Long before he had to learn the Bruce Springsteen songbook--prime criteria for joining the E Street band--Nils Lofgren had a lucrative solo career of some note. Granted, his history as a sideman beginning with Neil Young and Crazy Horse and for more than two decades with Bruce's band may have overshadowed some of his individual musical offerings. Early in his career post Grin, the critically acclaimed group he fronted and formed in a Maryland suburb north of Washington, D.C., Lofgren as a soloist sensed his true calling. In a bit of irony, it was Springsteen's manager, Jon Landau, formerly a renowned rock critic who wrote for Rolling Stone among others, who provided the rave review of that first album that stoked the fire for the next phase of the former classical music student's rock endeavors. (From a historical viewpoint, Landau ironically inked something similar for Springsteen--with a rather notable quote--well in advance of becoming his cohort.) Being a great proponent of teen angst in his songwriting--maybe because it was peer-group pressure or plain thinking--Lofgren switched to A&M Records for one Grin album and then released Nils Lofgren produced by the late David Briggs (also available from Hip-O Select) before this gem, Cry Tough. With the production work of seasoned keyboardist/arranger Al Kooper (the Blues Project; Blood, Sweat and Tears; Lynyrd Skynyrd) and Briggs on a select number of songs, the shared duties reaped wondrous rewards. It has to be mentioned that Briggs had a history with Lofgren before that first solo effort--as producer of Grin, and then some. For it was also Briggs who offered Neil Young a ride while he was hitchhiking and that serendipitous encounter cemented a lifelong artistic working relationship for him, primarily as Young's record producer. As intimated above, Lofgren via Briggs spent some time with Crazy Horse, Young's recording and backing group on tour. And Lofgren learning to play the piano is one of those legendary anecdotes. With Cry Tough you get the anthems, the edginess and the biting guitar licks for which Lofgren became known. From the first note of the title song through the smarminess of the closer, "Jailbait" (a gutbucket, Southern rock-flavored funky grind), it's better than a rollercoaster ride. There's even a unique arrangement and cover of the Yardbirds' classic "For Your Love" (written by future 10cc co-founder Graham Gouldman). But the tough and more sensitive stuff is truly Lofgren. Both "Mud In Your Eye" and "Incidentally...It's Over" are astute commentaries on personal relationships. "Can't Get Closer (WCGC)" is sheer youthful frustration in rock song--with some great slide guitar work courtesy of Nils. And with the authority and prescription that crazy Dr. Feelgood wrote for our multi-instrumentalist, we offer the same antidote: "Cry tough, go down your soul, you just need another shot of rock 'n' roll..." That necessary dose can all be found on Cry Tough, now available from Hip-Oselect.com.
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David E. Keller | South Florida | 07/28/2010
(5 out of 5 stars)
"It's great to have this music available on cd! I am a big fan of Nils and have been since his early work with Grin, Crazy Horse, and Neil Young back around the "After The Gold Rush" album days. Nils released this music after his first solo album, "Nils Lofgren", which has a fantastic ode to Keith Richards called "Keith Don't Go", and another great album shortly after this called "I Came To Dance" that was released around 1976. The songs are great, his guitar playing on that Strat is off the charts, and his singing is so joyful it's contagious. This cd, along with the albums Nils released right before it and right after it, are classics, and among the most solid rock'n'roll albums anybody's released back to back to back. I love them, so it has to be five stars. If you like rock'n'roll you can't go wrong with any of these three albums. There's a reason Neil Young and Bruce Springsteen both picked this guy to play with! Listen to these and find out why."