Wild Weekend


Virgin Records, 1989


REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


It's hard to believe that it's been so long since I reviewed NRBQ, a band who thoroughly impressed me the last time I faced them with You Gotta Be Loose. But when you're entering the picture as late in the game as I am (NRBQ is well into its fourth decade creating music), it's sometimes intimidating to find a place to pick up the ball and start running.

Fortunately, I remembered an album that came out when I was still a DJ in college - 1989's Wild Weekend. (I seem to remember that reviewer Tom Lancing, who I went to college with, stole that disc from the radio station. Good move.) What better a place to re-enter the picture with the album that was probably their most promoted effort ever? And while the twelve tracks on this tape do often highlight the power of these four quirky musicians, sometimes the effort comes off sounding - how do I say this? - too polished.

The band - keyboardist/vocalist Terry Adams, guitarist/vocalist Al Anderson, bassist/vocalist Joey Spampinato and drummer Tom Ardolino - dared to take the hit from the Runnin' Rebels in the '50s and put words to it. "It's A Wild Weekend" is a track that takes some listening to get used to, especially if you grew up to hearing the original instrumental, but it turns out to be a decent enough track. However, it is hardly the best work on the album.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

That honor is reserved for a few songs. "Little Floater" is an incredible song about a not-so-strange subject for us menfolk - the love of an automobile. Musically, this is a wonderfully structured song that shines from note one to the very end. Likewise, "If I Don't Have You" is a sweet love song - this time to a woman - that is gentle and emotional. While it's faster tempo guarantees you won't hear this one on "Love Notes", it's just as worthy a track. I also happen to like "The One And Only," another song that shows off the musicianship of this band.

In fact, for about three-fourths of the way, NRBQ sails through Wild Weekend with tracks that are, at the worst, above average. "Boozoo, That's Who!" is a little goofy lyric-wise, but is a nice tribute to zydeco legend Boozoo Chavis - who guests on the track. The only other weaker link, "Poppin' Circumstance," is an okay track, but isn't of the same caliber as the other wonders that make up most of this album.

It's only at the end of Wild Weekend that things stumble for NRBQ. "Fraction Of Action" just falls flat, while "Like A Locomotive" doesn't do anything for me. Sadly, these tracks do take away from the overall power that this album has.

And what about my saying that NRBQ sounded too polished on Wild Weekend? Simple: Even with my limited knowledge of NRBQ, I expect to hear a little grit in the songs, almost as if they're constantly works of art in the making. "Boozoo, That's Who!" does have a little of this texture. Who knows, maybe hearing more down-and-dirty versions of tracks like "If I Don't Have You" would have ruined things for me.

Wild Weekend is a decent, if slightly flawed, effort from NRBQ, and it unfortunately spelled the end of their association with major-name labels. Too bad; had they been properly marketed, they'd be a household name instead of the nation's biggest underground band. I don't know if this one is still in print, but it's a nice starting point for those who want to understand what NRBQ is all about.

Rating: B

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© 1999 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 Virgin Records, and is used for informational purposes only.