Friday, February 3, 2023

The View On Pop Culture: Ian Hunter, Graham Parker, Joe Grushecky, The Ramones (2001)

The Ramones' The Ramones


Forget all about your Creed, your Limp Bizkit, your Korn – the true heartbeat of rock ‘n’ roll isn’t going to be found on the top of the Billboard charts or on corporate radio; it may even be hard to find on the shelves of your local music retailer. Current releases from grizzled rock veterans like Graham Parker, Ian Hunter, and Joe Grushecky prove that giants still walk the earth and what the young pups don’t know, the old lions understand.

Although he’ll never shake off his status as the guiding light of Mott the Hoople – one of the greatest rock bands ever – Ian Hunter’s lengthy solo career is no chopped liver in its own right. From his early collaborations with Bowie axeman Mick Ronson to Rant (Fuel 2000 Records), his latest effort, Hunter has never fudged his legacy as a true son of rock ‘n’ roll. An eclectic and electric collection of songs, Rant lives up to every word of praise that Hunter has ever received. Combining personal reflections with a unique songwriting skill and guitar-driven roots rock, Hunter’s muse has mellowed only slightly during the passing years. “It ain’t my fault that I never grew up,” Hunter sings in “Still Love Rock and Roll”, “I got bitten by the bug,” something every artist mentioned below has in common.

With a career that has spanned twenty-five years and nearly two-dozen acclaimed albums, Graham Parker has earned his place in rock ‘n’ roll history. It seems that nobody bothered to tell Parker, however. Deepcut To Nowhere (Razor & Tie) slashes and burns through twelve songs with the same intensity and electricity of the artist’s 1976 debut. Parker’s skill as a songwriter has always been in his caustic wit and biting sarcasm and an uncanny ability to turn a clever phrase, and these traits are in evidence here in abundance. If the once-angry young man has gotten older, powerful songs like “High Horse”, “Syphilis & Religion”, and the cryptic, hard rocking “I’ll Never Play Jacksonville Again” show that he’s lost none of his rage. Parker’s soulful vocals have softened a bit through the years, improving with age, while his guitar playing is as strong as a tightwire. A high-octane performance, Deepcut To Nowhere is the rock ‘n’ roll soundtrack for the summer of 2001.

Unfairly dismissed as the “poor man’s Bruce Springsteen” during his lengthy career, Joe Grushecky continues to rock with a fervor and passion unmatched by musicians half his age. With the Houserockers, an outfit tempered to a razor edge by more than a decade of playing together, Grushecky has earned a well-deserved reputation as a dynamic live performer and an underrated guitarist and songwriter. From Steeltown To London Town, available only from Grushecky’s web site (, offers no-frills packaging but contains seventy minutes of uncompromising rock ‘n’ roll in a live setting. Taken from performances in London and Sheffield in February 2000, the disc includes several of Grushecky’s better songs, including “No Strings Attached”, “Only Lovers Left Alive”, and “Dark And Bloody Ground”. The band also tackles covers like Springsteen’s “Light of Day,” the Clash’s “Brand New Cadillac”, and Southside Johnny’s “I Don’t Want To Go Home” with style and energy. Joe Grushecky is one of rock music’s more obscure talents, but I suspect that the day will come when his name is spoken with the same reverence as those of his better-known musical contemporaries.

From April 1976 to October 1978 – less time than many contemporary artists take to record a single bloated album – the Ramones released four classic collections of rock music. Combining the charm and brevity of the traditional three-minute pop song with the inspired amateurism of 1960s garage bands, the Ramones launched a musical revolution on the strength of three chords and an attitude. Rhino Records has reissued these four discs, appearing on CD for the first time, in deluxe packages with the original LP artwork, liner notes and bonus tracks.

For the uninitiated, the band’s self-titled debut is a good place to begin, offering a dozen fast-and-furious tracks that clock in just short of 29 minutes. Rhino has padded the album with the band’s original demos, including several unreleased songs. Their second album, Leave Home, features many of the Ramones’ signature tunes; the CD reissue includes the band’s first Los Angeles appearance, 16 songs from an August 1978 show at the Roxy. The next two CDs, Rocket To Russia and Road To Ruin, offer unreleased tracks and obscurities alongside the original tunes. All four albums are milestones of rock ‘n’ roll and perfect for summertime listening at the beach, by the pool or even in the back yard. (View From The Hill, May 2001)

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