by Joan Jett & the Blackhearts


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Joan Jett's first album in seven years, 2013's Unvarnished, starts off with a big bang. "Any Weather," her rocked-out collaboration with Dave Grohl, sounds like a classic Blackhearts track with loud, tight guitars, a killer chorus, and Jett's growling voice front and center. It's a bracing call to arms that lets the listener know right away that Jett hasn't forgotten how to rock, not even a little. It's Grohl's only appearance on the album, but it's a perfect way to start. The rest of the record features her longtime bandmates Dougie Needles on guitar and Thommy Price on drums, plus her mentor and co-writer from the very beginning, Kenny Laguna. Their presence speaks to Jett's ability to keep her friends close, but it's also important because Unvarnished sounds like a vintage Jett album, from the handclaps to the way the guitars are recorded. Just like on her best albums from long ago, there are songs that conjure up the Glitter Band (the stomping "TMI"), simple good-time rockers ("Down the Track"), angry blasts of punk energy ("Reality Mentality"), and melancholy ballads (the sweetly sad "Soulmates to Strangers"). Delivered in classically sneering style by Jett, who sounds truly inspired and tough as nails, the songs have all the hooks and style of her classic era. The only thing that's different are the lyrics as Jett delves into matters of loss, mortality, and getting older. Sometimes a little awkwardly, but always with an endearing honesty that makes it work. For example, "Hard to Grow Up" could have sounded cliched, but Jett's sincere vocals and the huge guitar sound paste right over any lyrical concerns. The only song that lets the side down a little is the last one, "Everybody Needs a Hero." It's the only song not written by Jett, and while it's cool to hear her rough-hewn voice singing with strings backing her, the mawkish nature of the words and melody is a handicap she can't surmount. Despite this slight stumble, Unvarnished is exactly the album Jett fans have been wanting since she took an unfortunate turn toward the mainstream in the late '80s. She's done some stuff that has come close since then -- Pure and Simple had some nice moments and Sinner was a solid outing -- but this is the first time she's recaptured the sound, feel, and punch of her early work over the course of an entire record. It's not exactly a comeback, because she never went away. It's more of a rousing welcome to anyone who might have forgotten how great she was in her prime. Whatever you want to call it, Unvarnished is a great rock & roll album from a true rock & roll survivor, and if the words rock & roll mean anything to you, it's an album you need to hear.

Product Details

Release Date: 09/30/2013
Label: Blackheart Records
UPC: 0748337579027
catalogNumber: 579
Rank: 13020

Album Credits

Performance Credits

Joan Jett & the Blackhearts   Primary Artist
Joan Jett   Guitar,Vocals,Group Member
Regis Iandiorio   Violin
Olivia Koppell   Viola
Kenny Laguna   Percussion,Keyboards,Vocals,Melodica,Group Member
Jesse Levy   Cello
Thommy Price   Percussion,Drums,Group Member
Acey Slade   Bass
Gerard Reuter   English Horn,Oboe
Dougie Needles   Guitar,Vocals,Group Member
Michael Roth   Violin
Joey Basta   Bass

Technical Credits

Joan Jett   Composer,Producer,String Arrangements
Dave Grohl   Composer,Instrumentation,Additional Production
Kenny Laguna   Composer,Producer
Jesse Levy   String Arrangements,String Conductor
Thom Panunzio   Engineer,Additional Production
Thommy Price   Composer
Shepard Fairey   Artwork
Peter Anderson   Composer
Dougie Needles   Composer
John Lousteau   Engineer
Peter Kuperschmid   Engineer
Carianne Brinkman   Executive Producer
Laura Jane Grace   Composer
Kenta Yonesaka   Engineer

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