John Hiatt

(Copyright © 1999 Piero Scaruffi | Legal restrictions - Termini d'uso )
Hangin' Around The Observatory (1974), 5/10
Overcoats (1975), 5/10
Slug Line (1979), 7/10
Two Bit Monsters (1980), 5/10
All Of A Sudden (1982), 5/10
Riding With the King (1983), 5/10
Warming Up To The Ice Age (1985), 5/10
Bring the Family (1987), 6/10
Slow Turning (1988), 5/10
Stolen Moments (1990), 7/10
Little Village (1992), 4/10
Perfectly Good Guitar (1993), 6/10
Walk On (1995), 7/10
Little Head (1997), 5/10
Crossing Muddy Waters (2000), 4/10
The Tiki Bar Is Open (2001), 4/10
Beneath This Gruff Exterior (2004), 4/10
Master Of Disaster (2005), 4/10
Same Old Man (2008) , 4/10
Open Road 2010) , 4/10

John Hiatt was born and raised in Indiana. In the early 1970s he headed for Nashville and recorded his debut album, Hangin' Around The Observatory (Epic, 1974), in the eclectic rootsy style of Leon Russell, a tasteful mixture of country, soul, gospel, rock and blues (Sure As I'm Sitting Here). After another, inferior, album of traditional sounds, Overcoats (Epic, 1975), Hiatt moved to Los Angeles.

Adding reggae and rhythm'n'blues to the stew, Hiatt delivered the rawer and meaner Slug Line (MCA, 1979), that established him as an original and creative singer-songwriter. Confidently flirting with reggae (Madonna Road), pop (Radio Girl), rockabilly (You Used To Kiss The Girls) and rhythm'n'blues (Washable Ink), Hiatt had become a master who could paint just about any landscape.

Compared with that solid collection, Two Bit Monsters (MCA, 1980) was a let-down. For each tender confession (It Hasn't Happened Yet, Pink Bedroom), one had to swallow a dose of frantic rhythm'n'blues (String Pull Job).

Hiatt's sell-out continued with the heavily arranged All Of A Sudden (Geffen, 1982), on which Hiatt's poetry gets lost in the bombast (I Look For Love, Something Happened), despite the heartbreaking gospel My Edge Of The Razor.

Riding With the King (Geffen, 1983) continued the slide, despite the the martial boogie Riding With the King, the visceral soul ballad Love Like Blood, and another folk-rock gem: She Loves The Jerk.

Warming Up To The Ice Age (Geffen, 1985) even drowned Hiatt's thoughtful lyrics into the loud power-pop of The Usual, Zero House and I Got A Gun. Hiatt's emotions managed to escape the trap only in the bleak When We Ran and the roaring rhythm'n'blues of The Crush.

The simpler, calmer tone of Bring the Family (A&M, 1987) was more rewarding, with touching melodramas such as Have A Little Faith In Me and My Dad Did, and haunting watercolors such as Lipstick Sunset. And Thing Called Love remains one of his masterpieces. The line-up was a de-facto supergroup, with Hiatt on acoustic guitar and piano, Nick Lowe on bass, Ry Cooder on electric guitar and sitar, Jim Keltner on drums. Hiatt was finally recovering from alcoholism (and the devastating loss of his wife, who committed suicide).

It was followed by Slow Turning (A&M, 1988), that tends to gets lost in philosophical speculation (Is Anybody There) and only occasionally lets the spark catch fire (Drive South, Tennessee Plates, Feels Like Rain, Slow Turning).

Y'All Caught (Geffen, 1989) is an anthology.

Bob Dylan's influence was beneficial if that's what made Stolen Moments (A&M, 1990) the impeccable album that it is. From the melodic rockabilly of Real Fine Love and Child Of The Wild Blue Yonder to the folkish intensity of Thirty Years of Tears and Through Your Hands, Hiatt pours his heart on the notes and carries the listener into his intimate world. Touches of soul (Bring Back Your Love To Me) and hard-rock The Rest Of The Dream, which echoes AC/DC's You Shook Me All Night Long) do not detract from the whole.

Little Village (Reprise, 1992) was an all-star band concocted with Ry Cooder, Nick Lowe and Jim Keltner, the same co-conspirators of Bring the Family.

Falling prey to Neil Young's neurotic guitar style, Hiatt reinvented himself on Perfectly Good Guitar (A&M, 1993), a collection of raucous rave-ups (Something Wild, Buffalo River Home, and best of all Blue Telescope).

The contrast between that album and Walk On (Capitol, 1995) is striking. The latter seems like new age music (The River Knows Your Name). It is also one of his most profound and illuminating works (You Must Go, Walk On, I Can't Wait, Good As She Could Be). The album also opens new stylistic avenues, at the border between jazz, pop and blues, with Wrote It Down And Burned It and Mile High. Hiatt's third masterpiece.

Hiatt returned to arranged music with Little Head (Capitol, 1997), which contains weak power-pop tracks such as Pirate Radio and Sure Pinocchio (reminiscent of Warren Zevon's Werewolves Of London).

The acoustic Crossing Muddy Waters (Vanguard, 2000) and The Tiki Bar Is Open (Vanguard, 2001), with the angry rant of Everybody Went Low, are disappointing. Beneath This Gruff Exterior (2004) hardly sounds like a Hiatt album: the dominant sound is Sonny Landreth's guitar, Hiatt's voice is feeble, and the material is worthy of a bar-band. A chronic lack of inspiration also affects Master Of Disaster (New West, 2005).

The nostalgic mood of Master Of Disaster (2005) and Open Road 2010) did not help redeem the lack of musical attractions. In fact, it made it worse. And when Hiatt tried to go for a slicker sound on Dirty Jeans and Mudslide Hymns (2011), it felt like an old woman trying to look like a teenager... and looking even older.

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