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The Record Vault – Concrete Blonde

“Joey” went to Number 1 in Australia and suddenly Concrete Blonde was talked about as an overnight sensation by the press.

But “Bloodletting” is the third studio album, released in 1990. In Australia it charted pretty good and was certified gold. And Johnette Napolitano got the chance to show the world what a brilliant songwriter she is.

Produced by hard rock and NWOBHM producer Chris Tsangarides. Interesting choice.

“Bloodletting (the Vampire song)” opens the album. At 6 minutes long, you get the feeling that Concrete Blonde didn’t have any ambitions to write big hits, just songs to make up an album. Anne Rice and her Vampire Chronicles of Lestat did big business in the books box office, so it’s no surprise to see songs about em.

And “Bloodletting” has that chromatic “you are been followed” feel in the riff. “Caroline” is almost six minutes as well, as it jams out the ending with a new wave rock style vocal.

But “Joey” is the star here. It’s so memorable and it has that “Stand By Me” C-Am-F-G progression (in a different key) which brings to the listeners, a sense of familiarity.

And we like the familiar. It’s the reason why AC/DC has had a career for almost 50 years.

Napolitano on vocals and bass guitar cemented her status as a producer and songwriter, while James Mankey on guitars showed a different style of guitar decorating and Paul Thompson holds down the drums.

“Bloodletting” started a five year period, that includes “Walking in London” released in 1992 and “Mexican Moon” released in 1993 and its these albums that gave the band a chance for a few victory laps later on.

I didn’t get “Walking In London” and then I heard the intro to “Heal It Up” on radio and I purchased “Mexican Moon”.

The groove is fantastic, the vocal line of Napolitano is infectious and the music so memorable. And how simple is the guitar lead, but so effective.

And the album is more hard rock than the previous ones.

It irks me how it’s not on Spotify as it’s my favourite album.

I pressed play on the cassette and I was greeted by the haunting arpeggios of “Jenny I Read” and this drum and bass groove which allows Napolitano to deliver an awesome vocal melody while guitarist James Mankey decorates it so nicely with volume swell riffs and melodic motifs and backward guitar effects.

“Mexican Moon” has Napolitano singing about a failed romance and fleeing into Mexico. The strummed acoustic guitar, the guitar melodic decorations, the bass and drum groove and the vocal melody all come together into a catchy song.

The intro/verse riff for “Rain” is hypnotic. The the vocal melody from Napolitano is excellent and the lead break is simple but so effective.

Then you have the hard driving and funky “Jesus Forgive Me (For The Things I’m About To Say)” which is similar to what In This Moment sounds like on the last few albums.

And “Mexican Moon” still did good business in Australia, but not as good as the previous two. Feeling the pressures to repeat past successes from the label, Napolitano broke the band up.

I never heard from them again, although Wikipedia tells me that the band got back together, did a few more albums, broke up again and got back together again.


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