My listening with Jetboy goes back to the time of their debut ‘Feel the Shake’ back in 1988, one of my Forgotten Classic Albums. Sadly, this album was ready to be released on Elektra Records first who then changed their mind, and the band eventually ended up with MCA Records releasing a slightly adjusted version of the album. Their follow up ‘Damned Nation’ was also a winner in my book. After that, there were plenty of releases with older material and demos but no new music until about 2010 when they snuck out an EP. ‘Born to Fly’ represents their real third album. Coming 29 years after ‘Damned Nation’ which just makes me feel old. I am happy to say that the wait has been worth it with the band crafting another overall winner for me.
When the first two songs for this album, I must admit I was concerned as the title track did not initially grab me, and album opener ‘Beating the Odds’ has still not really fully grabbed me. The album starts with ‘Beating the Odds’ appearing almost at full speed when the needle drops as if someone forgot to hit the “record” button when the band started playing. I like the heavy guitar riff, but the song just feels a little too one dimensional. I will give this one some time though because the title track which follows also felt a little disappointing when I first heard it. After a few listens though, something just clicked and this one just completely gelled in my soul from the lyrics to the great guitar work by Billy Rowe and Fernie Rod. Mickey Finn stood out back in the ’80s with his huge mohawk setting him apart from everyone else in this genre back in the day visually, but vocally his voice drips with sincerity, attitude, the blues, and heart. He has tremendous ability to go where the song needs him to go. The title track’s chorus is a little understated which is what I believe initially disappointed me, but it serves the song so much better in the end by being less immediate. The part that follows the second chorus showcases a simple hook and then Finn hits the stratosphere on a note before the guitar solo that is pure magic.
‘Old Dog New Tricks’ takes a cool blues riff and beat with some harmonica added to create a powerful straight-ahead rocker where the band explores some slightly different textures between the verses and the choruses that make it pop. The rhythm team of Eric Stacy (bass, formerly Faster Pussycat) and Al Serrato (drums) are vital for Jetboy as they truly lay down an excellent foundation for the songs. Changing gears with the full-blown acoustic based rocker ‘The Way That You Move Me,’ the band bring in some female backing vocals to showcase a new dimension to their sound with a song that should be getting played on every stereo this summer. New single/ video ‘Brokenhearted Daydream’ provides a great hook whose only fault is there is a brief line in there that sounds just like a line in the title track. This is pure rock n roll with more outstanding guitar work with riffs inspired by the legends such as Chuck Berry. Closing out the first half of the album is the bluesy ‘Inspiration from Desperation.’ The groove is fantastic, and the chorus becomes quite hypnotic.
The band provide a slightly lighter touch with ‘All Over Again’ and contrast it with a rougher chorus to really nice effect. Lyrically, Jetboy always set themselves apart from their peers with some really thoughtful moments combined with lyrics about cars, music, girls, the blues which avoided the clichés of the time. Rowe and Rod provide awesome guitar licks and riffs through the fun ‘She’ where we can all feel a little guilty about our dreams of being a rock star as we sing along to the music. The sample referencing Instagram is perfectly placed, and the song should feature plenty of crowd participation live. Follow up ‘A Little Bit Easy’ might as well be permanently stamped into the live sets now as that deft guitar riff lays on top of a great beat with Finn delivering a perfect performance. The guitar solo inspires some air guitar moves.
Melodic midtempo ‘Every Time I Go’ shows yet another side of the band with plenty of space in the mix for the vocals to shine and the simple hook leaves a huge mark in the soul. This is another highlight for me. Some bluesy guitar lines introduce ‘Smoky Ebony’ with Finn sounding as excellent as he ever has in his career. This one also includes some nicely placed female backing vocals and really allows Rowe and Rod to shine as the intensity builds throughout the song. Ironically, this might have been the curveball I would have used to open the album. Closer ‘Party Time’ takes a timeless riff with similar pacing to the title track to remind us that life is entirely too short for all the little crap that we let stress us and affect us. It ends the album on an awesome high note and makes it very easy to reach over and play the whole thing over again.
Jetboy showcase that great music is simply great music regardless of when it is made. While I might struggle right now to fully get the opener of the album, this album is packed with great songs that deserves a wide audience. Similar to their first two, that audience might not find this album, but these songs should each get plenty of space in the band’s live sets as these songs are as great as those on the early albums. I am thankful the band recognized that we did not want to live on nostalgia. We want to see them continue to develop and give us new songs to learn. You were ‘Born to Fly,’ and you were born to give this album a listen.
‘Born to Fly’ is available Here
Author: Gerald Stansbury