on 11 September 2010
I've followed John Mellencamp for years and always admired his honesty and dedication. He's probably one of the most authentic artists around and doesn't trouble himself with trends always following his muse and putting one hundred and ten percent into his projects. No difference here and the way he has sought out authenticity in the production of this album is admirable. The warmness of the sound and the feeling conveyed in the songs is quite apparent. Whether they benefit from mono treatment is questionable although I find the uncluttered sound to be a refreshing change from the artificial loudness and saturation of modern recordings. My big problem with this album is that it's hard going. The lyrical content is, as always, thought provoking and relevant but after a few songs I just tune out. Maybe it's just not my cup of tea so i'll just appreciate what JM is doing and leave it at that. Like Springsteen he's reached a stage in his life where he can call his own shots and indulge his whims. Good on him for that but, again like Springsteen, it's not always as rewarding for the listener as it might be for the performer.
on 2 October 2010
As mentioned by other reviewers, this album contains some of Mellancamp's best work. Songs like "Love at First Sight" and "Each Day of Sorrow" are simply breathtaking. "Clumsy old World" and "Easter Eve" are not far behind (even if the latter is reminiscent of County Fair from Life, Death, Love and Freedom). So why package up such superb music in an inferior mono recording? Granted, the mono recording does lend a degree of old-fashioned warmth to the listener's experience. However, while JM may be making a statement against modern, digital technology for technology's sake, real life is in stereo. If John played in your front room, you would hear him in stereo. The songs on this record are undeniably strong enough to convey similar warmth - even if recorded as they were performed - in stereo. Five star song-writing, five star performances packaged in three star MONO.
on 10 May 2013
This album has been recorded in MONO and in live sessions either at Sun Studios in Memphis, or in at the Savannah First African Baptist Church in Georgia, USA; with one track recorded in a hotel room in San Antonio, where Robert Johnson first recorded. It sounds like a pilgrimage for a blues fan. However, because of the scaled down production by T-Bone Burnett, it does not sound as bluesy, bouncy and echoey as, say, the collection of covers released by Mellencamp in 2003. There are a few variations in genres too: blues, folk, country... sometimes intertwined. Nevertheless, the overall sound is of an acoustic intimate gig.
Is it worth buying if you like some of John Mellencamp's music? It will come down to personal preferences. There are 13 tracks and a couple of them are over 6 mins long, so there's plenty on offer. Myself, I have found that I only really like 7 songs, but some of them I truly love and I know I will keep on listening to them, for a long time. My very favourite is `Don't Forget About Me' ***(*) a country waltz of sort; the tune is simple and direct with a nice swing to it, the vocals are unaffected and the lyrics are very touching, full of love and vulnerability: "Don't forget about me, When you break your promises and lose our name, I'm still gonna love you just the same." Ironically, Mellencamp and his 3rd wife Elaine separated later that year, in 2010, after 18 years of marriage. She took the picture featuring on the album, it's their oldest son Hud under the hat! The other outstanding song is `Save Some Time To Dream' *** a beautiful ballad to start the album, but with bittersweet advice ("Save some time for sorrow
Cause it will surely come your way") that sets the tone for some of the cynicism and disillusion which keep popping their heads all the way through this CD.
Three other songs I listen to pretty often are acoustic love songs: `Thinking About You' **(*) is a folk ballad, I'm less keen on the voice that JM puts on for this one though; `Love at First Sight' **(*) is pretty funny and ends with a lovely touch, like a soft loving kiss; `Clumsy Ol' World' **(*) has witty lyrics too and even JM laughs at the end (his voice is superb on this track, in turn very sure and then quite delicate at the end), but there is a sense of inevitability in the love story he describes. I think quite a few of these songs betray a certain anxiety: the end of one's life but also the end of one's love.
I also like `The West End' ** which is a blues and `A Graceful Fall' ** which is a country song. The tracks I have not really come back to are `Coming Down The Road' *(*) folk and a bit repetitive, `Right Behind Me' * a bit jazzy, `No One Cares About Me' * country folk, long lament about a chap who puts it all down to having a spotty skin! `Easter Eve' * a long story about a guy who ends up in a cell for 10 minutes, after eating somewhere with his son, the single `No Better Than This' (*) which seems to go in circles, and the blues `Each Day of Sorrow'. Overall, it seems that John Mellencamp wanted to explore his feeling of getting old, and maybe by keeping it all understated, he thought we wouldn't notice... It's okay, no one is getting any younger and thanks for making it rhyme for us Mr. Mellencamp.
If you only remember John Cougar Mellencamp for songs like `Hurts So Good' or `Cherry Bomb', you will be amazed at how far he is taking you with this album, and if you buy all his LPs you will still get a surprise: he's not repeating himself and I don't believe he is stalling either; he is still looking around and offering us a fascinating experience.
So, is it a problem that this album was recorded in Mono? Does it spoil the experience? I don't think so. I find it's just fine, especially if I turn off the megabass booster on my CD player.
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.
on 9 September 2010
I have been a fan of John Mellencamp through his many guises so look forward to every new album. This is a back to basics Mono album that takes a few tracks to get into....and then it really works. A real Blue Grass album that pays homage to Woody Guthrie and early Johnny Cash (Sun Recordings). Every note and chord crisply sounds out from guitar and fiddle & JM's calm understated, gravelly, vocals fits in nicely.
on 8 September 2010
Reading the reviews on John Mellencamps 'No Better Than This' CD I appear to be in a minority of one ..... but such is life .. I can live with that.
Having followed John Mellencamps career avidly since the late 70's through its highs and lows it disappoints me to report that this release is bitterly underwhelming and the mono recording verges on being unlistenable !
Unlike other reviewers I do not like the production style of T.Bone Burnett and in my humble opinion his influence has not had a positive impact on this or previous Mellencamp releases....
Like it or not Mellencamp and Burnett are living in the here and now so when people are spending thousands on equipment to play music, releasing a record that would sound bad on a 1960's record player is at the very least self indulgent.
This would be an 'interesting' bonus disc to the 'Rural Route' collection for those with the inclination to revist the past.
I acknowledge the artistic intentions of making this record sound as close to those originally recorded and released from the studios where this was recorded but there has to be better way than purely cloning those recording techniques and producing a sound that merely imitates.
This CD was recorded during breaks in the tour that Mellencamp was on at the time with Dylan and Nelson.
Their influence is apparent all the way through this. Mellencamp has always wanted to be a hybrid Bob Dylan / Willie Nelson character and he gets very close to his goal though the cost is a loss of his own identify.
The songs themselves are actually pretty strong and with a decent production and some variation in the arrangements could have been very good.
Unfortunately, everything is lost in the tinny mono sound becomes tiresome very quickly.
This had the potential to be good but would be best listened to live on a porch somewhere in middle America not in your living room or in your car.
'No better than this' - I do hope so or my 30+ year association with Mr Mellencamp and his music may be coming to an end.
on 3 September 2010
Wow!- Every so often you buy a record that blows you away and you know straight away that you are listening to something a little bit special.Recorded in Mono and all the better for it (other artists please take note)the production by T. Bone Burnett is as you would expect (giving the artist's songs the room to breathe).Mellencamp has always been a very good writer but on this and his last record (the brilliant Life,Death,Love & Freedom)he has reached a new level and i would say at the time of writing on current form probably the best rock artist around.
The songs are lyrically very strong how about this from A Graceful Fall "Yeah I'm sick of life, 'Cause it's lost its fun" he sings-the songs are largely acoustic based but also have an old style Rock n' Roll feel at times reminding you of Creedence Clearwater Revival at there best.The record was recorded partly in a hotel room where the great Robert Johnson once recorded,they also recorded in a church and also at Sun studio's where Elvis Presley once recorded,so you can imagine what producer and artist were trying to achieve and the results are majestic.These songs sound so natural it is obvious that Mellencamp is currently living and breathing music and has surrounded himself with top quality musicians who are giving him exactly what he wants from them.His voice has matured and his phrasing improves with every record he makes and he now joins a small band of artists who defy the odds and improve with age rather than just make another record.Yes indeed Mellencamp can now be mentioned as being on a par with some of the great writers such as Bob Dylan,Ian Hunter,Graham Parker and Bruce Springsteen with his observations on life and his outstanding ability as a tunesmith,this record will make you think while you sing a towering achievment- a must buy.