Review: Unvarnished - Joan Jett and the Blackhearts


by John Reed

While the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame just announced their nominees for the Class of 2014, it was a sad and notable exception that Joan Jett & the Blackhearts (and even The Runaways!) were not included (even though she was nominated in 2011 for the Hall of Fame's class of 2012, but was not inducted).

An unfortunate snub, as Jett is not just a pioneer in Rock, she has been putting out amazing records since she went solo in 1979 and has stayed loyal to her roots. Like AC/DC, she never bowed to any musical trends or fashions, but stayed true to her original guitar-rock driven vision.

Unvarnished is the tenth studio album for Jett and the Blackhearts and comes after a trying time for her. Jett has stated in recent interviews that the past ten years have been a “decade of death,” as she lost both of parents during that time. And while her track Fragile tackles some of her emotional rollercoaster of feelings, her collaboration with Dave Grohl on Any Weather celebrates the endurance of friendship, and is kind of autobiographical, as Jett has lasted through so much herself.

Still not one to hold her feelings back, she rallies against those who don’t know when to stop talking and share too much with T.M.I. (“Don’t need to know just what your up too/What ya eat or who ya screw”), and contemplates the reality of growing up, but not really wanting too on, “Hard to Grow Up” (“I could be going wild/Too old to be acting like a child”). She also echo’s the influence the Sex Pistols still have on her on the amazing, Make it Back.

More than a solid effort, Unvarnished is a classic and a gem in Jett’s musical catalogue and proof that her career will easily last into its fourth decade. While that is a long way off, betting again Jett not touring or putting out new material in ten more years would not be wise, as she appears to be more tenacious now than she ever was.

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