Nils Lofgren - Nils Lofgren

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Album Cover
I was pretty excited for this one. 

If you're not familiar with Nils Lofgren, here's a little back story: He spent the early part of his career collaborating with Neil Young, the patron saint of this website. Later in his career, he was part of Bruce Springsteen's E-Street Band, replacing Little Steven for the Born in the USA tour. But in the middle there (and by that I mean mid 70s to mid 80s) Nils went solo, and produced some really fine records. His self-titled debut is widely considered a masterpiece.

Now that you know a little bit about the guy, and you can see the cover of his debut right over there → , what are you thinking, sound-wise? My guess was rough and tumble rock and roll. Maybe it's the bottle of Drambuie? Grand Marnier???? that Nils is downing on the cover, but this seems like it's going to be a bar fight soundtrack...something to play while watching pint glasses and obscenities fly. And Nils looks like the kind of guy who would help you find the other half of your tooth.

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Back Cover
But no. Don't let the cover fool you. This isn't bar music. And that fat kid mural on the front? Another red herring. There's nothing fat on this record. The songs are trim. You'd think after years of working with Neil Young would leave a man conditioned to meander a bit. Nope. The second track (but true opener) Back It Up clocks in under two and half minutes.

[ mp3 ] Nils Lofgren - Back It Up

Even the guitar solo is compact. It's crisp, leads beautifully into a key change, and follows the song as it fades away. Three cheers for the fade out by the way. I love that this was the only way to end a rock song in the seventies. I like to imagine entire bands struggling to come up with endings to songs, and when all possibilities have been exhausted, they look at each other, shrug and say in defeated unison, "fade out." Then they go get high.

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Side A Label
I Don't Want to Know fades out too, but not before it's bouncy melody worms its way into your brain. 

[ mp3 ]: Nils Lofgren - I Don't Want To Know

I Don't Want To Know makes me understand why some people were disappointed when this album first came out. There's almost NO GUITAR in it. Led by the keyboards, the song rolls along without the help of blistering guitar solo or instrumental breakdown. It's pop Nick Lowe would be proud of; effortless and easy, played with precision and grace. You can at least take some comfort in the fact that the song seems to be addressed toward, for lack of a better term, a slutty lady. Now that's rock and roll, right?

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Side B Label
So, yeah. Nils still has some edge to him here. And like other talented musicians stuck in a broken system of record labels and tours and all that, (Lowe and Freddie Mercury come to mind) he's got some vitriol left for the institution that is Rock and Roll.

[ mp3 ]: Nils Lofgren - Rock and Roll Crook

At least, I think that song is about how much he hates the corporatizing of rock and roll. I mean, I'm pretty sure. Or maybe it's about how he's awesome and other people suck at rock and roll and are just ripping him off. I don't know. There's something about him getting all the ladies, and then he plays his guitar really good, and sounds angry about it. Sounds like a man rocking out after some straight hits off a bottle of Grand Marnier, if you ask me.


-N.W.