The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band


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Picking up on the slightly increased rock & roll energy of 1980s Make a Little Magic, the Dirt Band deliver their liveliest album in years with Jealousy. Not that the band abandons the soft rock that's been their stock in trade since 1978 -- with its thick gloss of keyboards, precise grooves and punchy guitars, there's no mistaking this for anything but the work of slick studio pros -- but the emphasis has shifted ever so slightly from mellow love songs to tight rock and pop. At times, it seems like the group flirts with then new wave oldies of Rockpile -- "Too Close for Comfort" is a terrific little rocker that suggests a stiffer Nick Lowe -- but when they choose to rock, the Dirt Band winds up with a big, shiny sound designed for an AOR hit that they never quite mustered. That hit never came because while they nailed the sound -- this captures how early-'80s mainstream pop/rock felt -- they never quite got the right set of hooks, coming close on the reasonably propulsive "Catch the Next Dream," but the strongest melodies on Jealousy come from the softer numbers or the ones that thread a bit of the earliest bluegrass influence back in, as on the quite appealing closer "Easy Slow." All this leaves the impression that the Dirt Band was ready to stretch out and try something new -- or at least give themselves a vehicle where they could play a little more freely than what the strict pop tunes gave them -- but they were neither ready to return to their roots or to fully rock, so they wind up sounding best on the soft rock that has been their comfort zone for a few years now.

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