Friday, August 23, 2013

In case you missed it… Rick Springfield: Written In Rock, a Popjunkie review

Rick Springfield
Written In Rock: Rick Springfield Anthology (2005)
****1/2 (out of *****)
RCA/Legacy/BMG Records

The purpose of a greatest hits collection is easy; gather all the hit singles, slap a snazzy new cover over it and listen to the ringing of cash registers the world over. An anthology is much more than that.  It should narrow down the essence of the artist onto disc, which in turn, shows the artists growth over that time. Since we are getting more than just the hits, an anthology should encapsulate choice tracks from the artist’s catalogue, which can show where the artist has been and where they are going.  At the very least you should walk away thinking, “Damn, “x artist” is better than I thought. I need to hear more of this!” With that in mind, “Written In Rock: Rick Springfield Anthology”, is a perfect anthology.

The first thing RCA/ Legacy did right was to enlist the cooperation of Rick Springfield himself.  Looking at how many hits compilations there are of his music, it is amazing that this is the first time he has ever been involved in compiling his work. “Written In Rock” collects 42 tracks across 2 discs and spans an unbelievable 35 years. Yes, 35 years!  By the time he scored a #1 hit with “Jessie’s Girl” in 1981, he was already an industry veteran who thought his chance at mainstream acceptance had passed him by.

It is quite interesting listening to the arc of Rick Springfield’s work throughout this collection. He ranged from the glam influences in his 70’s work to the stripped down New Wave-influenced rock of “Working Class Dog”, the hard-edged electronica of 1985’s criminally underrated “Tao” and back to a more straight ahead rock sound on 2004’s, “Shock/ Denial/ Anger/ Acceptance”.    
All of the expected hit singles are present but it is surprising how the remaining album tracks or lesser hits stand up. “I’ve Done Everything For You” was a Top Ten hit but “Everybody’s Girl” (both from his breakthrough album “Working Class Dog) is every bit as infectious and this holds true throughout the entire collection - this is seriously catchy, pop/ rock at it’s finest. 

This collection excels at giving a good cross section of all of Springfield’s albums by giving us a number of tracks from each record. “Working Class Dog” gets the most nods by having seven songs here and each one is a gem - “Love is Alright Tonight” is the ‘hit that should have been’! Sure, it’s not Dylan lyrically, but that is hardly the point here, this is rock and roll that is supposed to be fun and irreverent.

Nothing wrong with a bit of fun now & again right?

Oddly enough, by the time 1985’s “Tao” was released, Springfield entered a period of soul searching which permeated a large portion of his work. While the music still retained the hooks and melodicism of before, that sense of fun was partly gone. Of course, Springfield was growing as a person and dealing with the pressures of fame, getting married, having children as well as the traumatic loss of his father; a theme which features heavily in quite a few songs here. While the material did come to grapple with deeper themes from the mid-80’s onwards, Springfield’s hooks and melodic sense prevented his albums from sinking into the moribund.

This collection leaves nothing to be desired – it is the perfect starting point for a new listener, or the casual listener who may make this their only Springfield disc. For the hard core fans, it is a great way to get remastered versions of these tracks.

Highly recommended!

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