Big Daddy (1989)


 
1. Big Daddy of Them All 2. To Live 3. Martha Say 4. Theo and Weird Henry 5. Jackie Brown 6. Pop Singer 7. Void in My Heart 8. Mansions in Heaven 9. Sometimes a Great Notion 10.Country Gentleman 11.J.M.'s Question 12.Let it Out (Let it All Hang Out)

 

For this release, Mellencamp continues to steadily evolve, and most of it is in a good way. He is still in his "Americana" phase, which meant lots of country-ish, rustic instruments. Where this record differs from his last is that the music is much more quiet, simple and stripped down. Since Mellencamp could (and does so here) write very memorable melodies, it's not a problem that this record has evolved so much from his early days of American Fool or Uh-Huh. This is a much more simpler record.

True, he had basically passed his commercial peak at this point. Fortunately he didn't seem to care, and neither did the critics. It was work like this one that would one day get him in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, even if there's very little "rock" on here at all. Consider the most memorable cut Jackie Brown. It's definitely a much more laid back tune with all acoustic instruments. Mellencamp's message of the poor, forgotten character is right up front for us to hear, and it tugs at the heart strings. This was the kind of the thing that he was so good at when writing and recording.

Sadly, it's when Mellencamp is angry and his vitriol comes out that he sounds at his worst, and unfortunately that side of his personality is here as well. He makes a very poor, immature stab and Ronald Reagan on Country Gentlemen that's so stupid that it's dreadfully embarrassing.

Most of the record, thankfully, stays away from these kind of messages, and, yes, Mellencamp is always pissed about something, but his message - whether it's the feminist cry of Martha Say or the hope of anything better in Mansions in Heaven is mostly augmented by very well crafted and memorable melodies - which lends this album to be one of the best of his collection.

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