""John Cougar" was John Mellencamp's third record, although it was his first major label release and yielded his breakthrough hit. I first became aware of John Mellencamp in 1982 when I was 12 and he released "American Fool," which included the huge hits "Hurts So Good" and "Jack & Diane." I purchased this CD about a year ago, mostly for "I Need a Lover," which I occasionally heard on classic rock stations. I wasn't very impressed. At first listen, the CD sounded too slick and a long way from the roots rocker Mellencamp would eventually become. However, after giving it a second chance and several more listens, I've come to like "John Cougar" quite a bit. It's clearly not as good as his later music, but the promise he would later show is here.
"I Need a Lover" is one of the best songs here, and became his first hit, peaking at #28 on the Top 100 in 1979. I love the extended piano and guitar introduction; Mellencamp's vocals don't kick in until the 2:30 mark. Another highlight is the hard-rocking "Miami." The chorus is arresting, replete with handclaps similar to "Jack of Diane." In addition, the instrumentation is interesting and reminds me a bit of his later song "Key West Intermezzo."
"Great Mid-West" is another interesting song, as it really shows the direction he'd eventually move - chronicling the lives of people who live a simple life in the heartland. The opening couplet is fantastic - "Everything is slower here/ everybody's got a union card." The music for the song, though, doesn't quite jell, especially the heavy-metal style guitar licks. Indeed the major drawback of the CD is the slickness that creeps in here and there. Clearly, Mellencamp's label wanted him to be a vapid rock idol. However, Mellencamp's writing skills help keep the CD on track, and the highlights definitely cover the rough patches. Overall, although not as skillful as Mellencamp's later CDs, "John Cougar" is worthwhile. "
Thomas Magnum | NJ, USA | 02/07/2001
(3 out of 5 stars)
"John Cougar's self-titled debut is a solid, workman like effort. The album shows some big potential, specifically in the hit single "I Need A Lover". The song is a perfect FM radio hit, big hooks, catchy chorus, crashing guitars and pounding drums. There are a couple of other decent songs like "Small Paradise", "Miami" & "A Little Night Music", but the rest of the album consists of less than great songs with "Taxi Dancer", "Welcome To Chinatown" & "The Great Mid-West" particularly falling short."
Peter Letheby | Adelaide, South Australia Australia | 12/13/2003
(3 out of 5 stars)
"I saw a revealing interview with "Johnny Cougar" on an Australian TV variety program back in '79/80. After performing "I Need A Lover" - a big hit down under - Cougar was asked about his ambitions.
His reply was unusually honest for commercial TV, saying that he was still trying to "find" his voice and was unsure about his current direction. This album represents where Cougar was at back then, and is a snapshot of a certain time. He would go on to develop and hone his instincts in later releases but this is a fair starting point.By the way: this album is not his debut - that "honour" belongs to John's 1976 album "Chestnut Street Incident", followed by "The Kid Inside"."
Get it right
Robert Andrews | atlanta ga | 08/10/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"first of all john mellencamp never called himself john cougar. that was stamped on him by the record labels. actually it was johnny cougar he had to fight to get the johnny dumped.second to think there are only two songs this record that matter, makes me wonder if commercial music has truly oppressed great music, because "small paradise" is a jewel.also "i need a lover" was probably his first "true" hit. pat benetar covered it as well. "great midwest" another solid lyrical composition and tune. and finally "taxi dancer" exceptional song with actual meaning and witty lyric.in short buy the record it's a mellencamp classic.thats my humble opinion and i'm sticking to it."
A decent effort
L. B. Ivarsson | Rock City | 03/18/2003
(2 out of 5 stars)
""Night dancing" and "Do you think that's fair?" gives us a hint of what to come later on, when John Cougar Mellencamp released his strongest album ever by the name of "Lonesome jubilee". But this album was released many years earlier while he still used to call himself John Cougar and it's not a great effort, except for the two mentioned songs. I guess a dedicated fan will find pleasure in this album but the casual listener should go for "Lonesome jubilee" or "Scarecrow"."