Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Joan Jett and the Blackhearts - Album

In June of 1983, Joan Jett and the Blackhearts (Gary Ryan on bass, Ricky Byrd on guitar, and Lee Crystal on drums) released their third studio recording simply called Album. It charted at number 85 in Australia, number 29 in Sweden, number 20 on the US Billboard Hot 200, and number 19 in Norway.

The original vinyl release had twelve tracks total. The 1992 CD release added another six tracks, three of which are original tunes co-penned by Jett. For today’s 30th anniversary we will just look at the original vinyl format.

Side one begins with my favorite track on the album - “Fake Friends”. As the debut single, it went to number 82 in Australia, number 35 on the US Billboard Hot 100, and number 18 on the US Mainstream Rock chart. The song starts with a great grinding guitar riff from Jett and Byrd. I love the whole middle-finger attitude this one gives to people who are only nice to you because they want to get something out knowing you.

“Handyman” is one that wrestles with a love-hate relationship for a guy. Bassist Ryan and drummer Crystal keep the strong foundation rhythm going while Jett gives a raw, sexually anxious vocal performance.

Next Jett covers Sly and the Family Stone’s 1968 hit “Everyday People”. Jett and the guys do a great job on this anthem that celebrates diversity and tolerance. As the second single, it went to number 96 in Australia and number 37 on the US Billboard Hot 100.

“A Hundred Feet Away” tells of a young girl and a rich man who fantasize about being together but are forced to keep their distance.

“Secret Love”, with its clandestine affair, opens with a solid guitar solo. It was selected for the B-side to the third single.

Next up a cover of the Rolling Stones’ 1973 hit “Star Star”, unlisted on the original cassette version and removed on the later cassette release. The Blackhearts infuse their cover of this celebrity-slatherfest with lots of energy, and Jett's growl can hold its own against Mick Jagger's snarl.

Side two opens with “The French Song”. As the third single, it went to number 42 in Canada and number 30 on the US Mainstream Rock charts. Jett gets all breathy and seductive for the verses on this one. The chorus of "J'aime faire I'amour sur tout a trois" is implying that the lead character in the song prefers to make love as part of a threesome.

“Tossin’ & Turnin’” was a number 1 hit in 1961 for Bobby Lewis and was resurrected in 1978’s Animal House as well as on the TV show Happy Days. Jett re-interprets this classic for a new decade.

With a slower tempo, "Why Can't We Be Happy" gets all introspective and asks the question many people face at least once in their life. The melancholy guitar riffs really add to the mood of the song. It was used as the B-side to the second single.

“I Love Playing with Fire” shows an addictive risk-taking personality even though the singer clearly indicates she does not want to get burned by it. She simply cannot resist.

The B-side to the first single was “Coney Island Whitefish”. It tells of dating gone sour and the guy who does not comprehend that she wants nothing further to do with him. The title comes from a slang term that implies a used condom that has washed back up on the beach.

"Had Enough" closes out the original vinyl with another song about being through with a past relationship.

From back in the 80's, I was familiar with Joan Jett's chart topping hits; I had many of them on 45's. But I never really got fully into her albums until five ago (thanks to relatively inexpensive MP3 downloads from Of the five Joan Jett albums I have so far I would probably rank Album in the middle of the pack. If you like hard rocking guitar music, you might want to give this one a listen.

Previously reviewed on the blog is Joan Jett's 1981 album Bad Reputation - click here to read that one.

1 comment:

HERC said...

Since I loved the I Love Rock-n-Roll album and to a lesser extent Bad Reputation, I was very excited when the follow-up Album was released. And was immediately disappointed. Let me explain:

Rushed home after buying it, put album on turntable, popped blank cassette in tape deck and recorded it without listening to it while I did homework in living room so I could watch TV.

Went out that night and grabbed the cassette out of deck to play in my folks car. Had to turn volume way, way up to hear anything so my first thought was "I bought a defective record." Switched from tape back to radio, nearly blew my eardrums out so I rode in silence until I got back home.

Put album on and plugged headphones in as we had a quiet after 9 rule at our house. The record sounded fine at my normal listening volume which was "6" on the dial - wanna say it went up to 12.

Looked at tape deck and the sliders for the recording level were both down around "2" instead of my usual "8" - I had recorded it at very low levels. Never bothered checking recording levels before but after that I always did. As near as I could figure, my Mom dusted my stereo set-up pretty vigorously one day and somehow slid the sliders.

Recorded a new copy of Album with proper levels and fell in love with it. I'd have to say I liked it better than her previous one and would definitely rank it as one my of my Top 10 albums for 1983. Don't know why it didn't catch on with radio or the paying public. Completely agree with you about "Fake Friends" and it's attitude both musically and lyrically. Also liked her version of "Everyday People" a lot. And "The French Song"? Ooh la la.

Had no idea about "Star Star" on cassette at the time - came across the song when I bought the 12" single of "Everyday People" around Christmas 1983. The A-side featured a John Luongo remix while the B-side was the non-album track "Star Star". Good stuff. Don't remember ever seeing any videos from this album so I looked them up on YouTube. She didn't take herself too seriously which is a good thing in my book.

Liked Jett's next album a little less and she lost me with Good Music - used to joke that it was mistitled. She came back strong after that with a few great songs and while some of her latter stuff is available on Spotify, most of her catalog including her first four albums are not. Guess that's what Local Files are for.