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Tuesday Tunes: Spotlight on Rick Springfield

Cover__300RGB[I'm on with my rock 'n' roll pal Kaedy Kiely at 97.1 The River every Wednesday at 6:50 and 7:50 a.m. to talk about the latest rock news. Tune in to hear what's up!]

Few things are as annoying as seeing an underappreciated musician reduced to a single song. You see it with artists such as Cyndi Lauper – as if she never had another hit besides “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” – and Richard Marx, who apparently will always be associated with “Hold On to the Nights” and not his dozen other Top 40 appearances.

Someone else who gets relegated to ‘80s-only status yet has been making terrific, thoughtful, engaging pop-rock for nearly 30 years is Rick Springfield.

Yeah, yeah, we all know about “Jessie’s Girl” since he’s forced to play it on every talk show appearance. But that immediately identifiable ditty aside, he’s notched a dozen-plus Top 40 hits, and, in the past two decades routinely dug deep into his own psyche (the soulful “Rock of Life”), opened a few veins and tackled some demons (2004’s “Shock/Denial/Anger/Acceptance”) and crafted enjoyable singalongs (“What’s Victoria’s Secret” from 2008’s “Venus in Overdrive” is example No. 96).

But with “Songs for the End of the World,” Springfield, an unbelievable 63, rips out rockers with the verve of a musician half his age. “My Last Heartbeat” talks about the cavalry coming and that it is, in the form of propulsive guitars and Springfield’s vigorous vocals, both on full display throughout the album.

The escalating drum roll and heavy guitars that introduce “Wide Awake,” the first song on the release, immediately announce that this will be a high-octane ride.

And what a tremendous accomplishment for Springfield at this point in his career.

Much like KISS’ new “Monster” (also out today – see below), Springfield’s 18th album culls elements from past work (“One Way Street” will remind fans of “World Start Turning” from “Rock of Life,” though the galloping pace shares something with Bob Seger’s “Hollywood Nights,” too) but keeps him firmly relevant with a fresh modern rock sound, insanely catchy choruses and lyrics that come from someone who has spent plenty of time in a therapist’s chair.

Springfield has always deftly couched bittersweet sentiments in honeyed choruses, and that gift is evident on “Our Ship is Sinking,” a desperate swipe to hang on to a relationship with a sunny bridge that belies the darker lyrics (“If I’m the one who caused who caused your shipwrecked life, then hold my hand right to the fire”).

Even the amusingly titled “I Hate Myself” sports a boppy beat with twisted lyrics (“Everybody thinks I’m a creep and so do I”); and talk about a chorus tailor made for live singalongs (you’ll probably get your chance when he plays the Cobb Energy Center Nov. 29).

The only times the tempo pauses for a breath are for the sweet “You and Me,” a midtempo song about the simplicity of the right partnership and the chillingly beautiful “Gabriel” (as in Arc Angel).

Springfield has never been a lazy songwriter and even when he dabbles in sentiment – “Joshua” is written for his twentysomething son – he makes sure the song’s foundation is built on melody, not schmaltz.

“Songs” is a renaissance of sorts, an unwavering collection of musical diary entries that explore mature topics with intelligence and keen musicality.

For listeners who incorrectly peg Springfield as a onetime heartthrob with one signature hit, this is your chance to understand what those who have faithfully followed his career have known all along: He’s a first class pop craftsman.

Also available Tuesday:

Don Felder, “Road to Forever,” the first solo album in 30 years from the Eagles guitarist. Guests include Crosby, Stills and Nash, Steve Lukather and Tommy Shaw.

Robert Glasper, “Black Radio Recovered: The Remix EP,” the latest from the jazz pianist, takes songs from his February release “Black Radio” and funks them up with help from The Roots and Solange Knowles.

KISSKISS, “Monster,” marks one of the band’s strongest albums since their ‘70s heyday. Songs such as “Freak,” “All for the Love of Rock and Roll” and the Simmons-sung “The Devil is Me” should rattle the roofs of many an arena.

Xzibit, “Napalm,” his first album in six years features production from Dr. Dre and Akon and guest shots from Wiz Khalifa, Travis Barker and Prodigy.

Wanda Jackson, “Unfinished Business,” is the 31st studio album from the Queen of Rockabilly, who, at almost 75, decided to throw in some covers of songs by Etta James, Woody Guthrie and Bobby Womack.

The Script, “#3,” from the Irish band that has carved quite a career in the U.S. with their own agreeable melodic pop and those that turned into hits for others (Kris Allen’s “Live Like We’re Dying”). On first single “Hall of Fame,” the band has an unlikely pairing with will.i.am.

The Wallflowers, “Glad All Over,” the band’s first album in seven years, offers the funky fresh “Reboot the Mission” with Mick Jones, but the real standout is the Stones-y shuffle, “Misfits and Lovers.”

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By Melissa Ruggieri, Atlanta Music Scene

20 comments Add your comment

Michigander

October 9th, 2012
9:53 am

Wait. Rick Springfield is 63???

UPGRAYEDD

October 9th, 2012
11:22 am

I will always remember him, not as a rock musician, but as the inimitable Dr. Noah Drake.

Steve

October 9th, 2012
12:07 pm

Yeah and my 47 year old wife would do him with me tugging on her leg say “lets go Baby”!!!

LydiasDad

October 9th, 2012
2:12 pm

When I think of Richard Marx, I think of “Right Here Waiting”.

LydiasDad

October 9th, 2012
2:14 pm

Now think of Springfield playing himself in Californication. He played a heck of a druggie and party animal,but played under his own name. Is he really that way? If not, why play himself?

joey

October 9th, 2012
2:21 pm

Not sure how you can lump Cyndi Lauper in with the other one hit wonder artists. Obviously you are too young to appreciate and know of her other songs like Time After Time and True Colors.

Darin

October 9th, 2012
2:45 pm

Absolutely no mention at all of the new Tame Impala record, already being heralded by many blogs as an album of the year candidate. Or the new A.C. Newman. When is the AJC going to get in touch with the current music scene rather than focusing on Xzibit or Rick Springfield?!

dick whiskey

October 9th, 2012
3:04 pm

he’s only 63,wow! looks at least 73 must have really been doin some drugs in the day

Melissa Ruggieri

October 9th, 2012
3:13 pm

Joey – I think you missed my point. That’s exactly what I’m saying, that there are certain artists who have dozens of hits, yet most people only associate them with a signature song, and that’s what they’re forced to play every time they appear on TV, regardless of the strength of their new material.
Thanks for thinking I’m too young to be familiar with Cyndi Lauper’s catalog, but I can assure that all of her albums received plenty of play during my grade and high school years! (Her new memoir is great, by the way.)

Cheers,
Melissa

Sue Gilbert

October 9th, 2012
3:15 pm

Actually Rick turned 64 in August. He was a musician before General Hospital with Speak To The Sky in 1972 being his first American hit. He took the job on General Hospital because he needed the steady paycheck, before Working Class Dog and it’s Grammy award winning song Jessie’s Girl was released. The Californication character was a parody. He also played a Rick Springfield look alike character on an episode of Hot In Cleveland who told women he was Rick Springfield to get them to sleep with him. In reality, Rick has been married to the same woman since the mid 80s. How many rock stars manage that? He is also the father of 2 sons, Liam and Joshua, both in the 20s. You might check out the documentary called Affair Of the Heart which centers around Rick’s fans. It’s opening in NYC this week. Oh, and the CD Songs for the End of the World is a killer collection of music, deserving as much attention as any other release out there.

Melissa Ruggieri

October 9th, 2012
3:15 pm

Actually, LydiasDad, you’re right – that probably is the more identifiable song, even though they both hit No. 1!

Thanks,
Melissa

Anita Christensen from Denmark

October 9th, 2012
3:56 pm

Thx so much for this excellent article about Rick Springfield. He´s really much more than “just ” “Jessie´s girl” and he also has a hilarious sence of humor. I´ve been a fan sice 1981 and my first concert was in 1985 in Copenhagen. Back in those days he was this “big” riock star on stage but now he´s more down to earth and really connecting with his fans during his concerts – I know because I also saw him in Oslo 2010 – he´s much better now than then. Anita from Denmark

Anita Christensen from Denmark

October 9th, 2012
3:58 pm

sorry Sue Gilbert but Rick only turned 63 the 23rd of August – he was born in 1949

Claire Springfield

October 9th, 2012
8:12 pm

Thank you for giving Rick the credit he deserves for his writing and singing talents. As a 30 year fan, it drives me nuts when people (especially those in the media) only see him for his hits from the 80s. And if you liked Songs for the End of the World.. you should surely check out his 2008 album, Venus in Overdrive. There is so much more to him than most people know — he’s an excellent writer – has a a New York times best-selling autobiography (Late, Late, at Night) and he is so good to his fans, always willing to stop and talk and making himself available. I could write all day about him. His music has meant so much to me and made such a difference in my life that I even took his last name as a way of commemorating what his music has done for me because it was his fans, his music, and his concerts that got me through some of the darkest times in my life. I hope people will come out to Cobb Energy and see exactly what you said… that he is a first-class craftsman… and he also rips it on the guitar. Yeah yeah!!

Claire Springfield

October 9th, 2012
8:13 pm

Anita is right. He’s 63.

The Rover

October 10th, 2012
7:27 am

Melissa,

What metro theatres will be showing “Celebration Day” – the Led Zeppelin movie next Tuesday & Wednesaday?

Brad

October 10th, 2012
8:11 am

Rick’s last few albums have been fantastic. Can’t wait to hear the new one!

paul

October 10th, 2012
8:19 am

i have rick’s new cd it is awesome!he is better now than he was in the eighties!

TrueArtist

October 10th, 2012
8:35 am

If artists only put out songs to be “rich” or “famous” we would miss out on a lot of great music. My daughter is a ATL pop artist with fans worldwide..no she isn’t famous “yet” but has built up an nice fan base with her OWN record label as a independent artist at 19. When she writes a song it isn’t for it to get on the TOP 40 but for her fans to enjoy it as much as she does. That’s what artist do. I appreciate Rick Springfield still doing “his thing” as 63. He is a true artist. I hope he gets to do it another 20 years!

Melissa Ruggieri

October 10th, 2012
11:01 am