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The Best That He Could Do: John Mellencamp Collects Albums for New Box

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Mellencamp big boxWhile the 1980s have become synonymous with pop/rock music that allegedly valued image, craft and style above the emotional rush of the music itself, one of the decade’s most popular entertainers had an image as rough-hewn and rugged as they could come: John Mellencamp. The Indiana-bred musician earned his keep making tuneful rock steeped in the traditions of the genre as well as the vision of the average, working-class middle American. And with a list of hits that includes “Jack and Diane,” “Small Town,” “Pink Houses” and “R.O.C.K. in the U.S.A.” – just part of the list of 22 Top 40 hits he scored – it’s safe to say Mellencamp was a winner.

This year, Universal Music Enterprises will celebrate Mellencamp en large with John Mellencamp 1978-2012, a box set featuring virtually all of his solo material from start to finish. This 19-disc set features his early works for Riva Records as John Cougar (a nom de rock bestowed upon him early in his career when he’d signed to MCA for two poppy albums omitted from this set), including breakthrough albums American Fool (1982), which yielded chart-topper “Jack and Diane” and No. 2 hit “Hurts So Good,” and 1983’s Uh-Huh, the first credited to “John Cougar Mellencamp.” The singer continued to have major success with his brand of increasingly country-infused rock through the decade, signing to Mercury for 1985’s Scarecrow and remaining there through the 1990s. That same year, Mellencamp was one of the co-founders of the Farm Aid charity concert series, raising money for those who made American agriculture their life’s work.

After a period in the 1990s that saw him experiment with urban and rhythmic music, Mellencamp returned to the top of the charts in 1994 with a cover of Van Morrison’s “Wild Night,” which hit No. 3. In 1998, Mellencamp released his first of three albums for Columbia, including the folk covers project Trouble No More in 2003. 2010’s Life, Death, Love and Freedom saw Mellencamp, along with producer T-Bone Burnett, move into a very critically-acclaimed period of soulful roots rock, a vein he’s tapped ever since (most recently with this year’s release of the soundtrack to Ghost Brothers of Darkland County, a stage musical he co-created with author Stephen King.)

While bonus tracks are few and far between on John Mellencamp 1978-2012 – the box uses the 2005 remasters of his Mercury catalogue, all of which had a bonus track appended – UMe has reached across the aisle to include all of his studio material for other labels, including Columbia, Hear Music and Rounder Records. There’s also one long out-of-print disc from Mellencamp’s career in this set: the soundtrack to the 1992 film Falling from Grace, which Mellencamp starred in and directed. The disc features two new Mellencamp originals plus tracks from Janis Ian, Dwight Yoakam and others.

Each disc is housed in a uniform, black-bordered mini-jacket, and it’s all packed in a neat little box that looks to fit nicely on a shelf. It’s out on December 10 and can be pre-ordered now. And, as always, a full track list is after the jump.

John Mellencamp 1978-2012 (Mercury/UMe, 2013)

Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K. (TBD)

Disc 1: John Cougar (originally released as Riva RVL-7401, 1979)

  1. A Little Night Dancin’
  2. Small Paradise
  3. Miami
  4. Great Mid-west
  5. Do You Think That’s Fair
  6. I Need a Lover (previously released on A Biography – Riva RVLP-6 (U.K.), 1978)
  7. Welcome to Chinatown
  8. Sugar Marie
  9. Pray for Me
  10. Taxi Dancer
  11. Take Home Pay (bonus track – Mercury/Island B0004190-02, 2005)

Disc 2: Nothin’ Matters and What If It Did (originally released as Riva RVL-7403, 1980)

  1. Hot Night in a Cold Town
  2. Ain’t Even Done with the Night
  3. Don’t Misunderstand Me
  4. This Time
  5. Make Me Feel
  6. To M.G. (Wherever She May Be)
  7. Tonight
  8. Cry Baby
  9. Wild Angel
  10. Peppermint Twist
  11. Cheap Shot
  12. Latest Game (bonus track – Mercury/Island B0004191-02, 2005)

Disc 3: American Fool (originally released as Riva RVL-7501, 1982)

  1. Hurts So Good
  2. Jack & Diane
  3. Hand to Hold on To
  4. Danger List
  5. Can You Take It
  6. Thundering Hearts
  7. China Girl
  8. Close Enough
  9. Weakest Moments
  10. American Fool (bonus track – Mercury/Island B0004189-02, 2005)

Disc 4: Uh-Huh (originally released as Riva RVL-7504, 1983)

  1. Crumblin’ Down
  2. Pink Houses
  3. Authority Song
  4. Warmer Place to Sleep
  5. Jackie O
  6. Play Guitar
  7. Serious Business
  8. Lovin’ Mother fo Ya
  9. Golden Gates
  10. Pink Houses (Acoustic) (B-side to “Authority Song” – Riva R 216, 1983)

Disc 5: Scarecrow (originally released as Riva/Mercury 824 865-1, 1985)

  1. Rain on the Scarecrow
  2. Grandma’s Theme
  3. Small Town
  4. Minutes to Memories
  5. Lonely Ol’ Night
  6. The Face of the Nation
  7. Justice and Independence ’85
  8. Between a Laugh and a Tear
  9. Rumbleseat
  10. You’ve Got to Stand for Somethin’
  11. R.O.C.K. in the U.S.A. (A Salute to 60’s Rock)
  12. The Kind of Fella I Am (CD/cassette bonus track and B-side to “Lonely Ol’ Night” – Riva 880 984-7, 1985)
  13. Small Town (Acoustic) (B-side to “Small Town” – Riva 884 202-7, 1985)

Disc 6: The Lonesome Jubilee (originally released as Mercury 832 465-1, 1987)

  1. Paper in Fire
  2. Down and Out in Paradise
  3. Check It Out
  4. The Real Life
  5. Cherry Bomb
  6. We Are the People
  7. Empty Hands
  8. Hard Times for an Honest Man
  9. Hotdogs and Hamburgers
  10. Rooty Toot Toot
  11. Blues from the Front Porch (bonus track – Mercury/Island B0004513-02, 2005)

Disc 7: Big Daddy (originally released as Mercury 838 220-1, 1989)

  1. Big Daddy of Them All
  2. To Live
  3. Martha Say
  4. Theo and Weird Henry
  5. Jackie Brown
  6. Pop Singer
  7. Void in My Heart
  8. Mansions in Heaven
  9. Sometimes a Great Notion
  10. Country Gentleman
  11. J.M.’s Question
  12. Let It All Hang Out
  13. Jackie Brown (Acoustic) (single B-side – Mercury 874 644-7, 1989)

Disc 8: Whenever We Wanted (originally released as Mercury 314 510 151-1, 1991)

  1. Love and Happiness
  2. Now More Than Ever
  3. I Ain’t Ever Satisfied
  4. Get a Leg Up
  5. Crazy Ones
  6. Last Chance
  7. They’re So Tough
  8. Melting Pot
  9. Whenever We Wanted
  10. Again Tonight
  11. Love and Happiness (London Club Mix) (12″ A-side – Mercury 866 879-1 (U.K.), 1991)

Disc 9: Falling from Grace: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack (originally released as Mercury 314 512 004-2, 1992)

  1. Bud’s Theme – Lisa Germano
  2. Cradle of the Interstate – Nanci Griffith
  3. Whiskey Burnin’ – Larry Crane
  4. Common Day Man – Dwight Yoakam
  5. It Don’t Scare Me None – John Mellencamp
  6. Searchin’ for the Perfect Girl – Pure Jam
  7. All the Best – John Prine
  8. Hold Me Like You Used to Do – Qkumbrz
  9. Sweet Suzanne – Buzzin’ Cousins
  10. Nothing’s for Free – John Mellencamp
  11. Little Children – Lisa Germano
  12. Days Like These – Janis Ian
  13. Falling from Grace – Larry Rollins

Disc 10: Human Wheels (originally released as Mercury 314 518 088-2, 1993)

  1. When Jesus Left Birmingham
  2. Junior
  3. Human Wheels
  4. Beige to Beige
  5. Case 795 (The Family)
  6. Suzanne and the Jewels
  7. Sweet Evening Breeze
  8. What If I Came Knocking
  9. French Shoes
  10. To the River
  11. When Jesus Left Birmingham (with Sounds of Blackness) (promo single A-side – Mercury CDP 1113, 1993)

Disc 11: Dance Naked (originally released as Mercury 314 522 428-2, 1994)

  1. Dance Naked
  2. Brothers
  3. When Margaret Comes to Town
  4. Wild Night
  5. L.U.V.
  6. Another Sunny Day 12/25
  7. Too Much To Think About
  8. The Big Jack
  9. The Breakout
  10. Wild Night (Acoustic) (bonus track – Mercury/Island B0004784-02, 2005)

Disc 12: Mr. Happy Go Lucky (originally released as Mercury 314 532 896-2, 1996)

  1. Overture
  2. Jerry
  3. Key West Intermezzo (I Saw You First)
  4. Just Another Day
  5. This May Not Be the End of the World
  6. Emotional Love
  7. Mr. Bellows
  8. The Full Catastrophe
  9. Circling Around the Moon
  10. Large World Turning
  11. Jackamo Road
  12. Life is Hard
  13. What If I Came Knocking (Live) (B-side to “Key West Intermezzo (I Saw You FIrst)” CD single – Mercury 314 578 599-2, 1996)

Disc 13: John Mellencamp (originally released as Columbia CK 69602, 1998)

  1. Fruit Trader
  2. Your Life is Now
  3. Positively Crazy
  4. I’m Not Running Anymore
  5. It All Comes True
  6. Eden is Burning
  7. Where the World Began
  8. Miss Missy
  9. Chance Meeting At The Tarantula
  10. Break Me Off Some
  11. Summer of Love
  12. Days of Farewell

Disc 14: Rough Harvest (originally released as Mercury 314 558 355-2, 1999)

  1. Love and Happiness
  2. In My Time of Dying
  3. Between a Laugh and a Tear
  4. Human Wheels
  5. Rain on the Scarecrow
  6. Farewell Angelina
  7. Key West Intermezzo (I Saw You First)
  8. Jackie Brown
  9. When Jesus Left Birmingham
  10. The Full Catastrophe
  11. Minutes to Memories
  12. Under the Boardwalk (B-side to “R.O.C.K. in the U.S.A.” – Riva 884 455-7, 1986)
  13. Wild Night (Live) (B-side to “Key West Intermezzo (I Saw You First)” CD single – Mercury 314 578 599-2, 1996)
  14. Seventh Son (B-side to “Jackie Brown” CD single – Mercury 874 645-2, 1989)

Disc 15: Cuttin’ Heads (originally released as Columbia CK 85098, 2001)

  1. Cuttin’ Heads
  2. Peaceful World
  3. Deep Blue Heart
  4. Crazy Island
  5. Just Like You
  6. The Same Way I Do
  7. Women Seem
  8. Worn Out Nervous Condition
  9. Shy
  10. In Our Lives

Disc 16: Trouble No More (originally released as Columbia CK 90133, 2003)

  1. Stones in My Passway
  2. Death Letter
  3. Johnny Hart
  4. Baltimore Oriole
  5. Teardrops Will Fall
  6. Diamond Joe
  7. The End of the World
  8. Down in the Bottom
  9. Lafayette
  10. Joliet Bound
  11. John the Revelator
  12. To Washington

Disc 17: Freedom’s Road (originally released as Universal Republic B0008249-02, 2007)

  1. Someday
  2. Ghost Towns Along the Highway
  3. The Americans
  4. Forgiveness
  5. Freedom’s Road
  6. Jim Crow
  7. Our Country
  8. Rural Route
  9. My Aeroplane
  10. Heaven Is a Lonely Place
  11. Rodeo Clown

Disc 18: Life, Death, Love and Freedom (originally released as Hear Music HRM-30822-00, 2008)

  1. Longest Days
  2. My Sweet Love
  3. If I Die Sudden
  4. Troubled Land
  5. Young Without Lovers
  6. John Cockers
  7. Don’t Need This Body
  8. A Ride Back Home
  9. Without a Shot
  10. Jena
  11. Mean
  12. County Fair
  13. For the Children
  14. A Brand New Song

Disc 19: No Better Than This (originally released as Rounder 11661 3284-2, 2010)

  1. Save Some Time to Dream
  2. The West End
  3. Right Behind Me
  4. A Graceful Fall
  5. No Better Than This
  6. Thinking About You
  7. Coming Down the Road
  8. No One Cares About Me
  9. Love At First Sight
  10. Don’t Forget About Me
  11. Each Day of Sorrow
  12. Easter Eve
  13. Clumsy Ol’ World

Written by Mike Duquette

October 30, 2013 at 11:27

6 Responses

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  1. Kind of a shame about leaving out those early albums – Chestnut Street Incident (1976), The Kid Inside (1977), and A Biography (1978). I went back and listened to them recently, and they have some fine moments (in addition to several embarrassing ones, plus lots of mediocre ones). The historian in me is always disappointed when an artist tries to ignore or erase part of his history – but then I didn’t have to put up with Tony Defries… Otherwise, the box looks pretty cherry.

    Randy Anthony

    October 30, 2013 at 12:27

    • I don’t know if this box would have been the place for it, but I’d love to see/hear a live show from Mellencamp’s hitmaker period. The band he had on record, which I believe he took with him on most of his ’80s tours, really was top-notch.

      Mike Duquette

      October 30, 2013 at 12:31

  2. I agree with Randy that those first 3 albums will be missed. I’m especially surprised that A Biography (1978) wasn’t included since it was remastered back in 2005. A complaint from those remasters was that they only had a few of the B-Sides, not all of them. This box set doesn’t correct that. Would love to see all his B-Sides released someday.

    I had the Falling From Grace Soundtrack back when it was released. All the Best by John Prine was actually my favorite song from that. And the two songs sung by Mellencamp were actually written by Larry Crane. I think it was a peace offering at the time between the two, though apparently didn’t last.


    October 30, 2013 at 13:56

    • I agree – if it was done right and they used ALL of the possible extras I MIGHT consider it, but since I have maybe a third of these titles on the original CD’s without extra songs, I’ll pass for now.

      Bill Janowski

      November 4, 2013 at 14:08

  3. Blah…is that digi-packaging I see there?! What a joke! I don’t know what’s worse that or calling his last compilation “Volume 3” (Icon) when there is not a 1 or 2!!!


    October 30, 2013 at 14:57

  4. Yet another missed opportunity. It’s a good option for those who don’t have much if any JM and are interested in getting the bulk of his catalog in one fell swoop, but for those of us who already have much of this stuff, it’s a waste, IMO. Oh well.

    Chief Brody

    October 30, 2013 at 15:12

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