John Mellencamp

Skin It Back/The Kid Inside/Chestnut Street Incident

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One has to wonder if John Mellencamp is ever embarrassed by his "Johnny Cougar" moniker or by these early recordings. There are three of his earliest four discs in this box, left out is the best of the bunch, A Biography. One in particular, Chestnut Street Incident, is notoriously bad and almost solely comprised of cover versions: the Doors "Twentieth Century Fox" and John Sebastian and the Lovin' Spoonful's "Do You Believe in Magic" are sequenced together, just for starters. One has to wonder what producer/manager Tony Visconti was thinking of when these records were made. Mellencamp's songs, which were dealing with some of the material he'd later excel at, are clumsy, awkward and wordy. There is real rock & roll spirit in these albums if little else to recommend them. There is the drive and the passion and even small examples of the prowess that would come forth on later albums from John Cougar to Scarecrow, from Uh-Huh to Lonesome Jubilee. But they are only moments.

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