All Hopped Up

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NRBQ's fourth album (and first with drummer Tom Ardolino, solidifying a lineup that would last for close to 20 years) plays down the band's goofier tendencies in favor of a set that shows off their considerable chops as both players and songwriters. The more introspective side of the band's jazz leanings come to the forefront on "Doctor's Wind" and "Queen Talk"; Terry Adams contributes a strong, vaguely Beatlesque tune called "It Feels Good" and the lovely "Things to You," Joey Spampinato turns in a pair of subtle pop gems, "That's Alright" and "Still in School"; and can anyone explain why Al Anderson's wonderful and engagingly heart-tugging "Riding in My Car" wasn't a hit single? All Hopped Up also features a handful of stellar covers, including a jumped-up take on "I Got a Rocket in My Pocket" (Adams' barrelhouse piano truly shines), a swinging version of "Cecilia," and a rollicking ride through Big Joe Turner's "Honey Hush," and the band's loosely tight communication is a fine thing to hear on all cuts. And even the album's token weird one from Adams, "Call Him Off, Rogers" could pass for a serious pop tune if you didn't pay too much attention to the lyrics (about a dog with designs on Adams' arm). Just in case you thought NRBQ had gotten all normal on us, though, the album closes with the most extraordinary version of the theme from "Bonanza" you will ever hear. It's hard to say why anyone would want an entirely serious album from NRBQ, but All Hopped Up is closer than most, and proves their charm and their talent is what makes them great, not their idiosyncratic sense of humor.

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