John Mellencamp (1998)

1. Fruit Trader 2. Your Life is Now 3. Positively Crazy 4. I'm Not Running Anymore 5. It All Comes True 6. Eden is Burning 7. Where the World Began 8. Miss Missy 9. Chance Meeting at the Tarantula 10.Break Me Off Some 11.Summer of Love 12.Days of Farewell


If you were to ask the guy what his first record was, he'd probably tell you it was 1978's John Cougar, even though that one was actually his fourth. John Cougar was the first, "real", well-made album, so that's probably why he would say so. I only mention that, because you could argue that this record has the same title - it's just that he changed his name over time. I'm guessing the reason is that he's making an announcement to the world that he's officially grown up on this record, and all traces of "John Cougar" are gone.

Listening to this album, one wishes that wasn't entirely the case. After all, it was young Johnny Cougar that we all fell in love with, and even though he changed styles gradually (as well as his last name), you still had traces of his familiar style throughout. Well, here the change is pretty much complete, and whereas the record is good, it's not great and maturity and introspection don't necessarily translate into dynamic records.

The songs are all well crafted, and he's definitely growing as a songwriter, it's just that there are a lot of songs that never quite take off and don't have a lot of special qualities about them. Radio had basically abandoned him at this point, but it didn't help when lackluster songs such as Your Life is Now and I'm Not Running Anymore were released as singles. Those two bland numbers are a basic staple of what this album features.

The middle of the album is actually the strongest. The best song here is Eden is Burning in which he's telling a loose story about Diane and Jack (remember them?). Don't expect a reprise of the former song, though. The characters are 15 years older, and, as mentioned, so is the style of music. He continues for a few more songs that somewhat capture the magic of what he is capable of doing, but near the end, he sadly loses focus again.

Maybe he is focused, but you wish he'd focus on other things. He's trying too hard to sound hip on the urban influenced songs Break Me Off Some and Days of Farewell and it just comes across as embarrassing. Of course, he did spice things up on his last release Mr. Happy Go Lucky and it did seem to work. So you can't really blame him for trying.

You could possibly look at this album as a rebirth, and where rebirths are mentioned, one has to crawl before they can walk.

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