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The Hit List

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  • Joan Jett (nee, Joan Marie Larkin) first gained fame as the teenage guitarist and singer for prototypical all-grrl band, the “Runaways,” (“Cherry Bomb”), then continued her success with “Joan Jett and the Blackhearts,” which produced (among many other songs) the hit “I Love Rock ‘N Roll,” which reached Billboard’s #1 spot in the Spring of 1982. Jett recorded many covers during the ‘Blackhearts’ years, including the seminal “I Love Rock ‘N Roll” (written by “The Arrows”), as well as a great version of “Crimson and Clover” and “Do You Wanna Touch Me.”

    This 1990 release is all covers, and is mostly outstanding. Highlights include her ironic, aggressive rendition of “Pretty Vacant,” her voice appropriately drone-y, yet soaring over the backgrounds; “Love Hurts,” in which her covers outshines the original; and risky–because the originals were done by rock icons–but surprisingly superb and enjoyable treatments of “Love Me Two Times” (the Doors), “Up from the Skies (Jimi Hendrix),” “Have You Seen the Rain (Credence Clearwater Revival),” and “Celluloid Heroes (the Kinks)” featuring Ray Davies and a very satisfying guitar solo.

    The songs are muscular, energetic, and heavy on the rhythm section (bass and drums), giving a raw, propulsive feeling to most of the songs (e.g., “Tush” in which–unlike ZZ Top–she doesn’t distort the pronunciation of the title, and “Dirty Deeds,” more honest and less gimmicky than the original, IMHO). The only disappointing cuts were “Roadrunner USA,” probably never a great song anyway, and her belabored try at “Time Has Come Today.” I must admit that I’ve never heard a good cover of the latter song. At least Joan’s take is far superior to the awful Steve Earle version. Apparently, only the Chambers Brothers can do this song right.

    Parenthetically, Jett never received what she was owed for “I Love ROck and Roll,” and the ensueing years are a testament to her multifaceted talent (producing, acting), and longevity (she has been both pre- and post-punk, and was a participant/role model for some in the “riot grrl” movement]). Her “Greatest Hits” LPs will give you more original Joan Jett (including the famous “Cherry Bomb,” on which she “covers” the Runaways own song), but “The Hits” deserves your attention for the (mostly) great selection of songs sung by the now-iconic J. Jett. Excellent production (in New York City), nice photo of Jett on the cover, but, unfortunately, no liner notes.

    Posted on December 4, 2009