Fit To Be Tied

Joan Jett & The Blackhearts

Mercury Records, 1997

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 09/16/1998

Pity Joan Jett. One of the original "grrrl" rockers, Jett could have easily been a protege for punk rock. Not only could she have taught Green Day something about it, but could have kicked their asses without trying.

But instead of following a path that she was meant for, Jett and her band The Blackhearts turned to making rock anthems that were spurred onto success, in part, by MTV. Songs like "I Love Rock N' Roll" could be heard almost everywhere in 1981.

Then, just as suddenly as she popped onto the scene (never mind that she had been one-fourth of The Runaways, along with Lita Ford), she seemed to disappear. It's been some time since Jett has graced us with new material; this could be the reason another greatest-hits pack, Fit To Be Tied, was thrown to the public last year. But instead of making her out to be the rock godess (or at least the anti-Pat Benatar), instead it shows her to be a solid musician who depended too much on cover songs.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Let's first talk about my declaring her the punk goddess. The opening cut of this album, "Bad Reputation," captures all the angst and power that good punk rock has the ability to do, while Jett's vocals fit in with the mix perfectly. It's a generous two-and-a-half minute slab that left my mouth watering for more - and I have to admit I've never been a big fan of Jett's work.

But just as soon as I'm ready to start singing her praises, Jett falls victim to the dreaded cover songs. I realize that she had many hits thanks to cover songs, but as she demonstrates on other occasions on this album, Jett knows damn well how to write a good song. Whether it's Jett performing the theme song to the movie Light Of Day that she starred in (penned by Bruce Springsteen) or she's racking up a hit single with Gary Glitter's "Do You Wanna Touch Me? (Oh Yeah!)" or Tommy James's "Crimson And Clover," someone should have just said "enough".

I mean, did I really need to hear her take on Sly And The Family Stone's "Everyday People"? For God's sake, Jett even covers herself on Fit To Be Tied, taking on an old Runaways song, "Cherry Bomb". With one major exception - her one-minute cover of "Love Is All Around" from The Mary Tyler Moore Show - these cover songs are a waste.

When Jett is allowed to shine on her own is when things start to pick up a bit for Fit To Be Tied. Tracks like "Victim Of Circumstance" and "Little Liar" do show in 1998 the potential that Jett had in the '80s. Sure, some tracks like "Fake Friends" don't fly as well - and I have to admit I was impressed with "I Hate Myself For Loving You," co-written with Desmond Child.

Sadly, many of these tracks do show their age, and aren't as crisp as they were when they were originally recorded and released. This is a shame for Jett, who does demonstrate a lot of admirable qualities in her singing, playing and songwriting. This album is fine as an introduction to Jett, I guess, but it does make two things obvious. First, nothing replaces the original albums, not even the greatest "best-of" collection. Second, Jett needs to hie herself into a studio and bang out some new material - if only to put the cover tracks behind her.

Fit To Be Tied shows the strengths and weaknesses of Jett's career. Unfortunately, both sides seem to be fairly balanced as far as song selection goes.

 

Rating: C+

User Rating: Not Yet Rated


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© 1998 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Mercury Records, and is used for informational purposes only.