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Author Topic: Mellencamp Shops on eBay, Gets Baptized, Hangs with Dalai Lama for New Album  (Read 10103 times)
mellenheadinohio
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« on: August 25, 2010, 07:34:05 pm »

Mellencamp Shops on eBay, Gets Baptized, Hangs with Dalai Lama for New Album

The Mellencamp formula hasn't changed much since our favorite Indianan released his first album back in 1976: he's still piecing together populist anthems, three-chord ballads, and feisty rock numbers with a cigarette dangling from his lips. What's different about his latest record, No Better Than This, though, is that the mosaic is starting to take the shape of a musical self-portrait.

If this 25th album (in a career that includes a forgotten Cougar, membership in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, nearly a dozen Grammy nods, "Pink Houses," Farm Aid, and a special part in the 2008 U.S. presidential campaigns) reveals anything about Mellencamp, it's that all these years after "Hurts So Good," "Rain On The Scarecrow," and "R.O.C.K. In The U.S.A.," we haven't been listening as closely as we should. John Mellencamp is never less than the sum of his "Small Town" hits, but down in the nooks and crannies, he's also much more.

If your only exposure to John Mellencamp in the 2000s has been Chevy truck commercials (remember 2005's "Our Country"?), then you might want to check out 2008's Life, Death, Love, and Freedom before you proceed; that's where T-Bone Burnett, king of spooky-cool Americana and award-winning producer of the Robert Plant/Alison Krauss Raising Sand collab and the soundtrack to O Brother, Where Art Thou , joined Mellencamp in his Indiana studio to help strip his sound bare.

Their pairing resulted in some of Mellencamp's least commercial and most memorable material to date ("Jena" declared "Take your nooses down;" "Longest Days" lamented, "Sometimes you get sick and you don't get better/life is short, even in its longest days").

Burnett is back for No Better Than This, which was recorded over a 13-day period in the summer of 2009 at Sun Studios in Memphis, San Antonio's Gunter Hotel, and the First African Baptist Church in Savannah, Georgia. And get this: the whole thing was captured on this mono AMPEX 601 tape recorder Mellencamp bought off eBay:



(Above: Mellencamp's recording set-up in the First African Baptist Church of Savannah. Photo courtesy of Bob Merlis. )


We're all aware Sun Studios birthed Elvis's career, but did you know that bluesman Robert Johnson recorded "Stones in My Passway" in Room 414 at the Gunter Hotel or that the First African Baptist Church played a major role in the Underground Railroad? Auspicious locales and retro equipment might have added up to gimmickry if No Better Than This was the brainchild of anybody other than John Mellencamp. Heck, he and his wife Elaine even got baptized in FABC in Savannah, right in front of the altar where the recording gear was set up. But when Mellencamp set out to realize the musical vision behind this project, you know it had to be because he wanted to, not because he thought some stodgy music critic would froth over it.

Not surprisingly the frothing about the August 17-released No Better Than This has begun, and I have to say it's well-deserved.

This collection of songs isn't epic; not every tune feels urgent or relevant, nor should it. The timeless simplicity of "Thinking About You" outweighs the need for grandstanding or radio-ready choruses. "A Graceful Fall " and "Coming Down the Road" bring in fun rockabilly and country influences. And "Save Some Time to Dream" finds Mellencamp at a new level of lyrical poignancy; none other than the Dalai Lama has touted the song's mantra about accepting your mistakes and learning from sorrow:

"This reminds me of a Tibetan expression that says one should be able to turn adversity or tragedy into an opportunity," His Holiness told Mellencamp after watching him perform the song at an event at the Tibetan Cultural Center in Bloomington, Indiana in May.

Stripped of the trappings of his 1980s/MTV heyday and sequestered in the most uncluttered of musical settings on No Better Than This, we can once again see and hear Mellencamp for what he is: a classic American songwriter. Maybe it's a similar worldview, songwriting skills honed by age and experience, or maybe they're just kindred spirits, but there's a reason why Mellencamp keeps company with Bob Dylan -- and it goes beyond their mutual support for the annual Farm Aid concert.

As for the autobiographical elements on his latest album? With Mellencamp, it will never be about who's in his entourage or his bed, but rather what's on his mind and in his heart. He's always going on about something. As you listen to No Better Than This, you know the concepts he spends the most time pondering these days: life, death, love, and freedom, of course -- but he's now added grace, sorrow, memories and dreams, too.

Kristi York WootenFounding Director, Sustenance Group, Pop Culture Critic, Activist,
Posted: August 25, 2010 05:46 PM

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/kristi-york-wooten/mellencamp-shops-on-ebay-_b_693785.html


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mellenheadinohio
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« Reply #1 on: August 25, 2010, 07:35:47 pm »

Quote
And get this: the whole thing was captured on this mono AMPEX 601 tape recorder Mellencamp bought off eBay:



(Above: Mellencamp's recording set-up in the First African Baptist Church of Savannah. Photo courtesy of Bob Merlis.)



granted, i haven't read every single article/review word for word, but i don't recall hearing the ebay reference before today.  
« Last Edit: August 25, 2010, 08:23:41 pm by mellenheadinohio » Logged
TonyBClubManager
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« Reply #2 on: August 25, 2010, 09:21:47 pm »

Quote
And get this: the whole thing was captured on this mono AMPEX 601 tape recorder Mellencamp bought off eBay:



(Above: Mellencamp's recording set-up in the First African Baptist Church of Savannah. Photo courtesy of Bob Merlis.)



granted, i haven't read every single article/review word for word, but i don't recall hearing the ebay reference before today.  


It has been mentioned a few time, kind of as a color note, not a main point of the story.

I remember when one of John's team members sent me the ebay link when John bought this, saying check this out. It was quite surprising!
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walktall2010
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« Reply #3 on: August 25, 2010, 11:38:59 pm »

Quote
And get this: the whole thing was captured on this mono AMPEX 601 tape recorder Mellencamp bought off eBay:



(Above: Mellencamp's recording set-up in the First African Baptist Church of Savannah. Photo courtesy of Bob Merlis.)


It has been mentioned a few time, kind of as a color note, not a main point of the story.

I remember when one of John's team members sent me the ebay link when John bought this, saying check this out. It was quite surprising!

So does John actually have an eBay account, or does he have somebody who makes these purchases for him? I just can't imagine John logging onto eBay, asking questions to a seller about the condition of the recorder and executing a purchase. Seems hard to believe. He has to have somebody do this stuff for him, right?
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TonyBClubManager
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« Reply #4 on: August 26, 2010, 07:05:02 am »

Quote
And get this: the whole thing was captured on this mono AMPEX 601 tape recorder Mellencamp bought off eBay:



(Above: Mellencamp's recording set-up in the First African Baptist Church of Savannah. Photo courtesy of Bob Merlis.)


It has been mentioned a few time, kind of as a color note, not a main point of the story.

I remember when one of John's team members sent me the ebay link when John bought this, saying check this out. It was quite surprising!

So does John actually have an eBay account, or does he have somebody who makes these purchases for him? I just can't imagine John logging onto eBay, asking questions to a seller about the condition of the recorder and executing a purchase. Seems hard to believe. He has to have somebody do this stuff for him, right?


Ha as I kind of alluded to, it was John's purchase, don't expect it was his fingers doing the clicking, even though he likely approved that the recorder was suitable.
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mellenq
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« Reply #5 on: August 26, 2010, 09:31:59 am »

Love the article also the photo and ebay reference regarding the tape machine.

Is it just coincedence that "No better Than This' was released on August 17, after all, if my memory serves me correctly, isn't that date the anniversary of Elvis's passing?   Huh
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