After the Reign

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After systematically running Blackfoot into the ground during the late '80s, when he succumbed to record company pressures and agreed to water down the group's once potent Southern hard rock, Rickey Medlocke had finally come to his senses and attempted a tentative return to form with 1991's Medicine Man LP. But it all came as too little, too late (especially for ousted original Blackfooters Jakson Spires, Charlie Hargrett, and Greg T. Walker), and with grunge ushering in an entirely new rock & roll order, there was no room on the pop charts for old-school music like this, so Medlocke wisely went into hiding following this latest commercial failure. By the time he finally re-emerged, all of three years later, with the aptly named, conspicuously mellow, and blues-infused After the Reign, Medlocke seemed to finally be at peace with himself -- the artist -- although that gave little consolation to fans who craved a reunion of the classic Blackfoot lineup, since he was once again surrounded by unknown hired henchmen here. It might as well have been a solo album, in other words, and probably should have been labeled that way -- a feeling that's compounded by Medlocke's decision to start things off with a personal stab at the timeless blues standard "Sitting on Top of the World," followed by two more covers later on, Van Morrison's "Tupelo Honey" (rendered in unsurprising but effectively wistful fashion) and Bonnie Raitt's "The Road's My Middle Name" (which arguably sounds even tamer than the original). The remaining seven originals didn't exactly bust a nut, either, and even though standout moments like "Nobody Rides for Free," "It's All Over Now," and the title track radiated earthy, earnest, Southern rock vibes, none came anywhere close to recalling the quasi-metallic bombast of Blackfoot's glory years. (Also worth mentioning, although it landed even further away from the tree, was the wistful instrumental acoustic guitar piece "Bandelaro.") In the end, the fact that these numbers were at least superior to those late-'80s fiascoes certainly helped matters, but it doesn't spare After the Reign from feeling like an unofficial afterthought to a career already ten years in the books.

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