I’ve got a new Think Again column called "Foolish Loudmouths in the Military and in the Media."
John Mellencamp: On the Rural Route 7609, Special Edition (Four cds)
A friend once said this about Jackson Browne, "He thinks his catalog is bigger than it actually is." This is how I feel about John Mellencamp. The man’s got heart and determination, but can sometimes be a bit clumsy when turning his points of view and life experiences into song. Maybe that’s just his style, but I don’t have to love it. I don’t mind it, though. The man has written some wonderful music.
I like some of his hits, "Pink Houses," "Jack & Diane," but not all of his hits. Some I find less appealing than most, "I Need A Lover" and "The Authority Song," the former conspicuously absent from this set. [Editor’s note. Sal is totally fu**ed here. “Authority Song" is one of my favorite songs evah. The video is great too. It’s just what rock n roll should be.] His later work tries hard to impress with its "less is more" approach, and serious subject matter. I don’t buy all of it but I must admit, records like 2007’s "Freedom’s Road" and 2008’s "Life, Death, Love & Freedom" showed Mellencamp maturing nicely, and made me more of a fan than I had ever admitted. And "The Longest Days," a song I first heard when Mellencamp performed it on Elvis Costello’s Spectacle, really moves me. It opens this 4 CD set.
A career-spanning boxed set is not exactly what Mellencamp wanted to release. "I know what happens with boxed sets. You go to the hits and skip the rest." That won’t happen here. On this elaborate new 4 CD set, "On The Rural Route 7609" you get some hits, but not all of them. The set isn’t chronological and it doesn’t rely on rarities. It’s an impressive body of work that John Mellencamp hopes will remind people that he wrote other songs than "R.O.C.K. In The U.S.A." If you’re a fan of the man, you will be impressed by the packaging, which is elaborate and admirably historical and, one imagines, satisfied with the 17 previously unreleased songs. Here’s a setlist. Everybody gets to decide for themselves.
1. Longest Days 2. Grandma’s Theme 3. Rural Route 4. Jackie Brown 5. Rain On The Scarecrow 6. Jim Crow with Cornell West 7. Jim Crow 8. Big Daddy Of Them All 9. Deep Blue Heart 10. Forgiveness 11. Don’t Need This Body 12. Jenny At 16 13. Jack And Diane (writing demo) 14. Jack And Diane