Melanie W. (novelwriter) from SURFSIDE BCH, SC Reviewed on 12/13/2007...
I got this as an early Christmas present from a friend of mine. This is a very good cd. I like the acoustic feel of it and it hasn't lost the Mellencap style of songs.
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Follow "Freedom's Road" to Mellencamp's house.
P. J. | Olathe, KS USA | 01/23/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Freedom's Road is an unparalleled assembly of musical masterpieces. John Mellencamp has never made "the same record" twice regarding sound and style. He holds true and stays the course with this release. While the "Cougar" fans may have stopped buying Mellencamp's releases some time ago, it is their loss that is most sad. John's songwriting did not even begin to peak until "Mr. Happy Go Lucky" in the mid/late '90's. Amazingly, that is 10 years ago. Mellencamp has been writing fresh, meaningful songs since then. However, some may say that as well-written as the songs were, they were lacking something. If that is true, John has discovered what was needed. It is the good ol' garage band rock-n-roll jam session sound that he brings to this party. Guitars cranking, challenging if not controversial lyrics, catchy hooks and beats, and superb band support. Throw all of that in with the backing vocals of the very talented Little Big Town throughout and you have the best Mellencamp release since the Cougar-Mellencamp days of the mid-late 80's. Most striking to me personally is that John is sending out his feelings and observations through incredibly catchy tunes. Highpoints are "The Americans" and "Someday" as likely radio hits. Tremendous album cuts include "Ghost Towns Along The Highway", "Forgiveness", and "My Aeroplane." By the way, if you think that "Our Country" is a tired old truck ad, think again. The song merits a full listen. I highly recommend Freedom's Road to any rock music fan. I challenge anyone willing to step up to the plate and at the very least question the state of our country. John Mellencamp has. Freedom's Road is a 5 star release that will have you strumming the guitars and pounding the drums of your imagination."
Yes, This ROAD Has Some Ruts, But It's Mostly Smooth Sailing
Jef Fazekas | Newport Beach, California United States | 03/12/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
"While there may be some bumps along the way (cliched lyrics, underdeveloped melodies), John Mellencamp's new FREEDOM'S ROAD is a welcomed addition to an already sterling catalog. Not as strong as, say, SCARECROW, THE LONESOME JUBILEE, HUMAN WHEELS or MR. HAPPY GO LUCKY, but certainly better than DANCE NAKED and WHENEVER WE WANTED, the disc, for the most part, successfully showcases many of Mellencamp's strong points, as well as a few of his weaker ones. Things kick off with the easy, yet edgy, groove of "Someday", a classic JM cut. Awash in crisp instrumentation, a powerful lead vocal and soaring backing vocals, the track wraps around the pointed lyrics ("How many times can a spirit be broken/For this is the kingdom of heaven we're given/Good fortune will come to those who create peace") and doesn't let go. A great album opener! The same can be said for "Ghost Towns Along The Highway", which has an almost eerie, airy vibe to it. As Mellencamp questions whether Americans are being displaced against their will, or it's just their nature to roam, an angelic chorus chimes in, adding a touch of sorrow to this wistful, albeit powerful, track. Not as strong is "The Americans." Mellencamp has always been at his best when his music just seems to flow out of him. Conversely, he's at his worst when it seems forced. "The Americans" definitely seems forced, what with it's cliched lyrics and "been-there, done-that" melody....you know he's trying to "say" something, but what? Is it a simple, honest statement? Is he being condesending? Is he masking his true feelings? All in all, "The Americans" just doesn't gel the way Mellencamp's best material usually does. Far and away superior is the lovely "Forgiveness," probably the album's strongest cut. Cushioned by a muted, simple arrangement, Mellencamp bares his soul like rarely before: "When I think of all the wrong I've done/I can't believe it's me I'm talking about/I bet the same goes for you." Such naked honesty is to be applauded, as is the sentiment - no flowery prose or wisely rhymed couplet, just the truth, spoken/sung from the heart. Without a doubt, "Forgiveness" ranks as one of Mellencamp's Top Ten best songs....ever! Next up is the disc's cryptic title track. Mellencamp makes it very clear that there's evil and good, right and wrong, but he never comes across as preachy. Augmented by John Gunnell's killer bass riffs, the cut is another strong addition to the disc. Musically, "Jim Crow" is both captivating and hypnotic, but lyrically it once again seems forced, like Mellencamp is TRYING to make a point. Actually, if any real point is made, it's how well Mellencamp handles himself with a female duet partner; in the past, it's been with the likes of Rickie Lee Jones, Trisha Yearwood and Me'shell Ndegeocello...here it's Joan Baez. There's just something about the timbre of his voice that works so well with a female counterpoint. I, for one, wouldn't mind seeing at least one female guest star on any and all future releases! Heck, I'd even go for an album of duets! You have to sit down with the lyrics to "Our Country" to really appreciate it, and to realize it's so much more than just a "car commercial" ditty. Among jangling guitars and sweeping choruses, Mellencamp addesses America, in all it's wonder and warts, beauty and bile. Things aren't perfect, but the dream is still alive, and that's all that matters. "Rural Route" has a sort of Southern Gothic vibe to it, all spooky and sinister. The sparse arrangement snakes around the dark lyrics ("Air stinks of crystal meth/On the rural route/Someone predicts a young girl's death/On the rural route/Father refuses to answer any questions/From the rural route"), resulting in a tale and a song that is chilling, mesmerizing and tuneful all at the same time. THAT'S class-A songwriting! "My Aeroplane" is FREEDOM'S ROAD's most care-free number, all groovy garage band instrumentation and smiley-faced lyrics. Thing is, it works! The album wraps up with "Heaven Is A Lonely Place" and the hidden track "Rodeo Clown." "Heaven...." has a killer retro feel to it - dig the guitars! - and sharp lyrics, while "Rodeo Clown" is the disc's most politically charged cut. Sadly, it stands out like a sore thumb, not really fitting in here. I'd wager this is one of the songs from an earlier disc - circa 2005 - that Mellencamp shelved because it was too political. I'm sure a number of FREEDOM ROAD's tracks were taken from that scrapped effort, with new ones written and added later on, which at times gives the album a slightly schizo, two-albums-in-one feel. However, I'm just glad to have John Mellencamp recording again, something he said he might stop doing because he didn't think anyone was listening any more. Forget that, John - after almost 30 years, you're still writing "a song that everybody could sing along!" (As with all my reviews, I have to dock the disc half a star for not including the lyrics)."
Still on an artistic upswing, this is Mellencamp's latest in
Boss Fan | Take a Right at the Light, Keep Going Straight Unt | 01/24/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I usually resist writing a review of a new album until I've had it a while and listened to it a few times through. Unless we are talking about a live album or a greatest hits compilation or something of that sort, reviewed from a rather technical aspect, I find that most albums - unless they immediately stand out as something truly amazing and/or original (and that doesn't happen often) - take a while to grow on me and my opinion of them tends to change after I take few listens. Fickle record buyers and listeners should beware not to pick up a new album, skip through the tracks and then dismiss it simply because nothing jumps out as a catchy single and/or something like the artist's past mega-hits.
I find this ideology applies to no one more than Mellencamp - and perhaps every classic rock artist still making albums to a fraction of the sales they had in their heyday. Adults don't buy albums the way kids do and if there is no new single from Mellencamp and his counterparts, fans may not even know he has a new album out, much less see any reason to buy it since he long ago stopped trying to duplicate his past hits just to stay on the singles charts. (This is also why the top tours every year are constantly from classic rockers, but their albums sell half of what the latest from 50 Cent and the like sell - too bad, but good for these guys standing their artistic ground).
So normally I would let my opinion of a new John Mellencamp record simmer until I have mulled over each song a bit more in order to discover my true feelings about it. But, since buying it this morning, I have listened to the album through a few times, revisited key songs that stand out a few more, and I think it is safe to say that this album earns a recommendation. It is not one that feels like an instant classic, nor does it do anything earthsatteringly new that we have not heard from Mellencamp before, but it is still a refreshing return to form from an artist we have not heard from in quite a few years. He is back in his "Human Wheels" mode here which, come to think of it, he has never really abandoned since that album in the early 90's. Like "Human Wheels" and his albums since, the sound is sparse, the lyrics are contemplative and there is not a "Jack and Diane" type song in site. Hell, the closest single Mellencamp has had to those classics in the last 15 or so years was "Peaceful World," but despite its peppy, infectious beat, it was still lyrically the same as all of his recent pubic-service-messages-as-music tunes.
But "Freedom's Road" is really a capper to a trilogy started with 1998's self titled album which was meant to reinvent Mellencamp's musical image. And that it did to great effect; though one would not know it by the albums sales and lack of hits (only 2 - "Your Life in Mow" and "I'm Not Running Any More" - minor hits from an album that could have - should have - had five or six). Mellencamp began writing deeper songs (pop hits and sales be damned) and delivering music of a moody, stripped down nature; implementing instruments he never could fully explore while he was R.O.C.K-ing in the U.S.A. He followed that album with the even more ambitious "Cuttin' Heads" in 2001. To give an idea of just how relevant a writer Mellencamp is, the whole album spoke of the topics music soon would be full of after 9/11. But Mellencamp finished the record before that tragic day, but still over half the songs he had written sounded like they came from yet another artist affected by those events. He's been saying the same things all along, really: There are problems in the world, we need to come together, but there is hope for humanity and hope for this great nation.
The message continues with "Freedom's Road." And though we've heard most of this from Mellencamp before, he still does this sort of thing better than almost anyone else in rock. If there is a drawback to Mellencamp as a writer, its that he is a bit too on-the-nose in his lyrics. Rather than writing poetic lyrics that can be interpreted in different ways, or losing himself and his message in characters, stories and the music itself, he delivers his message rather bluntly (sample chorus: "I'm an American/I respect you and your point of view"). This is not a bad thing necessarily, especially if you don't want to dig for deeper meanings to understand what an artist is saying, but it lends a sameness and banality to songs that are already often stripped down and hard to differentiate.
That, however, is the worst that can be said of this effort and the only real knock I have for it. Beyond that, "Freedom's Road" has plenty of joy, inspiration, and truth going for it where it lacks the variety. ("Cuttin' Heads" felt like it was kind of all over the place musically, but that is one of the things I eventually came to love about it.) The album looks promisingly to the future by recognizing the mistakes of the past ("Someday," "Jim Crow") and embraces the idea that, despite its problems, America - and Americans - is still a great nation ("The Americans," "Our Country"), but warns of the need for severe change ("Ghost Towns Along the Highway"). Not all of the tunes are as promising and optimistic as others, but the overall message is that of hope. There is plenty of sorrow on display (such as father who turns out his own daughter in "Rural Route," one of the albums best, and best written, tracks) but, as is the point; the songs of hope overcome those of pain.
Mellencamp seems to have a desire to be a red-state/blue-state unifier (though he did gig on the Vote For Change Tour) and culturally he wants us all to get along. This is obviously a noble attribute, but it doesn't always make for the most exciting songs. Of course, I'd rather hear a guy try to sort out all of the different feelings and ideals that divide this country, rather than settle it all with a boot in you're a*s because (he thinks) its the American way.
In "Our County" he sings "There's room enough here/For science to live/and there's room enough here/for religion to forgive." Say what?! You can respect science and religion? At the same time?! Who-da thought? Amen to that, JM.
So, I still feel I owe "Freedom's Road" its time to fully grow on me, but it is already a better album of newly penned material from any artist I have bought in a while. I don't think it is as good as "John Mellencamp" or "Cuttin' Heads." Those albums seemed more musically ambitious. But its clear that this album is not about sonics. Mellencamp has a lot to say. If a straight shooter like him feels the need to speak his mind, I'll surely listen.
Highlights (IMO) include the fist-pumper "Someday," "Forgiveness" with its mellow guitar strum and laidback vibe, its got the type of groove that you can just picture being done in concert in between some of the big hits and/or more rockin' anthums - and fit right in with them all, "My Aeroplane" the albums biggest and best rave-up rocker, the afore mentioned "Rural Route," and, yes haters, "Our Country," which after a few listens (to the actual song and lyrics, not just fifteen seconds of the chorus during a car commercial) you will have to admit the song is well written an undeniably infectious. Its also the most vintage Mellencamp of all the tunes here.
***FYI - not to rob Amazon of any sales, but fans may want to know Best Buy has a version of this album that includes a second disc with four acoustic versions of songs from the album (almost all of them sound more natural in this form so I think its a worthy item), while Target is offering a presale password to get first shot at tickets for Mellencamp's upcoming tour if you pick it up there. $9.99 at both. And make sure to listen for the hidden track, a scorching barn-burner presumably called "Rodeo Clown" that starts around the seven minute mark on track 10. "
John Mellencamp's Best and Most Personal Album to Date
Christine | Brighton, TN | 02/10/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The long-awaited and highly anticipated release of Freedom's Road was well worth the five-year wait. Freedom's Road is pure unparalleled John Mellencamp. Always evolving to reflect the joy and sorrow of our day-to-day lives, and the often turbulent and changing times of the world we live in, Freedom's Road goes a step further and is perhaps one of John Mellencamp's best and most personal albums to date.
John Mellencamp is one of the greatest storytellers of our time. From the landscapes of the mid-west, to a peek through the back windows of pink houses across the US, to the sweltering heat of the political climate, John Mellencamp's music always paints a picture, an image at times breathtakingly beautiful and other times heartbreakingly sad. With an unrepentant candor, John Mellencamp's music reflects the triumphs and struggles of society in an ever-changing world.
Freedom's Road is perhaps the greatest story John Mellencamp has ever told. With music complex and rich with emotion, this album is a long and winding journey as personal and unique as the individual listening. The strains of an achingly beautiful violin can bring tears to the eye, the funky bass line and old-school drumbeat inspires the free-spirited carefree desire to dance, and the echo of a haunting guitar resonates through the mind and body to settle upon the soul where its imprint will remain long after the last note fades. Freedom's Road is an introspective journey into the truths of our personal perception and pride as individuals, and as Americans.
With "Someday", the album's first track, John continues to strengthen that thread of hope for humanity, one tightly woven into every album since "Scarecrow".
"Ghost Towns Along the Highway", the violin exacting the lonely haunting images of desolate towns boarded up and abandoned along the highways, speaks on a deeper, more profoundly personal level to the choices we make in our lives. This song is about the Ghost Towns we all leave behind in our lives. We are free to choose the direction of our own lives, but how do we deal with the regret for the things we should have done and the people we might have been? Our hearts still yearn for that lost destination, as John says, "Our love keeps on moving to that nearest faraway place". Let this song settle into the soul. Let it be a reminder to stay true to the dreams that sustain us.
"The Americans" at first listen, is a patriotic celebration of American pride, its chorus partnered hand in hand with 4th of July picnics and Presidential campaigns across the US. Read the news, with eyes wide-open take a good look around at the poverty, the education crisis, and the current state of the government and its people. "The Americans" represents not the America we try in vain to show the world, but an America we must strive towards, a place where all people can live with equality, tolerance, forgiveness, and acceptance.
"Forgiveness" peers into the depths of John Mellencamp's soul as he seeks forgiveness for himself and for us all," Thank God for forgiveness, I don't know how else we could get along, without forgiveness". So simple the words, yet so complex the meaning. In order for us to move forward as a society and as a nation, we must learn to forgive.
The title track, "Freedom's Road" is a "promise to the people, you'll never fool us now, with all your lying and cheating, if you're here wanting a crown in Heaven well it's out there of freedom's road, freedom's road, if you want to take a ride you've got to pay the toll". Freedom's Road is the journey toward peace; a tumultuous one hindered by malevolence, but we have learned to recognize the face of evil. We will not be fooled again. John is reminding us that we must pay the price and learn from our mistakes if we are to move forward in this world.
Joan Baez accompanies John Mellencamp on "Jim Crow", almost too honest and shameful at first listen to be likeable, but fans of John Mellencamp will liken it to "Jackie Brown". Listen to it once and it will not ever be forgotten. Racism exists in this world as blatant as Jim Crow of the past, or ignorantly disguised behind a mask of those in power, a friend, or a stranger. This song leaves it suspended in the air, not offering a solution, but begging for it to fall and shatter on the ground, disintegrating into oblivion for the last time.
The debate surrounding John Mellencamp, "Our Country" and its use in the Chevy commercials are part of the controversy that has followed John throughout his career. Acceptable or not, his political views and career choices always ignite controversy, demanding people think for themselves and take a stand. Lost in the fray is the song's Woody Guthrie-style anthem, "Let the voice of freedom sing out through this land, this is our country", a statement ever hopeful of peace and freedom for all people.
"Rural Route", based on a true story, tells the story of a 10 year-old girl abducted, raped, and murdered in a rural town. So vivid the story, images play across the mind, the music a haunting background full of anguish. John sings, "Here's my prayer loud and clear from the rural route, forgive us Lord and get us out of here, off this rural route. Oh merciful Father, show us the will here on the rural route, give us the mercy for the drug addicted and the mentally ill, on the rural route". Through the self-centered preoccupation of our daily lives, we find it easier to look the other way, grateful such tragedy has not touched our lives. But listen to this song, let the music reveal the heartbreak and sorrow of this tragedy. Let "Rural Route" remind us that we must share the responsibility for the failures and the horrors on the rural routes, the inner cities, and the suburban neighborhoods.
After the devastating truth of "Jim Crow" and "Rural Route", the next track, "My Aeroplane", just might tempt anyone listening to stop whatever they are doing, turn the song up just as loud as it can go, and dance with wild abandon. Anyone nearby who hears the song will soon be dancing right along, lost in flight, high above it all without a care in the world, flying in that aeroplane. In this song, John continues his eternal pursuit of writing that perfect song. He believes he has not ever written that one song, the one song that has the power to make a difference in this world. However, John Mellencamp's most loyal fans know that he has written not just one perfect song, but several.
The last listed track, "Heaven is a Lonely Place", lets loose on the evils of our modern world. From crystal-meth to homophobic hypocrites and journalistic lapdogs, this song offers up the shallow trappings and downfalls that keep us from heaven's golden gates. "Ain't you so hip now", says John, "you sure look cool, wonder what the price will be for acting like such a fool, heaven is a lonely place, taking down those golden gates".
The hidden, but by far the most outspoken track, "Rodeo Clown", articulates quite clearly John Mellencamp's feelings about our country's political leaders and the consequences of their lies. "When the truth is found the houses surely fall down, there's blood on their mouths of all lies and liars, the bloody red eyes of the rodeo clown".
Partnered with the world's greatest rock and roll band, John Mellencamp has created one of the best albums of his career. John Mellencamp's music always has a message and captures forever the defining moments in our lives.
Freedom's Road exposes the worst humanity has to offer, racism, intolerance, war, and the atrocities committed against the young and the innocent. Yet, as only John Mellencamp can, each song finds its way toward hope, equality, acceptance, and forgiveness.
Some may not like what John Mellencamp has to say, and that's okay he's used to that. Still others will turn their heads and look the other way.
For those willing to not only hear, but actually listen, Freedom's Road gives us permission to take a good, long hard look inside ours souls. Freedom's Road urges us to find the wisdom to learn from the past, and gives us the strength to continue to fight for a better world. A more peaceful, tolerant, accepting and forgiving world. John Mellencamp believes that world is possible.
John Mellencamp says, "If you want a better world, it starts with one person, and that's you".
Freedom's Road has the power to change the world one person at a time.
One of Mellencamp's Finest
Rick D. Moore | Delavan, WI USA | 01/28/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Forget that annoying and overplayed Chevy ad. Whether it's an opportunity to broaden his musical base or a crass sellout, the fact remains that "Freedom's Road" is a solid album and probably John Mellencamp's finest work in at least a decade. The smoldering anger that permeated 2001's impressive "Cuttin' Heads" gives way to more subdued emotions on an album that essentially serves as a commentary on the plight of our nation. A tired frustration is clear in the initial verse of the somber opening track "Someday." From there, an almost palatable loneliness seeps from "Ghost Towns Along the Highway," "Forgiveness," and "Rural Route." The feistier side of the artist takes charge with the excellent "Freedom's Road" and overexposed "Our Country." Joan Baez comes aboard for the exquisitely restrained "Jim Crow." Perhaps the album's finest moment comes with "Heaven is a Lonely Place" as Mellencamp's takes clear aim at "homophobic hypocrites scarin' us half to death." As if that was not enough, the hidden track, "Rodeo Clown" delivers his less-than flattering assessment of Dubya."