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Ted Nugent, ‘Shutup&Jam’ – Album Review

Ted Nugent Shutup&Jam
Frontiers Records

Reviewing a new Ted Nugent album here seems futile. Judging from the overwhelmingly negative Facebook comments on our stories about the “Motor City Madman,” by now most of you have decided that he’s either an a–hole or incapable of making good music anymore. Or both.

But just in case there’s a silent majority of Nugent fans out there — or for the benefit of anybody who’s somehow still on the fence about one of rock’s most divisive icons — we’re happy to report that with ‘Shutup&Jam,’ Uncle Ted has delivered an appealing, surprisingly modest record full of catchy guitar riffs and largely devoid of controversial lyrics.

Now remember, we said largely. Even though he clearly doesn’t seem to be using it as an insult in any way, it’d probably have been smarter to leave the “I love my barbecue / It’s what the Pollocks do” lyric from ‘I Love My BBQ’ on the cutting room floor. Of course, there’s plenty of patriotic “oohrah” to be found in songs like ‘I Still Believe,’ ‘Never Stop Believing’ and ‘Trample the Weak Hurdle the Dead,’ but it’s only on the latter that Nugent wanders far into Warhawk territory.

Besides, let’s do what the album title suggests and focus on the music itself. ‘BBQ’ is a slyly disguised tribute to early Jimi Hendrix, complete with ‘Crosstown Traffic’ “doot doot dooh”s. The first of two different versions of ‘Never Stop Believing’ features the album’s most complex and nuanced songwriting, stretching past six minutes while changing moods and tempos effortlessly. (The blues version that turns up later suits him well, too; it’s easy to see why he included both takes on the album.)

Other highlights include the upbeat shuffle of ‘Everything Matters’ (which makes perfect use of returning sometimes-lead vocalist Derek St. Holmes), the locomotive instrumental ‘Throttledown’ and the powerful strutting crawl of ‘Semper Fi.’ Nugent and guest star Sammy Hagar also demonstrate strong chemistry on ‘She’s Gone,’ even if you do find yourself wishing for additional lyrics about halfway through the track. Would it be too much to ask for a joint covers album from these two someday soon?

Another piece of good news? Unlike nearly every other one of his peers, Nugent remembers how long a gosh-darn album is supposed to be. Even with the second version of ‘Never Stop Believing,’ the whole record races by in less than 50 minutes. In fact, fully half of the songs are wrapped up in under three minutes, just like the old Motown sides that clearly have such a strong influence on Nugent’s best music. Combine that brevity with the overall high songwriting and performance quality on ‘Shutup&Jam’ and guess what? Ted Nugent’s new album not only satisfies, it actually kinda leaves us wanting more!

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