Ted Nugent - ShutUp&Jam! (2014) Jul 20, 2014 12:53:36 GMT -5
Post by Erik Rupp on Jul 20, 2014 12:53:36 GMT -5
Ted Nugent is back! Now shut up and JAM!
Well, that's what a lot of his critics would say to him. But after a seven or so year wait, is ShutUp&Jam! a worthy addition to the Ted Nugent catalog? Is it as good as Craveman or better than Love Grenade?
In a word, no.
Ted Nugent released some of the best Hard Rock of the 1970's. His self titled album from 1975 is an absolute classic, and the follow up albums Free For All, Cat Scratch Fever, and Weekend Warriors were all very, very good. Ted even put out some great songs in the 80's. No great albums, unfortunately, but on each of his releases in the 80's there were at least two or three top notch songs, and rarely anything truly bad. Well, none of those album had more than one or two naff tracks. Ted even release an inspired album of outrageously energetic mayhem in 2002 called Craveman. But even that album was inconsistent and featured a couple lunkheaded clunkers. It's follow up, Love Grenade, was even more inconsistent, and failed to feature songs of equal quality to the highlights on Craveman.
So what's wrong with ShutUp&Jam!?
Ted has lapsed into the public Ted Nugent persona so often that he doesn't appear capable of getting out of that mindset long enough to create a truly great (or even very good) album anymore. Ted is on auto pilot in that larger than life opinionated loudmouth persona. Even if you agree with much of his politics, the fact that it has infiltrated his music to the degree it has makes ShutUp&Jam! a harder album to get through without hitting the, "Skip," button.
Case in point, the title track. It is pure political Ted Nugent, which wouldn't necessarily be the death of the song as a good song IF the music and vocal melodies were top notch. They aren't. The music is pure paint by the numbers Ted Nugent (and of lesser quality than most of his catalog), and the vocal melodies only seem to serve to give a platform for his political views. The actual music and vocal melodies seem to just exist to give life to Ted's point of view. There IS a ton of attitude here, which is part of what makes great Rock and Roll great, but the other part that makes great Rock and Roll great - great music and vocal melodies - is sadly missing.
"Fear Itself," starts off promisingly, and while it isn't a great track it is a huge step up from the title track that opens the album. There are some good riffs going on in this upper midtempo track, and the vocal melodies are legitimate rather than just a platform for Ted's lyrics. This one sounds like a cross between Ted's 1970's music and the kind of thing you'd hear on Craveman. It's definitely a worthy track.
As is the next song, which may actually be the best on the album - the Derek St. Holmes sung, "Everything Matters." This is, "Hey Baby," Part 2, more or less. The tempo is a little faster, and the riff is a little busier, but this is definitely that kind of song (heavily influenced by 1960's & 70's Motown and R&B). Derek still sounds great, and the song has some real substance both lyrically and musically. This one is definitely more than worthy.
Sammy Hagar makes a lead vocal appearance on the next track, the by the numbers, "She's Gone." This one opens up with a, "Conversation," between Ted and Sammy which would have sounded a little cheesy in the 80's, but now? The conversational intro is beyond cheesy. While, "She's Gone," is ultra simple and by the numbers, it is a decent track despite that and is enjoyable all the same. It's good.
Then Ted gets back to his early 70's roots with an Amboy Dukes type song in, "Never Stop Believing." Lyrically, Ted's trying to give us another glimpse into his life and his development as a thinker. Musically, it's not bad, but it's not all that good, either. This is a six plus minute song where Ted aims high but misses the mark. Not by a lot, but it is a clear miss. It just feels and sounds generic.
From there Ted pulls out a song found on his latest live album and DVD, Ultralive Ballisticrock. The studio version of, "I Still Believe," doesn't quite match the ferocity of the live version, but this is still one of the better songs on the album. Uptempo, and presented with a lot of energy and conviction, this is one of Ted's political songs that works fairly well.
"I Love My BBQ." Seriously? Musically, it sounds like something from Intensities In Ten Cities from 1981 or If You Can't Lick 'Em Lick 'Em from 1988. Lyrically? Ted gets goofy silly and just a little stoopid. Still, it's fun anyway and oddly enjoyable. That's probably due to the conviction with which the music and vocal melodies and performed. The music is pretty darned good even if it isn't great. Yeah, it's silly, but it's fun.
One of the other absolute highlights on the album, and a track where Ted not only returns to greatness, but he lives up to the album title as well, is, "Throttledown," a rip roaring instrumental that combines his mid 70's style with that of Craveman. This is a great song, and the fact that it is an instrumental will probably make it more appealing to his personal critics.
And then Ted lapses into political speech again with, "Do-Rags and a .45." Lyrically, he's trying to put a modern gang spin on his classic, "Dog Eat Dog," and musically he's not far off from the Free For All era, but this ode to Detroit just doesn't work as well as it should. Still, it is more than listenable in the context of the album as a whole.
It should be noted that a 65 year old man putting out songs as raucous and energetic as, "Screaming Eagles," is pretty remarkable, even if the song isn't great. Heck, it's barely passable musically and vocally, but it's remarkable all the same. Ted then salutes our military (the Marine Corps, particularly) with, "Semper Fi," a song short on subtlety and long on riffing. This midtempo song is one of the better tracks on the album, even if it is missing a solid chorus hook.
More of Ted's personal philosophy is presented in, "Trample The Weak, Hurdle The Dead." This is another midtempo song with some fairly good riffing and vocal melodies, but it's nothing spectacular, and nothing that will rival his better songs from the 70's. Unlike the time in 2002 where it seemed like Ted was going to get back to making very good to great albums, the last decade has seen Ted lapse into a middling quality of songwriting that he has a hard time shaking off. Maybe working with a real producer who would challenge him and not accept mediocrity would help, but at 65 Ted doesn't seem to be willing to give up control of the making of his albums to anyone who will tell him that some of the songs just aren't good enough.
The album closes with a Bluesy, laid back version of, "Never Stop Believing." It's OK, and maybe even better than the Rock version, but it still isn't a top notch song. It's an anti-climactic end to an album that finds Ted on auto pilot.
Half this album is worthy, but the other half isn't. Ted doesn't seem to be able to tell the difference anymore, and that's a shame.
ShutUp&Jam! isn't bad. Long time Nugent fans will probably like it to one degree or another (I do), but it sure isn't going to win over any new fans.