ROCKWiRED REWiND: PAT BENATAR - GO (2003)
he post 9/11 world desperately needed the cartoon toughness of PAT BENATAR. After the collapse of the World Trade Center, American society had become stifled. It was no time for jokes and it was the beginning of much of the political divisiveness that has taken hold of our cultural landscape today and in the aftermath of the terror attacks by Al-Qaeda forces entrenched in Afghanistan, the country went to war...with Iraq. In a strange way it all sounds like a piece of cake now given the fact that we are in the rows of a global pandemic. We may not have had to wear masks and we may have been able to move freely, but culturally, the years that followed 9/11 were bereft. There was a sanitization that took place in music with artists like DIDO, NORAH JONES, JOHN MAYER and DAMIEN RICE putting out material that was heavy on wistfulness and pop psychological heartache, but nothing terribly punchy. Hell, even a punchy, alternative rock band like NO DOUBT went pop that year with that HEY BABY shit. This clean cut approach to pop was irritating. Thank god for PINK. Oh and there was that band EVANESCENCE with that breakthrough hit of theirs, but that got on my nerves quickly. The musical landscape of the time could've used BENATAR's pyrotechnic vocals and fighting spirit.
Ever since she came onto the scene in 1979 with her platinum selling debut album IN THE HEAT OF THE NIGHT, BENATAR's tough girl approach has always been a source of contention with music critics. I find it hard to believe that no one could find the pint-sized rock chick's stiff upper lip pretty damned sexy. Clearly millions did. And let's not even talk about that four octave range of hers. For much of the REAGAN era, BENATAR filled the airwaves with rock anthems such as HEARTBREAKER, HIT ME WITH YOUR BEST SHOT, FIRE AND ICE, SHADOWS OF THE NIGHT and INVINCIBLE. On deeper cuts she took the time to address social ills such as child abuse on the chilling HELL IS FOR CHILDREN. Yet for all of her hard rock histrionics, she knew how to get into the groove as she did with the dance rock classic LOVE IS A BATTLEFIELD and embraced marital bliss and pending motherhood on the thunderous power ballad WE BELONG. She could play both tough and tender but make no mistake that the battlefield was where BENATAR belonged and her bellicosity earned her seven platinum albums and four GRAMMY wins.
When the nineties came along, things were different. BENATAR and husband/guitarist NEIL GIRALDO took a chance at expanding there repertoire into big band blues music with the 1991 album TRUE LOVE. The unexpected shift from hard rock to blues was panned by critics and despite reasonable returns for a blues album, TRUE LOVE signaled the end of BENATAR's days as a rock n roll force to be reckoned with. The GIRALDOs would return to rock n roll form on 1993's GRAVITY's RAINBOW and the album earned BENATAR something she had never received before â€“ critical acclaim. However critical acclaim didn't mean that sales were through the roof which is too bad considering that GRAVITY'S RAINBOW is BENATAR's strongest album. You can read more about that album here.
After parting with CHRYSALIS RECORDS, the label that had been their home for almost twenty years at that point, PAT and NEIL began touring the country with their fiery catalog of songs for every summer since 1995 with the exception of of 2020 due to the current pandemic. In 1997 they released the album INNAMORATA on the now defunct independent label CMC INTERNATIONAL. It was clear upon the album's release that CMC didn't have the pull of a major label like CHRYSALIS and the rootsier acoustic guitar and fiddle drive INNAMORATA made little impact and its single STRAWBERRY WINE (which bore a strong resemblance to TONIC's IF YOU COULD ONLY SEE from that same year) never found a home on rock radio. However, critics were quick to applaud the woman for abandoning her tough girl persona for a more adult perspective on love and romance.
But wasn't the "tough girl persona" the whole point? Wasn't that BENATAR's allure in the first place? It was her practically trademarked toughness that made her brand of rock n roll the punchy affair that it was. No one ever dreams of telling a band like KISS to grow the hell up. And imagine what would happen if AC/DC had embraced a gentler approach to their albums. It wouldn't happen. Rock n roll is all about energy and people forget that in a musical climate where hip hop and the creation of beats - as opposed to a natural kinetic energy among musicians - is favored.
ix years after the release of the plaintive and quaint INNAMORATA, the GIRALDOS self-financed and self-released their thirteenth album GO on their own label BEL CHIASSO ENTERTAINMENT and the album was a curious edition to the woman's length discography. A quick scan of the album's striking cover showcasing BENATAR's manic vampiric visage gives you an indication that the listener is in for the kind of hellraising that had been sorely lacking from BENATAR on her previous release. Rootsy gentility has been cast aside in favor of the rip roaring sounds of nu metal on GO's opening title cut. I WON'T continues the melodrama established by the title track and leaves a sting it's tail with the chorus "I'd rather die than love you" and HAVE IT ALL is a mid tempo rocker with the kind of chorus that only BENATAR could turn into an anthem. Of course, the GIRALDOS' bag of tricks isn't limited to heavy metal power chords. Their pop smarts come through on the Latin-influenced pop rock of SORRY and their singer-songwriter-y instincts across on the moody TELL ME. Gooey sentiment shouldn't have a place on this album but it shows up in the banal CASIO-powered trip hop ballad PLEASE DON'T LEAVE ME and the ghost track - the horrid 9/11 tribute CHRISTMAS IN AMERICA. This self-released album deserved a bigger push than it got. So far, it is the only album to be released by BENATAR in this century.
HAVE IT ALL
IN MY DREAMS
the time GO was released, a funny thing happened to the LP. It became a
dying art thanks to the internet and file sharing. For an artist like
BENATAR that was unfortunate given that the long play album was the
medium where she truly shined as an artist. There is also the matter of
the GIRALDO's releasing the album themselves on their own dime, a feat
that absolutely no music consumer out there truly appreciates. Fans may
have complained about the lack of promotion for the album or the
absence of any of it's fine songs from rock radio, but that is why you
need a record company to do the heavy lifting. Despite such obstacles,
GO did manage to perform well in the BILLBOARD INDEPENDENT ALBUMS chart
by placing at #9. If sales for the album were lackluster, at least the
GIRALDOS had their lucrative annual touring to fall back on.
RICHIE UNTERBERGER of ALL MUSIC GUIDE had this to say about GO:
"For her first studio album in half a dozen years, Benatar returned with a fairly characteristic and varied set of mainstream rock, longtime cohort Neil Giraldo in the producer and co-songwriter chair (in addition to playing much of the music). While her voice is in fine shape, capable of hard rockers and more measured ballads, there isn't anything all that memorable tune-wise. Most of the songs are preoccupied with romantic disillusionment, which might be an odd state of affairs given the long Benatar-Giraldo personal and professional partnership, but maybe they're just doing what comes naturally to them as commercial music-makers. Hard, arena-styled rock is perhaps the element most to the fore here, particularly in the title track, with its waves of distorted guitars. But the pair seem to be wanting to cover several bases, with MOR balladry ("Brave" and "Please Don't Leave Me"), more acoustic singer/songwriter-shaded stuff ("Sorry" and "Tell Me"), and anthemic pop present as well. The CD also includes an unlisted bonus track, the awful post-9/11 2001 tribute single "Christmas in America."
JOSH TYRANGIEL of
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY took a similar tone in his summation of GO in his
GO remains BENATAR's
only album to be released so far in this century and is not available
on any online music platform. In articles such as this I often include
YOUTUBE videos of the tracks discussed. I couldn't do that for this
article. It was even mentioned casually by BENATAR in her 2010
autobiography BETWEEN A HEART AND A ROCK PLACE that GO isn't exactly
NEIL's favorite album due largely to the fact that the album was
recorded digitally - a first for the GIRALDOS. In her autobiography
BENATAR has also expressed disinterest in wanting to make another album
and that is really too bad but understandable in the age of the .99
releasing a follow up album to GO, BENATAR did release two singles in
2017. The first was SHINE, a plaintive anthem written for the Women's
March that resulted after the election of DONALD TRUMP and the equally
anthemic DANCING THROUGH THE WRECKAGE which was the theme song for the
documentary film on homeless female veterans called SERVED LIKE A GIRL.
The latter song became a top 20 Adult Contemporary hit, her first on
that chart singe WE BELONG. Both songs were produced by LINDA PERRY and
perhaps an outside producer is what is needed for future success.
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