A very famous rock star once admonished me for a feature I’d written about his platinum-selling band. Not because the story was negative, but because it was positive — in his view, too positive. “We’ll never respect you as long as you keep kissing our asses,” he confessed to me privately. Be sure, I did NOT apologize to the rock star for my work — I honestly felt that his band was important — worthy of my gushing. Likewise, I will NOT apologize to anyone for this piece either, as I feel the latest solo set from legendary rock trailblazer, Cherie Currie, also is important. ALL “thriller.” NO “filler.”
Launched initially in 2019 as a limited edition colored vinyl “Record Store Day” exclusive, Blvds of Splendor was finally released digitally worldwide last month via Joan Jett’s label, Blackheart Records. The new digital version features three bonus tracks.
Simply put, this is a straight-up, no-holds-barred rock record. In 2020, that statement alone should suggest its importance. The all-star cast — Guns N’ Roses members Slash, Duff McKagan and Matt Sorum, Smashing Pumpkins frontman/visionary Billy Corgan, Oscar-nominated actress/singer/songwriter Juliette Lewis, Distillers and Spinnerette vocalist Brody Dalle, and Lisa and Jessica Origliasso from The Veronicas brings undeniable “wow factor” to the project. Celebrated session cats — Jimmy Zavala (sax), Alex Torodov (piano) Julie Ragins (backing vocals) provide additional sizzle. For her part, Currie handles all the heavy lead vocal lifting, as well as contributing a fair share of songwriting.
Produced primarily by Sorum, the 15-track collection hits hard straight outta the gate with the urgent “Mr. X.” Featuring performances from Slash, McKagan and Sorum, this abrasive lil’ nut-buster packs all the authentic punch and crunch of classic GNR — with a more alluring lead singer.
Of the many highlights, “Roxy Roller” sparkles like a diamond. Remaining faithful to the original 1976 Nick Gilder (Sweeney Todd) version, this cover is so sultry — so sexy, the download should come with a pole. The record is bullet holed with other well-known and noteworthy covers, including the deliciously chunky remake of Tommy James’ “Draggin’ the Line.” Currie’s soaring rendition of “The Air That I Breathe” is absolutely massive. Stylistically, this Hollies’ classic fits Currie like a sweet, snug pair of 501s. And the orchestration — magnificent.
Brimming with “Ghetto Love”-like gusto, “You Wreck Me” refuses to be ignored. Co-written with Sorum and Lanny Cordola, Currie has stated, “I wrote this song in 20 minutes. And yes, it reflected my then break up situation. C’est la vie, baby!” Accented by accompanying ColecoVision-type electronics, “Black Magic” also hits hard and makes for a super-fun stand-out.
Upon my first listen, the tune that thwacked me most profoundly was the Corgan-penned title track. After 46 subsequent spins, it’s still my personal pick of the litter. A magical duet between Currie and Corgan, the delicate, dysfunctional love song is bathed in an irresistible melody and is smeared with Corgan’s signature Pumpkin-flavored DNA.
Although “A Force to be Reckoned With” and “Bad and Broken” both smack with a fire and fury reminiscent of Currie’s early days in The Runaways, the gorgeously orchestrated “Rock & Roll Oblivion” is a haunting masterpiece — arguably the single most powerful effort of her storied 45-year career.
But wait — there’s more! A collaboration between Currie and her son, singer/songwriter/guitarist, Jake Hays, “Shades” is a moving, arena-sized power ballad, while “Breakout” is a heart-racing rocker. “What Do All the People Know” is a fresh-feeling, upbeat treat. Glossed with Beach Boys-inspired charm and punctuated by turbo-charged sax, “Gimme” sounds like a party and also ranks among my personal faves.
The record closes with a mighty bang — a rib-cracking remake of “Queens Of Noise.” Saucy and sassy — Dalle, Lewis and the Origliasso sisters help Currie “bring the noise” quite nicely and succeed in breathing new life into the Runaways staple.
Finally, particular props are owed to Sorum for his masterful production and to guitarist Nick Maybury for his spectacular, rock-ribbed contributions throughout.
In sum, Cherie Currie is bona fide superstar. Given how low the “rock bar” has been set in recent years, Blvds of Splendor is more than an impressive record — it’s an important record. That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it. #NoApology
Blvds of Splendor Track Listing:
1. Mr. X (3:33)
2. Roxy Roller (2:47)
3. You Wreck Me (3:23)
4. Black Magic (3:19)
5. Bvds of Splendor (3:01)
6. A Force to be Reckoned With (3:15)
7. Bad and Broken (3:43)
8. Rock & Roll Oblivion (4:51)
9. Shades (5:35)
10. Draggin’ the Line (2:47)
11. Breakout (3:10)
12. The Air That I Breathe (4:25)
13. What Do All the People Know (3:32)
14. Gimme (2:21)
15. Queens of Noise (3:12)
Run Time: 52:54
Release Date: April 28, 2020
Record Label: Blackheart Records