I’m going to keep this one short. With Rock N Roll Jesus, Kid Rock crafted a record that incorporated every possible classic southern rock cliche in one place, and it hit #1, his only album to do so. So there was obviously a big market for southern rock nostalgia back in 2007, before country music really assumed this mantle and became much rockier. But even though this album did well financially (without being sold on iTunes, since Kid Rock was feuding with the service at the time), I don’t need to take a lot of time talking about it since you’ve heard it 1,000 times before.
Instead of going through Rock N Roll Jesus track by track and cataloging its legion of influences, I’ll use All Summer Long as a representative sample, even though it’s by far the most obvious one. In this song, Kid Rock uses the chords, chord pattern and guitar tone from Werewolves of London, actually name checks Sweet Home Alabama and spins a tale straight out of the Bob Seger or Bruce Springsteen story book. Once the song ends, and I admit that I tap my foot along with it every single time I hear it, I don’t go on to the next song on the album. I always switch over to a Warren Zevon song, or a Lynyrd Skynyrd song, or a Bob Seger song or a Springsteen song. And then I don’t come back to Rock N Roll Jesus.
I give Kid Rock props for keeping his concert ticket prices low and making his music accessible to the widest possible audience. Hopefully some of the people who hear these songs will explore where they came from and move on from this lackluster tribute.
Texas songwriter Robert Earl Keen, part of the post-Willie generation of artists that don’t fit squarely within the Nashville system but are too country to be called rock and rollers, played music with Lyle Lovett while the two were schoolmates at Texas A&M in the late 70’s and he would go on to tour with Guy Clark and Townes Van Zandt, so you know he’s got the songwriter pedigree.
On this album from 2009, Keen dips his toes in a lot of different topical waters, writing an entire song about Levon Helm, narrating the end of a long night in Cleveland and commiserating over a missed liaison on the title track. We’ve also got the Jimmy Buffet sounding Something I Do with its pitch-perfect refrain – “I kind of like just doin’ nothing, it’s something that I do”.
Musically, Keen is all over the map as well, ranging from straight ahead country to island rock, with varying degrees of success. While there are a bunch of good songs here, as an album The Rose Hotel doesn’t hold together consistently like a lot of Keen’s earlier work, making it a fun listen but not an essential one.
It boggles the mind that this remains important, but it bears noting that KC and the Sunshine Band is one of the most successful integrated non-jazz bands of all time. Ponder that for a moment. The Jimi Hendrix Experience, Sly & The Family Stone, Love, The Allman Brothers, The Dave Matthews Band and . . . KC and the Sunshine Band? There aren’t a lot of others.
This has nothing to do with the band’s music, other than to point out that there may be a little more to KC and the Sunshine Band than meets the eye. When you actually listen closely to their music, instead of just dancing to it at every wedding you’ve ever attended, you hear a disco band that is firmly rooted in funk beats and the prevalence of the horns in all of these songs cements the funk connection.
Of course, this greatest hits package has the monster hits that everyone knows – That’s The Way (I Like It), (Shake, Shake, Shake) Shake Your Booty, I’m Your Boogie Man and Get Down Tonight are all here. These songs are really the only reason I have this album, just in case I have to play music at a party that involves dancing. Otherwise, if I’m falling asleep in the car, the first five songs on this album always wake me up – beyond that, it gets a little repetitive.