AOR like Huey Lewis & The News, ZZ Top, Journey, Bon Jovi, Survivor, Bryan Adams etc. One thing I figured out early on was that a good source of new music was Johnnie Walker’s Stereo Sequence on Radio One on a Saturday afternoon, and it was here that I first discovered John Mellencamp. The first few times I heard the fiddle blasting out on the intro for “Paper in Fire”, I thought it was weird. Then I became curious and by the fourth or fifth listen, I resolved to buy the album when it came out.

My Review

The Lonesome Jubilee is an album that, to my ears, is perfect on a number of levels. It was released at the height of the Reagan era yet its powerful lyrics are just as relevant today. The characters in these songs are battling unemployment, a lack of money, a lack of hope, a system that doesn’t work for the people or just simply struggling with the everyday problems of middle age. Even a young kid’s fear of the Russians makes an appearance and raises the question of “When the bombs fall down will they hurt everyone in my family?” Whilst I was only 19 at the time, and most of this stuff didn’t apply to me, it was inspiring to hear somebody singing about something that mattered.

As if the powerful imagery and heartfelt vocals from Mellencamp were not enough, it’s the sound of The Lonesome Jubilee that puts it head and shoulders above most other albums. Before the sessions, the singer instructed his band to learn a new set of instruments, so we get plenty of banjo, mandolin, lap steel and a host of other stringed instruments, but Mellencamp’s aces in the hole that give the album its signature sound are Lisa Germano on fiddle and John Cascella’s accordion. Despite the downbeat nature of the lyrics, it’s an album full of gorgeous, soaring melodies and hooks and in most cases, it’s the twin attack of accordion and fiddle that drive this sound, all backed by Kenny Aronoff’s propulsive drums. When it comes to favourite songs, take your pick, because there’s no weak link, but I love the opening three tracks.

Doing a bit of background research on this album, I learned two interesting things about John Mellencamp. First of all, unlike many others who play this type of music, he is not so great on guitar. He knows enough to write the songs and demo them for his band, but that’s about it. The second thing is that he knows how he wants an album to sound and is tireless when it comes to arranging and mixing. Perhaps as much as his superb songwriting, it is this last comment that explains the genius of what you hear when you play this album – there’s so much going on yet you hear every detail in the mix.

The rustic sound of the album was at odds with the synthesizer and drum machine technology of the time. It’s not exactly chart-friendly material, yet still Mellencamp still managed to score three top-20 hits in the US (two in the top 10). Of course, he’s never been as popular in the UK.

Closing Comments

The Lonesome Jubilee is my favourite album of all time, yet Colin Larkin and his philistines didn’t even name any Mellencamp albums in their Top 1000. I know it has some fans on here, but I don’t think it’s a sound that everybody will love – I’m sure that some will find it “too country”. However, I’ll be interested to hear what people think, especially those who are hearing it for the first time.

Note that “Blues from the front porch” is a bonus track that did not appear on the original album.

Please mark it 1-10, votes close on Monday.

Just a reminder that next week’s album will be selected by @FogBlueInSanFran.
 

Onholiday(somemightsay)

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The Album Review Club – Week #1

The Lonesome Jubilee – John Cougar Mellencamp (1987)


Selected by RobMCFC

View attachment 27121

How I discovered the album


I was a relatively late starter when it came to serious music listening, and as a 17-year-old in 1986, most of the stuff I got into early on was American rock. Although I bought a couple of Bruce Springsteen albums, most of the stuff was more traditional AOR like Huey Lewis & The News, ZZ Top, Journey, Bon Jovi, Survivor, Bryan Adams etc. One thing I figured out early on was that a good source of new music was Johnnie Walker’s Stereo Sequence on Radio One on a Saturday afternoon, and it was here that I first discovered John Mellencamp. The first few times I heard the fiddle blasting out on the intro for “Paper in Fire”, I thought it was weird. Then I became curious and by the fourth or fifth listen, I resolved to buy the album when it came out.

My Review

The Lonesome Jubilee is an album that, to my ears, is perfect on a number of levels. It was released at the height of the Reagan era yet its powerful lyrics are just as relevant today. The characters in these songs are battling unemployment, a lack of money, a lack of hope, a system that doesn’t work for the people or just simply struggling with the everyday problems of middle age. Even a young kid’s fear of the Russians makes an appearance and raises the question of “When the bombs fall down will they hurt everyone in my family?” Whilst I was only 19 at the time, and most of this stuff didn’t apply to me, it was inspiring to hear somebody singing about something that mattered.

As if the powerful imagery and heartfelt vocals from Mellencamp were not enough, it’s the sound of The Lonesome Jubilee that puts it head and shoulders above most other albums. Before the sessions, the singer instructed his band to learn a new set of instruments, so we get plenty of banjo, mandolin, lap steel and a host of other stringed instruments, but Mellencamp’s aces in the hole that give the album its signature sound are Lisa Germano on fiddle and John Cascella’s accordion. Despite the downbeat nature of the lyrics, it’s an album full of gorgeous, soaring melodies and hooks and in most cases, it’s the twin attack of accordion and fiddle that drive this sound, all backed by Kenny Aronoff’s propulsive drums. When it comes to favourite songs, take your pick, because there’s no weak link, but I love the opening three tracks.

Doing a bit of background research on this album, I learned two interesting things about John Mellencamp. First of all, unlike many others who play this type of music, he is not so great on guitar. He knows enough to write the songs and demo them for his band, but that’s about it. The second thing is that he knows how he wants an album to sound and is tireless when it comes to arranging and mixing. Perhaps as much as his superb songwriting, it is this last comment that explains the genius of what you hear when you play this album – there’s so much going on yet you hear every detail in the mix.

The rustic sound of the album was at odds with the synthesizer and drum machine technology of the time. It’s not exactly chart-friendly material, yet still Mellencamp still managed to score three top-20 hits in the US (two in the top 10). Of course, he’s never been as popular in the UK.

Closing Comments

The Lonesome Jubilee is my favourite album of all time, yet Colin Larkin and his philistines didn’t even name any Mellencamp albums in their Top 1000. I know it has some fans on here, but I don’t think it’s a sound that everybody will love – I’m sure that some will find it “too country”. However, I’ll be interested to hear what people think, especially those who are hearing it for the first time.

Note that “Blues from the front porch” is a bonus track that did not appear on the original album.

Please mark it 1-10, votes close on Monday.

Just a reminder that next week’s album will be selected by @FogBlueInSanFran.
Lovely write up to start things off..........
 

BlueHammer85

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Joined
13 Oct 2010
Messages
24,565
The Album Review Club – Week #1

The Lonesome Jubilee – John Cougar Mellencamp (1987)


Selected by RobMCFC

View attachment 27121

How I discovered the album


I was a relatively late starter when it came to serious music listening, and as a 17-year-old in 1986, most of the stuff I got into early on was American rock. Although I bought a couple of Bruce Springsteen albums, most of the stuff was more traditional AOR like Huey Lewis & The News, ZZ Top, Journey, Bon Jovi, Survivor, Bryan Adams etc. One thing I figured out early on was that a good source of new music was Johnnie Walker’s Stereo Sequence on Radio One on a Saturday afternoon, and it was here that I first discovered John Mellencamp. The first few times I heard the fiddle blasting out on the intro for “Paper in Fire”, I thought it was weird. Then I became curious and by the fourth or fifth listen, I resolved to buy the album when it came out.

My Review

The Lonesome Jubilee is an album that, to my ears, is perfect on a number of levels. It was released at the height of the Reagan era yet its powerful lyrics are just as relevant today. The characters in these songs are battling unemployment, a lack of money, a lack of hope, a system that doesn’t work for the people or just simply struggling with the everyday problems of middle age. Even a young kid’s fear of the Russians makes an appearance and raises the question of “When the bombs fall down will they hurt everyone in my family?” Whilst I was only 19 at the time, and most of this stuff didn’t apply to me, it was inspiring to hear somebody singing about something that mattered.

As if the powerful imagery and heartfelt vocals from Mellencamp were not enough, it’s the sound of The Lonesome Jubilee that puts it head and shoulders above most other albums. Before the sessions, the singer instructed his band to learn a new set of instruments, so we get plenty of banjo, mandolin, lap steel and a host of other stringed instruments, but Mellencamp’s aces in the hole that give the album its signature sound are Lisa Germano on fiddle and John Cascella’s accordion. Despite the downbeat nature of the lyrics, it’s an album full of gorgeous, soaring melodies and hooks and in most cases, it’s the twin attack of accordion and fiddle that drive this sound, all backed by Kenny Aronoff’s propulsive drums. When it comes to favourite songs, take your pick, because there’s no weak link, but I love the opening three tracks.

Doing a bit of background research on this album, I learned two interesting things about John Mellencamp. First of all, unlike many others who play this type of music, he is not so great on guitar. He knows enough to write the songs and demo them for his band, but that’s about it. The second thing is that he knows how he wants an album to sound and is tireless when it comes to arranging and mixing. Perhaps as much as his superb songwriting, it is this last comment that explains the genius of what you hear when you play this album – there’s so much going on yet you hear every detail in the mix.

The rustic sound of the album was at odds with the synthesizer and drum machine technology of the time. It’s not exactly chart-friendly material, yet still Mellencamp still managed to score three top-20 hits in the US (two in the top 10). Of course, he’s never been as popular in the UK.

Closing Comments

The Lonesome Jubilee is my favourite album of all time, yet Colin Larkin and his philistines didn’t even name any Mellencamp albums in their Top 1000. I know it has some fans on here, but I don’t think it’s a sound that everybody will love – I’m sure that some will find it “too country”. However, I’ll be interested to hear what people think, especially those who are hearing it for the first time.

Note that “Blues from the front porch” is a bonus track that did not appear on the original album.

Please mark it 1-10, votes close on Monday.

Just a reminder that next week’s album will be selected by @FogBlueInSanFran.

Like it.
 

OB1

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Joined
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The Album Review Club – Week #1

The Lonesome Jubilee – John Cougar Mellencamp (1987)


Selected by RobMCFC

View attachment 27121

How I discovered the album


I was a relatively late starter when it came to serious music listening, and as a 17-year-old in 1986, most of the stuff I got into early on was American rock. Although I bought a couple of Bruce Springsteen albums, most of the stuff was more traditional AOR like Huey Lewis & The News, ZZ Top, Journey, Bon Jovi, Survivor, Bryan Adams etc. One thing I figured out early on was that a good source of new music was Johnnie Walker’s Stereo Sequence on Radio One on a Saturday afternoon, and it was here that I first discovered John Mellencamp. The first few times I heard the fiddle blasting out on the intro for “Paper in Fire”, I thought it was weird. Then I became curious and by the fourth or fifth listen, I resolved to buy the album when it came out.

My Review

The Lonesome Jubilee is an album that, to my ears, is perfect on a number of levels. It was released at the height of the Reagan era yet its powerful lyrics are just as relevant today. The characters in these songs are battling unemployment, a lack of money, a lack of hope, a system that doesn’t work for the people or just simply struggling with the everyday problems of middle age. Even a young kid’s fear of the Russians makes an appearance and raises the question of “When the bombs fall down will they hurt everyone in my family?” Whilst I was only 19 at the time, and most of this stuff didn’t apply to me, it was inspiring to hear somebody singing about something that mattered.

As if the powerful imagery and heartfelt vocals from Mellencamp were not enough, it’s the sound of The Lonesome Jubilee that puts it head and shoulders above most other albums. Before the sessions, the singer instructed his band to learn a new set of instruments, so we get plenty of banjo, mandolin, lap steel and a host of other stringed instruments, but Mellencamp’s aces in the hole that give the album its signature sound are Lisa Germano on fiddle and John Cascella’s accordion. Despite the downbeat nature of the lyrics, it’s an album full of gorgeous, soaring melodies and hooks and in most cases, it’s the twin attack of accordion and fiddle that drive this sound, all backed by Kenny Aronoff’s propulsive drums. When it comes to favourite songs, take your pick, because there’s no weak link, but I love the opening three tracks.

Doing a bit of background research on this album, I learned two interesting things about John Mellencamp. First of all, unlike many others who play this type of music, he is not so great on guitar. He knows enough to write the songs and demo them for his band, but that’s about it. The second thing is that he knows how he wants an album to sound and is tireless when it comes to arranging and mixing. Perhaps as much as his superb songwriting, it is this last comment that explains the genius of what you hear when you play this album – there’s so much going on yet you hear every detail in the mix.

The rustic sound of the album was at odds with the synthesizer and drum machine technology of the time. It’s not exactly chart-friendly material, yet still Mellencamp still managed to score three top-20 hits in the US (two in the top 10). Of course, he’s never been as popular in the UK.

Closing Comments

The Lonesome Jubilee is my favourite album of all time, yet Colin Larkin and his philistines didn’t even name any Mellencamp albums in their Top 1000. I know it has some fans on here, but I don’t think it’s a sound that everybody will love – I’m sure that some will find it “too country”. However, I’ll be interested to hear what people think, especially those who are hearing it for the first time.

Note that “Blues from the front porch” is a bonus track that did not appear on the original album.

Please mark it 1-10, votes close on Monday.

Just a reminder that next week’s album will be selected by @FogBlueInSanFran.
At last ;-)

Great review, mate.

I am just going to give the album another spin but I already know my score.
 

OB1

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I was already a big JCM fan by the time The Lonesome Jubilee was released in 1987. I recall its release well because I was living in Nashville at the time on a five-month secondment so that’s where I bought my cd copy. I couldn’t actually play it until I got home but two songs in particular were already firm favourites because they were part of the soundtrack to my stay in (The Sheraton) Music City: Paper in Fire and Cherry Bomb were the first two singles and got heavy rotation on the local rock station. And they remain my favourite songs but every track is a winner.

John’s social and political conscience had been ever more evident on his preceding albums and this one was another shining example of his ability to nail life in small town America. He is, to me, the Mid-West’s answer to Bruce but doesn’t live in his shadow.

The rustic Americana influence on this album had been coming but this was definitely something new. The pop rock sensibility and sheen remains though and I can confirm that it was a truly FM radio friendly sound. The production from JCM and long- time cohort Don Gehman is immaculate – a gift to the still relatively new digital age.

The musicianship really is wonderful, the flourishes of the new instrumentation such as the lovely Lisa Germano’s fiddle add great spice to the mix but his very fine band lay down some fine guitar and bass and Kenny Aronoff is one of rock’s great no nonsense drummers (Mighty Max Weinberg on steroids), who went on to work with a wide variety of stars.

This album for me is one of the most perfect ever released, 10 memorable slices of rock paradise so only one score is appropriate:

10/10

Rooty Toot Toot
 

Citizen of Legoland

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Good start @RobMCFC.

It's odd when I think back to my teenage years in the eighties. I'd grown up listening to music, mainly rock, from the previous decade and always preferred albums to singles, so as such didn't listen to much radio, and without the streaming services we have now, and limited funds, had to carefully select which artists for whom I would part cash with. Sadly Johnny Cougar Mellencamp, as with Springsteen who I always expected him to be like, wasn't one of those.

We are so fortunate now to be able to listen to tens of millions of songs at the press of a button. In most cases I have gone back and caught up with those artists that had just slipped out of view, the solo efforts of band members that didn't quite hit the same spot as their parent group and the occasional algorithmic suggestion, so it is nice to be reminded of another that must be given their chance.

This is a good album but then I like that country sound especially the fiddle and accordion. I think it tails off a little after track 6 (and strangely of those first 6 thought that Cherry Bomb - despite a nice intro - was the weakest despite having 34M spotify listens compared to 500k for my favourite track, The Real LIfe). The last 4 tracks are a little difficult to distinguish from each other.

I'll go with ... 7 / 10.
 

RobMCFC

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The production from JCM and long- time cohort Don Gehman is immaculate – a gift to the still relatively new digital age.
Nice to read about your memories and introduction to the album, OB1.

I quoted this part because this is something I've always thought was true. I'm sure that Don Gehman did some sterling work on the mixing, but I was reading an article recently that suggests he was there only to satisfy the record company and that it was Mellencamp and his band who did most of the production. I must get around to writing a detailed blog post on the album because I've dug out a ton of articles on it.

Good start @RobMCFC.

It's odd when I think back to my teenage years in the eighties. I'd grown up listening to music, mainly rock, from the previous decade and always preferred albums to singles, so as such didn't listen to much radio, and without the streaming services we have now, and limited funds, had to carefully select which artists for whom I would part cash with. Sadly Johnny Cougar Mellencamp, as with Springsteen who I always expected him to be like, wasn't one of those.

We are so fortunate now to be able to listen to tens of millions of songs at the press of a button. In most cases I have gone back and caught up with those artists that had just slipped out of view, the solo efforts of band members that didn't quite hit the same spot as their parent group and the occasional algorithmic suggestion, so it is nice to be reminded of another that must be given their chance.

This is a good album but then I like that country sound especially the fiddle and accordion. I think it tails off a little after track 6 (and strangely of those first 6 thought that Cherry Bomb - despite a nice intro - was the weakest despite having 34M spotify listens compared to 500k for my favourite track, The Real LIfe). The last 4 tracks are a little difficult to distinguish from each other.

I'll go with ... 7 / 10.
The first half of the album is definitely stronger but "Hotdogs and Hamburgers" is my 4th favourite track.

Another tip - try listening to the album, this track in particular, through one earphone only - you'll be amazed.
The stereo separation on this album is a wonder to behold - something I discovered by accident when one ear bud dropped out of my ear on the bus many years ago - "Wait, where's the acoustic guitar gone?!"
 

OB1

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Taking it one game at a time
Nice to read about your memories and introduction to the album, OB1.

I quoted this part because this is something I've always thought was true. I'm sure that Don Gehman did some sterling work on the mixing, but I was reading an article recently that suggests he was there only to satisfy the record company and that it was Mellencamp and his band who did most of the production. I must get around to writing a detailed blog post on the album because I've dug out a ton of articles on it.


The first half of the album is definitely stronger but "Hotdogs and Hamburgers" is my 4th favourite track.

Another tip - try listening to the album, this track in particular, through one earphone only - you'll be amazed.
The stereo separation on this album is a wonder to behold - something I discovered by accident when one ear bud dropped out of my ear on the bus many years ago - "Wait, where's the acoustic guitar gone?!"

I'd agree that the first half is stronger and it does contain the three hit singles but the standard is high throughout. I own over 3,000 albums and, to my ears, very few match the level of consistency and quality of this one.
 

RobMCFC

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I'd agree that the first half is stronger and it does contain the three hit singles but the standard is high throughout. I own over 3,000 albums and, to my ears, very few match the level of consistency and quality of this one.
No argument there - clocking in at 39 minutes for 10 songs, he's probably done a decent job of self-editing his own material - a lesson a lot of other artists could learn from.
 
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FogBlueInSanFran

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The Album Review Club – Week #1

The Lonesome Jubilee – John Cougar Mellencamp (1987)


Selected by RobMCFC

View attachment 27121

How I discovered the album


I was a relatively late starter when it came to serious music listening, and as a 17-year-old in 1986, most of the stuff I got into early on was American rock. Although I bought a couple of Bruce Springsteen albums, most of the stuff was more traditional AOR like Huey Lewis & The News, ZZ Top, Journey, Bon Jovi, Survivor, Bryan Adams etc. One thing I figured out early on was that a good source of new music was Johnnie Walker’s Stereo Sequence on Radio One on a Saturday afternoon, and it was here that I first discovered John Mellencamp. The first few times I heard the fiddle blasting out on the intro for “Paper in Fire”, I thought it was weird. Then I became curious and by the fourth or fifth listen, I resolved to buy the album when it came out.

My Review

The Lonesome Jubilee is an album that, to my ears, is perfect on a number of levels. It was released at the height of the Reagan era yet its powerful lyrics are just as relevant today. The characters in these songs are battling unemployment, a lack of money, a lack of hope, a system that doesn’t work for the people or just simply struggling with the everyday problems of middle age. Even a young kid’s fear of the Russians makes an appearance and raises the question of “When the bombs fall down will they hurt everyone in my family?” Whilst I was only 19 at the time, and most of this stuff didn’t apply to me, it was inspiring to hear somebody singing about something that mattered.

As if the powerful imagery and heartfelt vocals from Mellencamp were not enough, it’s the sound of The Lonesome Jubilee that puts it head and shoulders above most other albums. Before the sessions, the singer instructed his band to learn a new set of instruments, so we get plenty of banjo, mandolin, lap steel and a host of other stringed instruments, but Mellencamp’s aces in the hole that give the album its signature sound are Lisa Germano on fiddle and John Cascella’s accordion. Despite the downbeat nature of the lyrics, it’s an album full of gorgeous, soaring melodies and hooks and in most cases, it’s the twin attack of accordion and fiddle that drive this sound, all backed by Kenny Aronoff’s propulsive drums. When it comes to favourite songs, take your pick, because there’s no weak link, but I love the opening three tracks.

Doing a bit of background research on this album, I learned two interesting things about John Mellencamp. First of all, unlike many others who play this type of music, he is not so great on guitar. He knows enough to write the songs and demo them for his band, but that’s about it. The second thing is that he knows how he wants an album to sound and is tireless when it comes to arranging and mixing. Perhaps as much as his superb songwriting, it is this last comment that explains the genius of what you hear when you play this album – there’s so much going on yet you hear every detail in the mix.

The rustic sound of the album was at odds with the synthesizer and drum machine technology of the time. It’s not exactly chart-friendly material, yet still Mellencamp still managed to score three top-20 hits in the US (two in the top 10). Of course, he’s never been as popular in the UK.

Closing Comments

The Lonesome Jubilee is my favourite album of all time, yet Colin Larkin and his philistines didn’t even name any Mellencamp albums in their Top 1000. I know it has some fans on here, but I don’t think it’s a sound that everybody will love – I’m sure that some will find it “too country”. However, I’ll be interested to hear what people think, especially those who are hearing it for the first time.

Note that “Blues from the front porch” is a bonus track that did not appear on the original album.

Please mark it 1-10, votes close on Monday.

Just a reminder that next week’s album will be selected by @FogBlueInSanFran.
Super review. Really good stuff Rob! Don’t know this whole record, but “Check It Out” is my favo(u)rite of all his songs (along with “Scarecrow”). And I always liked him and thought him well-meaning.

Saw him at a restaurant in NYC about three years ago with my family. My wife — who has a true gift of recognizing celebrities in public — pointed to him and said “Know who that is?” I had no clue — I remember what he looked like 35 years ago — but she was right.
 

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