Mellencamp Transitions Yet Again
3 Out Of 5 Stars
John Mellencamp has never been one to allow his muse any slack. Be the disputes he's had over his name, his image and even his sound, Mellencamp has been kicking at the prickles since he started out. For 1996's "Mr Happy Go Lucky," Mellencamp again threw a spanner into the public's expectations and hired noted dance producer Junior Vasquez to man the production booth. Purists immediately cried foul over the album's dependence on drum loops, samples and other gimmicks, but they missed the point. Mellencamp, who had just recovered from a major heart attack, was compelled more than ever to explore his music on his terms and "Mr Happy Go Lucky" succeeds more than it fails.
Even with the touches added by Vasquez, the album still depends mainly on the kind of rootsy/folkish rock Mellencamp had been coaxing out of his songs sine "Big Daddy." The big hit, "Key West Intermezzo," glides atop a shuffling groove, but has the traditional drum clap and home-baked electric piano moving things along under Mellencamp's usual gruff melodic singing. Even with a dance producer, Mellencamp sounds more like Springsteen than Madonna. In fact, the one or two times that Mellencamp seems to be letting Vasquez push him, like "This May Not Be The End Of The World," sound forced.
You'll still be getting plenty of the patented Mellencamp sounds (I count "Key West Intermezzo" among them), like "Just Another Day" and "Circling The Moon," plus his deepening love of roots rock, like "Jackamo Road" and "The Full Catastrophe." Never one to sit on his laurels or cater to anyone's expectations, John Mellencamp was still capable of bending genres and confounding expectations. "Mr Happy Go Lucky" was another one of those albums and a worthy disc out of Mellencamp's library.