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Cuttin' Heads
     

Cuttin' Heads

4.7 7
by John Mellencamp
 

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John Mellencamp may be in midlife, but, judging by the sharp tone of this new collection, he ain't in no crisis. Cuttin' Heads is a surprisingly diverse album, one that spends plenty of time pondering the state of the heartland and even more time reconnecting with its sounds. Simple, organic arrangements swathe uplifting forays like "Crazy Island" and the blunt

Overview

John Mellencamp may be in midlife, but, judging by the sharp tone of this new collection, he ain't in no crisis. Cuttin' Heads is a surprisingly diverse album, one that spends plenty of time pondering the state of the heartland and even more time reconnecting with its sounds. Simple, organic arrangements swathe uplifting forays like "Crazy Island" and the blunt-but-buoyant "Peaceful World," on which he duets with soul songstress India.Arie amid whisper-light layers of violin, mandolin, and pedal steel, while percussion-led tracks, such as "Just Like You," guarantee a workout for the pelvis. Mellencamp is most incisive on the album's title track, a striking narrative about interracial romance and racial tension, replete with an authoritative rap from Public Enemy's Chuck D. But years of barnstorming -- and subsequent time spent in front of an artist's easel -- have taught Mellencamp that all dark and no light makes for a dull rock album; to that end, he's sprinkled in a few of his regular-Joe musings about love and lust, which range from heart touching ("Deep Blue Heart") to rib-tickling ("Worn Out Nervous Condition"). There's -- to borrow from one of his older albums -- nothin' fancy about Cuttin' Heads, but there's a lot to be said for its plainspoken eloquence.

Editorial Reviews

All Music Guide - Stephen Thomas Erlewine
John Mellencamp is nearly the Rodney Dangerfield of rock & roll, getting no respect no matter how much he may deserve it. Throughout the '90s, Mellencamp essentially worked away from the spotlight, crafting a series of solid records without anyone paying attention. He had the occasional hit -- a cover of Van Morrison's "Wild Night," the subtly insistent "Key West Intermizzo (I Saw You First)" -- but he was no longer part of the rock critic discourse the way he was in the '80s with Scarecrow and The Lonesome Jubilee. Such neglect actually helped Mellencamp grow, as his 2001 effort, Cuttin' Heads, proves. This may not be a record that brings chart success, or even critical acclaim, but it does find Mellencamp at a kind of peak, turning out vividly socially conscious roots rock that works not because of the message, but because the music is seductive and sinewy enough to deliver the message. The grooves and riffs are earthy, so much so that when Chuck D drops a rap at the bridge in the title track, it seems natural, not forced; similarly, India.Arie's presence on "Peaceful World" enhances the plea for understanding at the core of the album, instead of distracting from it, and it feels as right as Trisha Yearwood's duet on "Deep Blue Heart." Ultimately, this is a record of small, subtle triumphs, but they are triumphs all the same, finding Mellencamp crafting music that's earthy yet succeeds because of the small details. It's a laid-back record -- even when it rocks hard, it rocks like a bunch of guys having fun on a back porch on a Saturday afternoon -- but that's its charm, since it's natural, real, and unassuming: in short, the kind of record Mellencamp's been trying to make since he shed the Johnny Cougar tag. No, there aren't songs as undeniable as "Lonely Ol' Night" or "Rumble Seat," but there are no slow stretches and it's a true testament to his talents as a craftsman, which is more than enough.
Rolling Stone - Parke Puterbaugh
1/2 Mellencamp, as usual, writes strikingly about the heart ("Deep Blue Heart") and the heartland ("Crazy Island"), the twin concerns on an album that manages to be at once old-fashioned and very contemporary.

Product Details

Release Date:
10/16/2001
Label:
Sony
UPC:
0696998509825
catalogNumber:
85098

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Cuttin' Heads 4.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 7 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
As a friend of mine calls him, I've been a John Mellon Cougarcamp fan since American Fool. There have been some great Albums and some dodgey stuff. This one I'm glad to say takes over from Mr Happy go Lucky as his best since The Lonesome Jubelee. Some other Albums have had one great song and a lot of weakish tracks. Cuttin heads has one cracking song (peaceful world) and other great one's which keep growing on you (in our lives, women seem, just like you). I've been listening to this album driving home from work for about a month now and I never tire of it. It's uplifting, his new guitarist seems to be really good, the drummer is not up to Ken Aronoff's standards but then who is, he passes (in the studio, not so good live). The melodies and variety on the album are great I gave it four as I think he has produced marginally better albums (I would have given it 4.5) but if he keeps up this standard I'll be happy enough. Even the ballad with Trisha Yearwood is really good. I saw him live for the first time in Chicago in July 2002 and at 50 years old , he is still r.o.c.k.ing. Keep yer motor runnin' Johnny.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Wow! Still layin it down. John has put together a cd of bangin tracks produced by the one and only Dr Dre. While many fans may not be used to this change in style, we can now see where he's comin from. Check out ''Blood of my Vicitms'' and ''Locked down with a Glock'' - amazing.
Guest More than 1 year ago
not only a great musician, but a great man-i had the honor to meet him when i was in college & he is everything he claims to be & then some.He is truly the finest thing to come out of indiana & we are proud of him!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I've been a JM fan since I first heard Rain on the Scarecrow while sitting in a traffic jam when i was eighteen... almost eighteen years ago. Through the years, his albums have always provided me with honest passionate music... even though some albums resonate more than others. I think this album is his best since Human Wheels. Plus, Chuck D is an added bonus on the title cut. Topical, funny, inspired, introspective, groove filled, it... well... rocks.
Guest More than 1 year ago
In the true Mellencamp style, new sounds mix with old in this CD. The familiar ''Hey Hey''s are there, along with new voices and just a touch of rap. He's following Santana's style of mixing in new artists with his own music and comes up with a gritty, bluesy, jazzy combo that is all that we expect from him!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I have always been a Mellencamp fan his songs have saved me through many hard times of my life. Hooray to John.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This album just missed the September cut-off for the 2002 grammy awards, so I see it at least in contention for the next one. The India Arie duet ''Perfect World'' has to be one of the best songs recorded in the last few years. Mellancamp's classic rock-meets-the-heartland sound still comes through with the same force is does today as it did twenty years ago. It's just one of those albums you put in the CD player, let it play, and you fall in love with.