Johnny Comes Marching Home

The Del-Lords

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Johnny Comes Marching Home Review

by Mark Deming

The Del Lords' first album, Frontier Days, was flawed by a flat, hollow production that never quite captured the band's power and vibrancy; their second, Johnny Comes Marching Home, often manages the feat of going too far in the opposite direction. Produced by Neil Geraldo, best known for his work as Pat Benatar's guitarist (Benatar sings backup on one track), Johnny Comes Marching Home sounds a lot brighter and more engaging than the group's debut, and the band, seasoned by plenty of roadwork, sounds tighter and firmer without sacrificing any of their swing in the process. But while the band rocks harder under Geraldo's guidance, the production also boasts many of the unfortunate hallmarks of mid-'80s record production; everything is dripping with digital reverb, and the mixes often sound like they've been processed and filtered within an inch of their life. It's a testament to the band's strength that despite the Lucite sheen of the mix, Johnny Comes Marching Home still sounds like a tougher and more muscular album than the debut, with the guitars of Scott Kempner and Eric "Roscoe" Ambel cutting deeper, their vocals registering with greater emotional impact, and Frank Funaro's drums sounding a hell of a lot livelier. And Kempner's songwriting continued to shine, especially on the anthemic "Heaven," the rock & roll radio tribute "St. Jake," and the rockabilly on steroids wrap-up "No Waitress No More." The Del Lords never made an album without its share of flaws (generally attributable to people outside the band), but while Johnny Comes Marching Home has nearly as many problems as their debut, at least it rocks harder, and that makes up for a lot.

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