Various Artists: Mullets Rock!

Adam Williams

Various Artists

Mullets Rock!

Label: Legacy
US Release Date: 2003-03-11
UK Release Date: Available as import

Of the countless fads that have come and gone, the Mullet hairstyle has evolved into more than just a fashion statement. It has ingrained itself into society's sensibilities, a defining commentary about those that have proudly sported the 'do. At its best, the Mullet embodies all that redneck royalty has to offer: monster truck competitions, beer and pork rinds, pro wrestling, dirty jeans, and pitted tee shirts. At its worst, the Mullet is the personification of humanity's lowest common denominator, the American moron. In either case, the popularity of the Mullet's sheer tackiness has manifested itself into a veritable marketing bonanza comprised of books, calendars, assorted trinkets and fan websites. It is no surprise then that record company geniuses would try to cash in on this phenomenon by packaging a compilation of songs from music's golden plated age that honors the legions of Mulletheads who rocked their collective way through the 1970s and early 1980s.

Mullets Rock! offers listeners twin CDs that conjure up memories guaranteed to return them to their arena rock glory days. Fist pumping '70s favorites including Mountain's "Mississippi Queen", Foghat's "Slow Ride", and Molly Hatchet's "Flirtin' With Disaster" are prominently featured alongside '80s head banging classics ranging from Judas Priest's "Living After Midnight" to Twisted Sister's "I Wanna Rock". More peripheral, but no less potent songs like Argent's "Hold Your Head Up", Grand Funk's "We're An American Band", Edgar Winter's "Frankenstein", and BTO's "Takin' Care of Business" will assuredly get the adrenaline flowing as well. Other noteworthy tracks include Quiet Riot's wonderfully idiotic "Metal Health (Bang Your Head)," Billy Squier's "The Stroke", and the rarest of rare, Ram Jam's "Black Betty".

With the wealth of Mullet hits available to choose from, Epic should have had an easy time ensuring that every selection on this compilation was a winner. Unfortunately this is not the case. Of the 35 total tracks, roughly half are pure Mullet and perfectly suited for such a project, while several songs/groups are completely incongruous, taking up valuable space where far more appropriate inclusions could have gone. Loverboy? Toto? REO Speedwagon? No self-respecting Mullethead would ever be caught listening to this type of lightweight garbage. Even reputable bands like Cheap Trick, the Doobie Brothers and the Hollies are completely out of place here. Where are Nazareth, Thin Lizzy and Sweet? What about .38 Special, the Georgia Satellites and T. Rex? Even more egregious is the absence of Mulletdom's three most prominent anthems, Golden Earring's "Radar Love", the Outlaws' "Green Grass and High Tides", and "Rock and Roll All Night" by KISS.

Also at issue is Epic's questionable decision to include lesser hits from several standout performers. Skynyrd's "Simple Man" in lieu of "Freebird" is a considerable oversight, while Deep Purple would have been far better represented by "Highway Star" than "Smoke on the Water," as would Ted Nugent with "Wango Tango" or "Stranglehold" in place of "Free for All." Even ELO's "Do Ya" would have been a vast improvement over the included "Don't Bring Me Down." These selections aside, the album's most surprising choice may be Stevie Ray Vaughn's cover of the Hendrix gem "Voodoo Chile (Slight Return)". A brilliant rendition in its own right, this track exudes far too much musical sophistication to appeal to true Mulletmen; Vaughn's own "Pride and Joy" would have fit substantially better.

As far as compilations go, Mullets Rock! is essentially a longer version of the soundtrack from the film Dazed and Confused, albeit with entries from the 1980s. Like similar collections, most of the track listing is comprised of listener friendly songs that sufficiently overshadow the discs' obvious weak points. How then is this release any different than the wealth of other '70s/'80s stadium rock albums available in record store discount bins? Truth be told, it isn't, but the sheer cheesiness of the CD booklet artwork is worth the purchase price by itself. That said, the double disc set should appeal quite nicely to the sector of the public that it memorializes, rekindling the sense of community that Mulletheads shared at concerts all those years ago. For others who don't fully understand the appeal of kitsch or aren't in on the joke, perhaps Mullets Rock! can simply satisfy the occasional craving for a mindless and classless guilty pleasure.

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