"The Lonesome Jubilee" is the third Mellencamp masterpiece in a row. And here it is, in an exquisitely remastered CD.
From the Stones-y squall of "Uh-Huh" to the Springsteen sweep of "Scarecrow", we now have an album that can only be 'qualified' as "Mellencamp."
His artistic growth here reflects his absorbed influences and then expands them. There are new instruments, new textures, new tempos. His lyrics are more expressive, more vivid and more concise. There is a fearlessness to his recording...a confidence beyond his previously problematic braggadocio.
In simpler terms, this album rocks. It's awesome.
Opening with the thrilling guitar-lap steel-fiddle-accordion-God know what else "hook" from "Paper in Fire", Mellencamp sets the stage for the unexpected. When his beloved drummer Kenny Aronoff kicks in, a smile will spread across your face. You instinctively will recognize his "sound", but also realize he doing more with it than he ever has before.
The angular "Down and Out in Paradise", with it's off-kilter push-pull rhythms, follows. This is one of those first person narratives with a terrific sense of immediacy...and "Check It Out" has a nice gentle, anthemic quality to it. I love the soaring fiddle-led hook, and so must have a lot of folks, as it's now one of his more-recognized songs.
"The Real Life" is a bit weaker melodically, but the band sounds tight and amazing. Every piece in its' place. "Cherry Bomb" has a soothing, friendly tone with terrific duet-like backup vocals and again, that lilting fiddle dancing above the whole song. Plus that accordion hook...it was an instant classic, and deservedly so.
"We Are The People" is where he falters a bit...a little too heavy-handed compared to the rest of the album. The music, again, is outstanding...it's now "his" sound. "Empty Hands" is another not-so-wonderful moment...a little boring...
It proves to be a momentary setback, as the album comes roaring back with three killer tunes in a row. "Hard Times For An Honest Man" gets the mix right. He's very direct with his point, yet the melody serves the lyrics, and the music is irresistible. "Hotdogs and Hamburgers" gallops along at a brisk pace, another one of his classic "story songs" with intimate details and epic bridges.
"Rooty Toot Toot" may be my favorite. It's a perfect song. Killer hooks, sweet instrumental breaks, a chorus you'll be singing before the song is over. Sure, it won't change the world, but for three minutes and 33 seconds, it will make YOUR world a lot better! Just a terrific way to end the album...
The extra track isn't much...a less-than-two minute snippet blues with multiple vocalists...the album was perfect as it was.
These remasters have been revelatory, and should urge other artists and record companies to reassess their catalogs. Bruce, U2, Prince...heck, the Beatles should be so lucky to have their albums treated with such care.