John Mellencamp’s 25th studio album, Strictly A One-Eyed Jack was written and produced by Mellencamp, recorded at his Belmont Mall Studios in Indiana, and recorded/mixed by GRAMMY-award winner David Leonard. It features a number of longtime band members including Andy York, Dane Clark, Mike Wanchic, Troye Kinnett, and more. It also features three collaborations with Bruce Springsteen including the landmark duet “Wasted Days.”
John Mellencamp has been in need of a thorough, career-spanning compilation for a while, and Island/UTV's 2004 release Words & Music: John Mellencamp's Greatest Hits finally fills that gap. His previous hits collection, 1997's The Best That I Could Do, was too short, since he had more hits than could fit on a brief 14-track disc. Words & Music doesn't have the problem of brevity. Spanning 37 songs over two discs, this has nearly all of his charting hits. Radio hits like "Justice and Independence '85" and "Rooty Toot Toot" may be absent, but they're not missed, since all the big hits are here, including "Pink Houses," "Lonely Ol' Night," "Paper in Fire," "Authority Song," "Crumblin' Down," "Small Town," "Hurts So Good," and "Jack & Diane," among many others (including two solid new songs).
Although Mercury Records had delivered five consecutive platinum albums for John Mellencamp, he left the label in 1997, complaining about its inability to break hit singles for him anymore, and signed to Columbia Records. His self-titled label debut, issued the day before his 47th birthday, seemed intended to mark a new beginning for an artist who had managed more than one career rebirth…
Only John Mellencamp, whose career began with a series of wrong turns, raw determination, and the audaciousness to demand he be taken seriously could create a box set as strange, representative, and labyrinthine as On the Rural Route 7609. In the era of the “track,” Mellencamp has issued a massive, beautifully packaged, and exhaustively annotated four-disc career retrospective that doesn’t lean on his hits (many aren’t here), but rather on more obscure album cuts, outtakes, rarities (17 selections make their debuts here), and more recent material – numerous selections come from 2007’s Freedom’s Road and 2008’s Life Love Death and Freedom. In Anthony DeCurtis' excellent liner essay/interview, Mellencamp claims he isn’t “trying to prove anything. . . it was a way for them to discover songs of mine that perhaps were overlooked because of the songs that were so popular on the radio.” Given his choice of material, he may not feel that his career-long demand has been met yet.
Following the stripped-down rock & roll of Whenever We Wanted, the somber Human Wheels comes as a bit of shock. Throughout his mid-'80s peak, John Mellencamp infused his best work with despair, but he never has sounded as beaten and broken as he does on Human Wheels. It's not just that the record sounds murky and bleak, but his singing is weary and the lyrics are filled with resignation. Consequently, Human Wheels isn't a particularly easy listen, even though it doesn't depart from his signature sound, but it is a rewarding one, and the record is arguably his most affecting.
The Best That I Could Do is an appropriately self-deprecating title for John Mellencamp's greatest-hits collection, considering that the heartland rocker never seemed too convinced of his own worth. Of course, he had to struggle to get any respect after he was saddled with the stage name Johnny Cougar early in his career, but this 14-track collection proves that he was one of the best, unabashed straight-ahead rockers of the '80s. The 14 tracks here actually turn out to be a little too short to contain all of his great singles – songs like "Rain on the Scarecrow," "Rumbleseat," "Pop Singer," "Again Tonight," and "What If I Came Knocking" are left off the collection (there's nothing from 1988's Big Daddy at all) – but it's hard to argue with what's here.
John Mellencamp releases live album and documentary titled: The Good Samaritan Tour. The documentary, which will be narrated by Academy® Award winner Matthew McConaughey, chronicles Mellencamp’s historic free tour in 2000 when he performed on street corners and in public parks across the country. The new music is just one of many new projects Mellencamp has been working on including original plays, paintings and more.