Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Labor Of Love!

There's no doubt I'll be rocking out to the Ramones, Clash, Stones, and Dictators until the day I die. There are just certain bands that no one ever "outgrows". I imagine the tantrum I'll throw in the retirement home when my digital copy of Too Much Too Soon is accidentally deleted from my iPhone 41. But what about bands from this era? Will any of them join the aforementioned greats on my old man playlist? Without a doubt! And the first band that comes to mind is The Connection. We're talking about the great American rock n' roll band of this time. Over the last several years, I've had the pleasure of following this outfit's ascent from good to great to bona fide best band in the world contender. Labor Of Love, the group's new LP, is worthy of an honored place on my record shelf along side some of my favorite punk/rock n' roll/power pop albums of all-time. It's everything I love about music condensed into ten should-be hits. And while it's way too early to make a call on album of the year, The Connection has surely given us the one to beat!

While so much of what makes The Connection appealing comes down to unassailable influences, that's only part of the story. Just as significantly, this is simply an incredible band. With The Connection, you get one of the best lead singers out there, the finest rock n' roll pianist in the business, and one of the most formidable guitar tandems and songwriting duos you'll ever come across. Blurring the lines between garage, power pop, '70s punk, and golden oldies rock n' roll, The Connection creates a sound that's timeless yet fully its own. When you hear a Connection song, you know it's a Connection song. And Labor Of Love dishes out ten classic Connection songs! After hearing that the band had enlisted the great Andy Shernoff to executive produce Labor Of Love, I surmised that it was going to be something special. I wasn't wrong! Even with my expectations set sky high, Brad, Geoff, and the gang have totally blown me away with this album. This is the record they've been working towards all these years - full of songs that sound great on the radio yet still crackle with the energy of a live rock n' roll performance. The Connection, already owners of five Coolest Songs In The World on Little Steven's Underground Garage, might double that number with this album alone! 

Labor Of Love takes you on a half-hour tour through the history of rock n' roll, with nods to everyone from the Beach Boys via Chuck Berry (the title track) to the British Invasion ("Pathetic Kind Of Man") to '70s Stones ("So Easy") to The Boys ("Don't Come Back") to Road To Ruin era Ramones ("You Ain't Special") to Elvis Costello ("Treat You So Bad"). The title track, with a riff nicked from The Saints' "(I'm Stranded)", is one of the strongest album-openers I've ever heard. It's a party-starter and mission statement rolled into one - a joyful testament to the power and glory of rock n' roll. Just one song that good would have made this album worth buying. But "Labor Of Love" is merely a starting point! Brad and Geoff have totally outdone themselves with their songwriting. "Circles" is pure pop bliss - and easily one of the best Connection tunes to date. "Let The Jukebox Take Me" hearkens back to the classic country ballads of yore. And when the boys decide to let loose and straight-up rock, they come through with absolute scorchers like "Don't Come Back" and "Red, White & Blue". Shernoff, whose impressive producing resume is often overshadowed by his greatness as a songwriter and musician, was the ideal individual to helm this recording. Nobody better understands what it takes to make a great rock n' roll record, and it's obvious that he fully "gets" The Connection. The production dream team of Marino/Palmer/Shernoff has knocked it out of the park like Big Papi crushing a hanging curve! Right down to the flawless backing vocals, knockout guitar solos, and cool as hell lyrics, Labor Of Love couldn't be more perfect. And that's the most awesome album cover I've seen in a long time!

If you're stubbornly holding to the belief that the newer rock n' roll bands are all inferior copies of yesteryear's greats, I urge you to give The Connection a chance. You just might discover your new favorite band! These are wonderful times to be into rock n' roll, and The Connection has a lot to do with that. Labor Of Love is available now in digital and CD formats from Rum Bar Records. Vinyl is arriving soon!


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