The Best of Rock & Roll Hall of Fame + Museum Live
Universal Music / Time Life
If you’ve ever prayed to David Bowie’s light machine or lit a votive candle for Kid Rock, then you may be a fan of The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Every season they induct a few new bands into the place and guarantee Cleveland at least one decent concert a year. They pull together all the hot names and old relics of the business to entertain the TV audience with a mix of oldies and covers and jams. Some people watch the ceremony for the excitement of seeing the famous become ever so slightly more so, and some watch for the mega jam of everyone on stage pounding nails into an old hit. And if you avoid awards shows here’s what your friends who casually talk about “Bruce” or “Eddie” or “Tom” are all hepped up about.
There are three CDs in all and the first is called All Day and All of the Night. Here we focus on the ’50s and early ’60s. Some of the better tracks are Chuck Berry’s “Johnny B. Good” (with Bruce Springsteen), “Be My Baby” by the Ronnettes, and even “Train Kept A-Rollin'” with Jeff Beck, Jimmy Page, Ron Wood, Joe Perry, Flea, and Metallica. (It’s a big stage.). Springsteen is all over this project; he’s on “I Saw Her Standing There” and “Can’t Get No Satisfaction” (both with Jagger) and “In the Midnight Hour” with Wilson Pickett. I think Springsteen is just fine, but he’s like paprika — you can’t just add him to anything and automatically make it better.
Sunshine of Your Love covers the psychedelic era and glory days of stadium rock, and somehow Mr. Springsteen misses all these cuts. They suffer nothing by his absence, and I don’t see how he would add to Traffic’s “Dear Mr. Fantasy” or ZZ Top’s “La Grange” or even the Tom Petty, Jeff Lye, Steve Winwood, Dhani Harrison and god forbid PRINCE version of “While My Guitar Gently Weeps.” The real flop here is “Beck’s Bolero” done by Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page: it begins well enough, but then slips gears and launches into “The Immigrant Song.” Yeah, it’s all Zeppelin, but it’s also the sort of cognitive dissonance we abandoned when the drugs dried up. I’ll even say something nice about Eddie Vedder: his vocals on the Doors’ “Roadhouse Blues” capture the essence of the original better than I would have expected.
The last platter is Sweet Emotion, covering the hard rock and MTV days. Mr. Springsteen returns on three tracks, include his own “Tenth Avenue Freeze Out” and “The Promised Land” as well as partnering with U2 on their “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For.” All are respectable, but I prefer the Queen, Dave Grohl, Taylor Hawkins “Tie Your Mother Down” or the titular “Sweet Emotion” by Aerosmith or even the unlikely Green Day cover of “Blitzkrieg Bop.” There’s rock and roll, and then there’s filling the stage with anyone who can play an instrument.
As live albums go, this one has all the big names, very little point-the-microphone-at-a-drunken-audience, and nothing but 100% RIAA-certified hits. It’s also a bit sloppy, a bit self important, and never gets as good or as raw as the originals. Live music is always best live, and when someone records it you can expect a Greatest Hits rip off coming out soon. If you pick your music by sales numbers, then this is heaven, and if not it’s a decent mix tape from an-ex girlfriend — a few fond memories and a lot of baggage that might be best wiped out by a Vulcan Nerve grip.
Time Life: www.timelife.com