Photo Credit: Tom Sheehan
Cleveland International Records set to release Cleveland Rocks
Galloping drums and a soaring saxophone greet us at the onset of Cleveland Rocks in its boldly reissued form, with Ronnie Spector & the E-Street Band leading the way in “Say Goodbye to Hollywood.” The classic swing of the song hasn’t aged a day, and its intrepid fine-lines and detailed tonality set the stage for an unparalleled compilation that will see us cross style boundaries and age-gaps in what is ultimately an unforgettable LP. Southside Johnny & the Asbury Jukes keep the lively energy going with “I Don’t Wanna Go Home,” Just Us Girls dish out “Time Warp” in one of the most underrated explosions of relentless pop melody from its time, and Iron City Houserockers inject the playlist with some firebrand rock in the form of “Have a Good Time But Get Out Alive,” all before we ever reach the halfway point of the record.
“There’s No Surf in Cleveland” from the Euclid Beach Band washes us in cerebral harmonies before clearing out for The Boyzz and “Too Wild to Tame,” a bass-heavy thumper that reminds us of what hard rock used to sound like in its tube-amped heyday. Jim Steinman’s “Rock and Roll Dreams Come Through” adds a gangster-esque swagger to the midpoint of Cleveland Rocks, but its Vice City strut doesn’t eclipse the ethereal glow of Ellen Foley in “We Belong to the Night.” Foley has always had a place in my heart, and this song encapsulates her dynamic skillset perhaps better than any other could.
If you aren’t busting a move to the confident croon of Meat Loaf in “Paradise By the Dashboard Light,” then you might just need to have your pulse checked by the time the nearly nine minute epic reaches its torrid conclusion. Essence’s uncompromising slow funk ballad “Sweet Fools” has never sounded as tempered and heavenly as it does today, in this troubling atmosphere of disingenuous R&B beats, and while Mike Berry’s “I Am a Rocker” has perhaps the most familiar and campy presentation of anything to be found on Cleveland Rocks, it’s far from a jaded sample of archaic trends in rock music. Every song included on this LP is a watershed track from a legend in their own right, and in the sense that some of it might be new to younger listeners, it’s reemergence in 2019 should be considered all the more important culturally.
The Rovers’ “Wasn’t That a Party” stings with a countrified grit before we finish up on the back of Ian Hunter’s “Cleveland Rocks,” a song that has taken on so much more of an anthemic persona than its Oswestry, Shropshire-born composer could have ever imagined it would. On April 5, Cleveland International Records is giving us a bridge to the past in the thirteen songs making up this enduring compilation of classics, and while it’s content is far from toned down or streamlined for casual fans, to call it anything other than a masterpiece of both its time and our own would be as criminal an offense as a music enthusiast could make. It must be said that Steve Popovich, Sr.’s legacy will live on forever through this eternally accessible LP, and more prominently, in this music that he helped introduce all of us to. With the recent relaunch of Cleveland International Records, owner Steve Popovich, JR. a veteran satellite radio industry exec, is looking forward to championing new acts and also in 2019, the label will re-issue 10-15 albums from its back catalog on digital platforms for the first time ever.
by Lorelei Reynolds
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