George Thorogood & The Destroyers
Bad to the Bone: 25th Anniversary Edition
First Appeared in The Music Box, August 2007, Volume 14, #8
Written by John Metzger
Thu August 16, 2007, 06:00 AM CDT
One has to hand it to George Thorogood: Once he devised a functional formula, he never deviated from it. He also never made excuses for or tried to deny the fact that he borrowed heavily from — and hence, owed a tremendous debt to — the architects of early rock ’n‘ roll. Although momentum had built steadily around his career over the course of the ’70s — which culminated when he scored a pair of FM radio staples with his supercharged renditions of Hank Williams’ Move It on Over and John Lee Hooker’s One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer — it was the advent of MTV that put him over the top, thus sparking a string of consecutive gold albums that began with his 1982 endeavor Bad to the Bone. The set followed the same pattern as his previous outings, and its unevenness leant credence to the common criticism that he simply was fronting a glorified bar band. While he took issue with this belief at the time, he later adopted it as his motto.
The biggest problem that Thorogood faced was that he truly struggled to deliver anything that wasn’t an adrenaline-soaked rocker. He seemed, quite frequently, as if he were trying to prove that he was a well-rounded artist, but the slower tunes that he incorporated into his repertoire merely drew attention to the deficiency of his vocals. He just wasn’t well suited for singing anything that wasn’t full of bluster and rage. While his covers of Brewer & Shipley’s Blue Highway, Jimmy Reed’s It’s a Sin, and Bob Dylan’s Wanted Man were passable, their inclusion on Bad to the Bone served only one purpose: to provide a contrasting statement that allowed his aggressive intonations to achieve greater potency.
Thorogood also had his limitations as a songwriter, of course, but when he played to his strengths, he was capable of being an excellent entertainer. Back to Wentzville may be indebted to Chuck Berry — in fact, one could argue it essentially fuses Memphis, Tennessee to Promised Land — but Thorogood’s no-holds-barred approach transforms it into something more. Unafraid of making a connection to one of his biggest influences, Thorogood later adds a credible cover of Berry’s No Particular Place to Go. Elsewhere, he playfully injects an ode to The Beach Boys’ Little Honda into his amped-up, Springsteen-style rendition of the Isley Brothers’ Nobody But Me. The highlight of Bad to the Bone, however, was undeniably its title track. Here, with his scrappy presence and his snarling guitar accompaniment, Thorogood introduced the blues to a new generation.
Reissued in celebration of its 25th anniversary, Bad to the Bone has been bolstered with seven bonus tracks, including That Philly Thing, an instrumental b-side that serves as a showcase for Thorogood and saxophonist Hank Carter. All of the remaining cuts are newly recorded renditions of songs that appeared on the original album. As the Years Go Passing By and Wanted Man benefit immensely from improved vocals and more inspired guitar solos and arrangements. On the other hand, the updated versions of No Particular Place to Go and the title track merely make the case that Thorogood remains capable of growing his way through his harder-edged fare. While Bad to the Bone still isn’t an essential album, it nonetheless is as enjoyable as ever.
Of Further Interest...
Bad to the Bone: 25th Anniversary Edition is available
from Barnes & Noble. To order, Click Here!
1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2007 The Music Box