By Brian Arsenault
The problem with old rockers — Rolling Stones and some Neil Young excepted — is that they don’t rock enough. Maybe it’s the passage of time, the slowing of the internal clock, or just some strange need to become Bob Dylan at his slowest.
Nils Lofgren’s Old School has its moments but it isn’t really old school. When you have Paul Rodgers (“Bad Company”, “Feel Like Making Love”) and Lou Gramm (“Midnight Blue,” “Urgent” and my personal favorite, “Dirty White Boy”) and Sam Moore of the immortal Sam and Dave all singing along, you ought to be able to crank out some hot rock.
Instead, we mostly get some slow paced, lost love, oh what a dreary world it is, songs that make me think the anti-depressants aren’t working very well. Nils has his own gold standard rock bona fides from a quarter century with Springsteen’s reconstituted E-Street Band and earlier stints with Neil Young and Crazy Horse. But bona fides do not a rock album make.
Still, there’s some interesting stuff.
“60 Is The New 18″ is a lively little rocker about the discovery that at 60 you might be a little uncomfortable playing rock ‘n roll. Then stop and please spare us the angst.
There’s a lovely Bruce McCabe written lament, “Irish Angel,” that has the melodic structure of an Irish ballad with, of course, sad lyrics. It’s Irish after all. “All their wars were happy and all their songs were sad,” someone once wrote. It fittingly ends with a raised glass. And then another. Also Irish.
“Amy Jones Blues” lives up to the title for the most part. Nice blues feel but somehow the “bum knees” of aging don’t really strike me as poignant or down and out. And there are a couple of Springsteen/E Street-like songs “Love Stumbles On,” which I suspect Bruce will sing in concert at some point, and “Just Because.” “Love Stumbles On” has a love against the darkness modest quality. Love only “stumbles on” but it does endure. Good enough.
“Just Because” starts the tailing off into total tunes of regret and way too downer love (mostly lost) that dominates this album. Perhaps I am missing a sensitivity gene, but it all seems just too woebegone and maudlin.
It’s only rock ‘n roll, Nils, we could use a lighter touch. I remember feeling much the same way about Robbie Robertson’s How to be Clairvoyant earlier this year. Does it really suck that much to be you?
In the lyrics of “Ain’t Too Many Of Us Left,” “wild old Neil” calls to utter the title phrase to a surgery-recovering Lofgren. It would help if a little of the “wild” came through more, especially if there ain’t too many of us left.
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