John Mellencamp Sets June Release for 54 track 4 Disc Collection
The package, unlike typical box sets that tend to slavishly offer a chronological presentation of hits and near-hits, is programmed as if each of the discs were a freestanding album. The 54 tracks included in the collection are presented, in essence, as four albums with songs juxtaposed in a manner that offers the listener the experience of hearing them in a context that sheds new light on the themes and artistry that have made Mellencamp's music so cherished by so many over the course of four decades.
While On The Rural Route 7609 offers a wealth of well-known material, a significant number of the tracks included are less familiar but equally compelling, especially in terms of providing an in-depth picture of Mellencamp's spectrum of creativity. The concept behind the four "albums" of the collection is to give long-term Mellencamp fans and newer listeners alike, a more complete and insightful view of the artist's role as a writer and artist whose catalog of songs and recordings resound with substance and nuance.
The songs selected reflect the artist's pop idol origins through his ascent to the ranks of America's most respected and socially active writers and performers. On The Rural Route 7609 offers 17 tracks previously unreleased on any John Mellencamp CD including guest readings of Mellencamp's lyrics by Academy Award winning actress Joanne Woodward and best selling author/educator Dr. Cornel West.
The discs are packaged within a 72-page book that includes an exhaustive essay and comprehensive track-by-track annotation by award-winning writer Anthony DeCurtis. His marathon interviews with Mellencamp were conducted in Bloomington, IN where DeCurtis, coincidentally, earned his PhD in American literature at Indiana University. Mellencamp tells the story behind each of the songs included in the set and there's a scholarly introductory essay by DeCurtis as well. The package, a truly lavish assemblage, includes rare and evocative photos printed on heavy stock that make On The Rural Route 7609 a distinctive set of albums, in the sense that albums -- as originally conceived in earlier times -- are cohesive collections of music.
While such Mellencamp hits including "Rain On The Scarecrow," "Jack and Diane," "Jackie Brown," "Pink Houses," "Your Life Is Now," "Our Country" are presented, less familiar songs as well as demos for "Cherry Bomb," "Authority Song" and other recordings serve to chronicle the maturation of Mellencamp as both an artist and songwriter over the years. As quoted by DeCurtis in the 4500 word introductory essay included in the package, he explains, "We tried to make it like a process of discovery, that perhaps somebody could listen to this set and discover these songs." Material from early works through his most recently released album, Life Death Love and Freedom which Time Magazine called his "best in a decade" and Rolling Stone ranked #5 in its listing of 50 best albums of the year, gives the listener an opportunity to consider more than 30 years of Mellencamp's output in a musically coherent manner.
The title of the package is reflective of Mellencamp's continuing role as a troubadour who conveys the hopes, heartbreak and realities of the heartland – that part of the country that politicians are wont to call "the real America," a divisive jab that is at odds with Mellencamp's true themes. Per DeCurtis, "..the set takes its title from a scarifying murder ballad on Freedom's Road, 'Rural Route.'"
Mellencamp explained to DeCurtis "I started making records in '76, and the most recent track on the collection was done in '09. So Rural Route 7609; it's like an address. I thought it sounded cool."
Adds DeCurtis, "It does. But, more important, for anyone interested in finding the real John Mellencamp, this is where he's been, and where he lives." On The Rural Route 7609 is a musical journey that sheds new light on an American musician who, as both a songwriter and social activist, has never rested on his laurels or past accomplishments.
On The Rural Route 7609 tracklisting:
* indicates track selection has never before been released on a John Mellencamp CD