on 8 February 2007
"Return to form" is an overused term, but this is the Mellencamp sound familar from his classic albums, Scarecrow and The Lonesome Jubilee. Cracking tunes, that distinctive Mellencamp vocal, a dose of politics and some great musicians. There's not a duff track here. Even the unnamed extra track is a good one. This is the sound of the US Midwest back with us again after all these years.
on 26 January 2007
I have obtained a copy of Freedoms Road today, 25/01/2007, via US Import. I can whole heartedly guarantee that anyone who purchases this album will not be disappointed. From "Someday" onwards, this is JM back to his anthemic best. Although "Our Country" was played to death in the US during NFL programmes, it somehow feels fresh amongst the collection of songs on this album. John effortlessly winds his way through the tracks, but you can almost taste Grandma's apple pie, the album is so heartland America. I have every Mellencamp release from Kid Inside to the covers album Trouble No More and in my opinion Freedoms Road is up there with Scarecrow & The Lonesome Jubilee that is right back to form.
John appeared not to know which way to turn and uncomfortable with the success of these two albums (and of course American Fool and Uh-Huh!)however having lived through mid-life crisis albums such as Dance Naked and Human Wheels-he is back! There are singalongs such as Our Country & The Americans, but this album also contains a more bluesy and of course the standard country feel.
The Best Mellencamp Release of new material for 20 Years, try it. Tom Petty & Bruce Springsteen please take note, this is how it should be done!!
on 12 February 2007
I have grown up with Mellencamp all my life and know all of his albums intimately. This one is superb. Like Scarecrow and Lonesome Jubilee, it crackles with social comment that just might make it a classic in years to come. Although some tunes are very catchy singalongs - like 'The Americans' and 'Our Country' - the better songs offer a darker take on hearltand America, mysteriously mixed with a sense of nostalgia for whatever has been lost (e.g. 'Ghost Towns along the Highway', 'Jim Crow' and 'Rural Route'). 'My Aeroplane' is uplifting, while my favourite song is the hidden track 'Rodeo Clown,' which is a protest song that absolutely ROCKS (all pop/rock bands currently writing protest songs should take note of this one: Mellencamp, as usual, shows us how it's done!)
I'm emphatically with the enthusiasts here - this is a great album, and ranks with John Mellencamp's best material. If you liked "Scarecrow" and "Lonesome Jubilee", you'll like this one. This has the same energy and bite; it's superb.
This is heavier than much of his output, but more powerful and impressive than "Everything We Wanted", a heavy album but one which I found a bit discordant. By contrast, this album shows Mellencamp's distinctive Heartland Rock at its best.
It's difficult to pick out individual tracks on an album that is so consistently good, but there are three tracks which alone, for me, justify the purchase price.
"Someday" is a superb opener, whilst "Jim Crow" is a real stand-out, and gets better with each listen. "The Americans" is patriotic, but talks about values, in a moving, thoughtful and non-jingoistic way - "I'm an American, and I respect you, and your point of view". Simply superb.
on 10 May 2013
This can only be described as a country album. It includes some earnest and uncomplicated songs as well as some atmospheric and dark tracks. All the songs have been penned by JM and the Canadian band Little Big Town has been invited to do the backing vocals, all the way through. They are quite dominant at times, a wall of voices that keeps that crowded, country & western gathering ambiance upbeat.
I must confess that country music is not something I am very familiar with nor particularly enjoy. The more country the track, the less I like it. I find the singles `Someday' *(*), `The Americans' *(*), `Our Country' (*) to be quite repetitive. Being European, I hear sarcasm in the lyrics, but I wouldn't dream of offending anyone. However, that's where the interest in these songs lay, for me. `Our Country' is JM's take on the This Land is Your Land theme and it is not very original. Nevertheless, these 3 tunes are fine and cheery enough; they are not tearjerkers.
On the other hand, the darker the music and the sadder the lyrics, the more I get into it... So on this album I do like `Ghost Towns Along the Highway' **(*), here the backing vocals create a nice veil that rises at one point and they are not too overwhelming, great rhythm and drum beat, rock guitars and violin, lovely vocals by JM. `Rural Route' **(*) is pretty stark: very intense atmosphere with soft vocals, but what a horrid tale of a father who traded his daughter for favors, there are guitars, violin and clapping and it does build up brilliantly, little by little. `Jim Crow' **(*) is a duet with Joan Baez (who sounds a bit like Cher here), the vocals are nice, accompanied by a great guitar conversation, the arrangement is a bit old-fashioned, which is perfect because the lyrics are a long metaphor about racism and discrimination; Jim Crow is not a person but a series of local US laws declared unconstitutional in 1954 (worth looking up online).
Some songs sit in between the troubling stories and the happy line dancing stuff. `Freedom's Road' ** is country music but the voices here are tougher in tone. `Heaven is a Lonely Place' *(*) has a faster pace and is quite repetitive; unfortunately it can't decide what it is, it's a bit all over the place at the chorus, there's a lot going on (clapping, violin) and a bit of Bob Dylan or The Traveling Wilburys influence too: it's too busy, too many spices. But if you let the CD run you will discover a hidden track (you must wait at least 3 min if you cannot fastforward your CD!) called `Rodeo Clown' ** which is quite good, with warm vocal harmony and a crowd atmosphere; it makes me think of Springsteen of late. `My Aeroplane' **(*) has a good swing to it; at first I found it childish, because of the lyrics, but it could have featured on the 1996 album Mr. Happy Go Lucky: it's quite original and stops you in your tracks, I'd rather dance to that track than the singles mentioned earlier.
I've left my fav song of the album for last, `Forgiveness' ***, which may seem too simple at first, but it is the directness that carries the emotion here: it's got quite a sentimental pulling at the end of each chorus, well, for me anyway and maybe you have to be ready to hear such words to accept them at face value: "I bet the same goes for you"...
This John Mellencamp album can grow on you, it's not necessary the case with all his work where one sometimes knows, right from the first listen, that they'll never get into a certain sound or they'll never stop loving a particular track. Out of about 20 Mellencamp studio albums, this country one, surprisingly, makes it into my top 10. Buy it and give it a chance.
Some punters have complained that the packaging is cheap (gatefold card sleeve): it's not the most solid to protect the disc. There are some paintings by JM on the cover and some photos by his 3rd wife Elaine. Some customers have received a version with a misprint (no credits and no words printed at all), that may become collector's item one day. There should be some credits and thanks inside the front cover, but there are no lyrics.
For the record, I own all JM's albums and I have uploaded more reviews . I give **** max. to tracks I love, * to songs I feel are still worth listening to.