John Mellencamp – Freedom’s Road / 2007 Universal / 10 Tracks / http://www.mellencamp.com / http://www.universal.com / Reviewed 08 March 2007
There are a number of individuals that have been gone from the popular purview that have released albums in the first quarter of 2007. Kenny Wayne Shepherd and John Mellencamp are two of those individuals. As many know, John Mellencamp was the mastermind behind such rock standards as “Jack and Diane” and “Pink Houses”. Mellencamp would resurface again in 1993 with a cover of the Van Morrison track “Wild Night”, but the last few albums of Mellencamp’s (Mr. Happy Go Lucky, self-titled, Cuttin’ Heads, and Trouble No More) did not see Mellencamp create such iconic and remembered songs as those previously mentioned. “Someday” is the first track on the disc, and it shows Mellencamp as a hard-hitting rock persona that blends Warren Zevon with Van Halen to create a compelling style from the first track of the disc.
“Ghost Towns Along The Highway” is a more soulful, dusty-sounding track that still has Mellencamp providing a chorus that individuals can easily sing along with. “The Americans” is another track that tries to recreate the magic of “Pink Houses”, all while continuing the Warren Zevon influence, an inclusion that brings Mellencamp into a more world-weary sound than was present during earlier albums in eir career. “Freedom’s Road” does two important things for Mellencamp. First, it allows eir to go back to the sound that is linked to earlier releases, but it does not paint Mellencamp into a corner. This second point is that Mellencamp is proof positive than an old dog can learn new tricks; the inclusion of harder rock styles along with different inflections to the tracks on “Freedom’s Road” makes for a completely new approach that will delight old fans of Mellencamp’s while hopefully bringing more fans into the flock.
“The Americans” has a lot in common with the music released last year by Neil Young, in that both tracks really showcase the storytelling attributes of the artists. While songs like “Forgiveness” may be able to go into the Don Henley / Mr. Mister route, “The Americans” is a stand out track because it stands in opposition to the vast majority of rock tracks on the radio. The title track is perfectly serviceable, but it is when Mellencamp includes new musical approaches and allows eir voice to do more of the speaking than the music on this disc that the biggest strides are made. Give it a go, if only for standout tracks like “The Americans”.
Top Tracks: The Americans, Ghost Towns Along The Highway Rating: 6.2/10