Surrounding himself with a sensational cast of studio pros including drummer Steve Jordan, bass players TM Stevens/Doug Wimbish (who would later join the ranks of Living Colour), and keyboard guru Bernie Worrell, in 1987, Little Steven would release Freedom No Compromise -- the E-Street-er's third solo record to date. Synth-ladden textures, samples, and programming aside, Freedom No Compromise is an ambitious if somewhat over-produced effort. Although, certainly not as accomplished as Steven's sensational debut Men Without Women, the album features some fair to very good material. With a heavy political agenda in toe, "Freedom" opens the record. "Freedom" is quickly followed by the riveting "Trail of Broken Tears" -- the latter hindered only by some ill-advised drum programming. Little Steven's weathered voice is in full-on Bob Dylan-meets-Keith Richards mode as he pronounces that "there ain't no love here, love's been sacrificed, promises buried beneath, the trail of broken tears." The Latin-flavored "Pretoria" runs side by side with the album's best track, the monstrous-sounding "Bitter Fruit" (a duet with Ruben Blades. And although the track sounds like one big party, upon closer inspection, it's clear that the song is a solemn condemnation on the state of intrusive U.S. anti-communism Reaganomics in Latin America. Surprisingly, in Europe, the track proved to be a massive hit for Little Steven. Coupled with the success of another one of Freedom No Compromise's tracks, "No More Partys," the E-Street sideman would return to the old continent as an arena sensation in his own right. Another track worth noting is "Native American," a lackluster collaboration with Bruce Springsteen which yet again gets lost in some weak programming and over-produced synth action that results in the song sounding like a bad UB40 outtake. Freedom No Compromise comes to an end with "Sanctuary" (a not so distant cousin of "Bitter Fruit"). Overall, a good effort, but not a great one. For a better taste of the artist, spend some quality time with Men Without Women.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by John Franck