In Brad Chesivoir's cover photograph for Nils Lofgren's tenth solo studio album, Damaged Goods, Lofgren appears asleep, surrounded by guitars, and elsewhere in the packaging, Lisa Pampillonia's design focuses on extreme close-up shots of guitars in heightened colors. These are good indications of the album's contents. Lofgren remains, in essence, a guitar hero, and on the album's 12 tracks, he seems to have spent more time working on the riffs and textures he could get out of his guitars than on anything else. He is accompanied by drummer Andy Newmark and bassist Roger Greenawalt (who also produced, engineered, and mixed the record), with some string and choral parts added here and there, and Branford Marsalis sitting in on saxophone on a couple of tracks. The songs all have lyrics and vocals, but those seem to have come after the fact, as addenda to complete tracks built out of Lofgren's guitar playing. Sometimes he sings of love gone wrong, other times he sings in the identities of characters. ("Only Five Minutes" is about an ex-con who falls off the wagon and goes back to jail on New Year's Eve; "Trip to Mars" details the complaints of a veteran police officer.) Occasionally, he seems to be singing from the heart, or at least the head, as in the philosophical "Life" (co-written with Lou Reed). But it's still the guitar work that matters. "Heavy Hats" concerns a man's taking on responsibility as his child is about to be born, and "Nothin's Fallin'" sounds like a sincere account of an adult son dealing with an aging father's illness. But even on these songs, the guitar parts tend to overwhelm the tracks. As such, it's no wonder than Lofgren remains best known as a hired gun for artists capable of writing more substantial songs, and that, at this juncture in his career, he is recording for a small independent label in Georgetown, CT.
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AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann