Subject: I have found a CD that I think you would enjoy
No Better Than This
In an age of auto-tuned, computerized recordings, John Mellencamp's approach on his Rounder debut, No Better Than This, is refreshing. The entire album was recorded with Mellencamp and his band all playing live in one room... more »
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In an age of auto-tuned, computerized recordings, John Mellencamp's approach on his Rounder debut, No Better Than This, is refreshing. The entire album was recorded with Mellencamp and his band all playing live in one room using a 55 year-old Ampex tape recorder and just one vintage microphone. Legendary producer T Bone Burnett captured the stunning thirteen new Mellencamp originals at three historically important locations: Sun Studio in Memphis, TN (where Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, and Jerry Lee Lewis all first recorded); the First African Baptist Church in Savannah, GA (the oldest Black church in North America, dating to 1775); and in Room 414 of the Gunter Hotel in San Antonio, TX (where Robert Johnson made his first recordings in 1936). The songs on No Better Than This reflect classic American musical traditions including blues, folk, gospel, rockabilly, and country, while addressing such themes as the need for hope, the nature of relationships, and narratives that recount extraordinary occurrences in everyday life. Mellencamp says of the album, "It was absolutely the most fun I've ever had making a record in my life. It was about making music - organic music made by real musicians - that's heartfelt and written from the best place it can come from."
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Rudy Palma | NJ | 08/17/2010
(5 out of 5 stars)
"With "No Better Than This" John Mellencamp deepens the rich, intimate simplicity of his last record, focusing on strong song craft. Recorded in mono, the album is disarmingly warm and inviting, giving the songs room to breathe with lo-fi, unadorned arrangements. T-Bone Burnett once again takes up production duties.
This is not an album that will ship a million records, but it is ripe for an audience looking for hearty Americana.
As time soldiers on so too does Mellencamp's persona. Like his contemporary Bruce Springsteen, he has become something of a retrospective malcontent with his 60s creeping up on him. He still harbors the restless spirit of a much younger man, calling out for social justice and pondering life's big questions straightforwardly.
In the heartbreaking, matter-of-fact "The West End," for instance, he proves himself a first-rate poet as he magnifies the vicious circle - the "broken promises" - that keep the oppressed immobile in contemporary society.
"For my whole life I've been down in the West End/It sure has changed here since I was a kid/It's worse now - look what progress did/Someone lined the packers out - I know who that is."
He also ponders the possibility of a better existence beyond mortal life on "A Graceful Fall" with a cynical eye:
"'Cause I'm sick of life, yeah, it's easy to do/When everything is so hard has been handed to you/Yeah I'm sick of life, it's been lost, it's been found/I will see you in the next world if there is really one."
The subject matter is not always harrowingly heavy, of course. Mellencamp waxes poetic on finding euphoria in life's most affirming moments in the upbeat title track and lead single, even though a bittersweet sense of urgency peaks out through the song's sunny surface - after all, time passes quickly.
"Give me clear vision and don't let me miss anything," he swiftly sings
Could Mellencamp have launched a commercially successful career with an album like this? Of course not. That does not discount it.
Whether he cannot shake pessimism in the face of life's obstacles ("No One Cares About Me"), explores the potential for a more fulfilling existence ("Save Some Time to Dream") or revels in the mystery of what cannot be changed ("Clumsy Ol' World") Mellencamp remains thoroughly and remarkably engaging throughout "No Better Than This."
He writes story songs that immediately grab and speak to people of all walks of life- the essence of American music."
John's Rounder Debut Hits It Out Of The Park
John Terry | Kansas City, Mo | 08/18/2010
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Remember when John Cougar was the next David Bowie and T Bone Burnett was a guitar player in Dylan's "Rolling Thunder Revue"? Doesn't seem like all that long ago to me. John Cougar became John Cougar Mellencamp and finally just plain John Mellencamp. He went from "heartland rock" to roots rock and now he's made it all the way back to the roots of rock. T Bone has had a solo career that critics and devout fans sing the praises of. Then a little movie called "O Brother Where Art Thou" suddenly made him the closest he'll ever be to a household name. More importantly, he proved to the recording industry that record buyers would embrace roots music.
"No Better Than This" was recorded by John and T Bone during John's off days from a minor league baseball park tour he was doing with Bob Dylan and Willie Nelson. Recorded in mono, T Bone and John used places like Sun Studios and The First African Baptist Church in Memphis, the first African Baptist church in North America dating back to before the Revolutionary War. Also used was room 414 of the Gunter Hotel in San Antonio, Texas where Robert Johnson first recorded for Brunswick Records. "No Better Than This" is a live record with real musicians that feels real and sounds absolutely terrific. With "Freedom Road" and "Life, Death, Love and Freedom", it marks the high point of an American folk rock trilogy that shows John Mellencamp hasn't become a nostalgia act. Indeed, he may just be hitting his creative stride. An amazing piece of work."
His best in quite a while.
DanD | 08/17/2010
(5 out of 5 stars)
"John Mellencamp has lately turned to folk/blues music, the likes of Woodie Guthrie, Robert Johnson, etc. This has, in many ways, been a fortuitous career move: he has crafted meaningful music that has delved into the heart of both Americana and humanity. However, it's also created albums that, while elegant and magnificent from an artistic standpoint, have been almost painful to listen to--music so dark and haunting that it must be taken in small doses.
NO BETTER THAN THIS is something of a breather, though not a passive one. Its lyrics are just as important and beautiful, but they are accompanied by a country/folk backbone that makes even the most downtrodden lyric ("I'm sick of life 'cause it's lost its form/I'll see you in the next world if there is really one") almost pleasant to listen to. Not that everything here is tears and frowns; "Save some time to dream/Because your dream might save us all," he croons in the opening number, and elsewhere (the title track, for instance) he seems relaxed and contended.
It's a false contentment, of course; even at his happiest, Mellencamp can't help but question the world around him. "Gee, it's a clumsy old world," he sings in the final track (and concludes with a wry chuckle); Mellencamp, like most of the great singer/songwriters before him, is in love with that clumsiness, with the imperfection of human nature. NO BETTER THAN THIS is a marvelous album; it's fun, it's catchy, and it's meaningful. Will it top the charts? No. But Mellencamp has more important things on his mind than record sales."