All Access Rating: A
|Nils Lofgren - Face The Music 2014|
Going on 30 years now, Lofgren's been a part of Bruce Springsteen's E Street Band, and when he was a precocious 17-year-old unknown fronting the gutsy Washington, D.C., hard-rock combo Grin, Neil Young recruited him to play guitar and piano on Young's classic After The Gold Rush album, thereby starting a fruitful musical relationship between the two.
It was the opportunity of a lifetime, and Lofgren made the most of it, putting in long hours getting his parts down pat. That tireless work ethic, combined with the heart and soul of a poet, fueled Lofgren's solo artistry, and this is the comprehensive retrospective he's deserved for so long.
|Nils Lofgren playing live|
There's not a cynical bone in his entire body of song, where honesty, passion and integrity mean as much as a keen pop sensibility and sparkling production. Stax Records, the British Invasion, countrified blues and elegant folk, early rock 'n' roll – Lofgren assimilates easily when visiting a variety of genres, his songwriting a natural extension of his influences. On top of that, as a guitar player, his economical approach, sure-footed fretwork and tasteful licks never seem needlessly ostentatious or flashy, and yet they never fail to make an impression.
It's easy to see why Springsteen took a shine to Lofgren, the two sharing an affinity for the simple truths and hopeful energy of Heartland rock, as "Girl in Motion" and a stylish live version of "Black Books" could have slipped right into Springsteen's Tunnel of Love without The Boss ever knowing. His version of the Del Shannon-penned "I Go to Pieces" has the rousing spirit of the Springsteen anthems, and gritty rockers "Across The Tracks" and "Secrets of the Streets" shove their hands in pockets full of solid hooks and blue-collar dreams as they wander around Asbury Park, just as the strains of the sublime "Valentine," immersed in soulful longing, escape from Memphis under the cover of night to help lovers everywhere negotiate treaties of raw emotions.
|Nils Lofren and his guitar|
As an introduction to Lofgren's catalog, it's a bit overwhelming, but the Fantasy Records box set Face The Music is certainly worth the time spent slogging your way through it. And for devotees, there are surprises galore, as well as familiar highlights. Don't be afraid to Face The Music. This is the good stuff, and there's plenty of it.
– Peter Lindblad