Monday, February 12, 2018

"Ways to Be Wicked" by Lone Justice

Song#:  2314
Date:  05/11/1985
Debut:  86
Peak:  71
Weeks:  6
Genre:  Rock, Alt-Country

Pop Bits:  This LA band was formed by singer Maria McKee and guitarist Ryan Hedgecock in 1982. Once the other positions in the band were filled out, they began performing cover tunes at various LA clubs. Soon they were incorporating their own original songs in their sets and started to gain a loyal following. Known for being a "cowpunk" band (i.e., one that combines elements of punk, rockabilly, folk, and country), they eventually got the attention of Geffen Records who signed them to a deal. Thanks to the band's reputation as a hot live act, McKee's big voice, and associations with artists like Tom Petty (via Heartbreakers keyboardist Benmont Tench) and Linda Ronstadt, Lone Justice received a lot of attention and were being touted as the next big thing. They even secured an opening slot on U2's Joshua Tree tour. Expectations were high for their self-titled debut LP that was recorded with producer Jimmy Iovine. It featured this first single, which was co-written by Tom Petty and Mike Campbell. Yet, despite all the hype, promotion and A-listers involved, the song and album fell flat. The single topped out at #29 at Rock while stalling early at Pop. In turn, the album suffered in sales and could only get to #56 (#62 Country). The results were disappointing for all involved.

ReduxReview:  I remember this album coming out. There was a lot of buzz surrounding it and the chatter caught my attention. I went out and bought the album without even hearing a track. I have to say that initially I was underwhelmed. Several critics thought the album just didn't capture the essence of the band and that everyone involved just tried too hard to make a great album. I realized what critics meant when I saw them open up for U2. They were fantastic and I immediately became a life-long fan of McKee. She was phenomenal. Yet there were good songs on the album like this one and I grew to really like the album over time. I think it was judged too harshly due to all the hype. Also, I'm not sure Pop radio was ready for the alt-country flavor of the band at the time. Had they broke a few years later when college radio made stars of artists like R.E.M., they might have had a better chance. Regardless, I still love the band and am a major fan of McKee's solo recordings. Her 1989 debut solo LP is still one of my all-time favorites.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  One song for the album, "Don't Toss Us Away," was written by Bryan MacLean. MacLean was a member of  late-60s/early 70s band Love. The band's 1967 album Forever Changes is often considered one of the best albums of the decade. It ranked #40 on Rolling Stone's 2003 list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time. MacLean wrote the album's signature tune "Alone Again Or." So how did Lone Justice acquire "Don't Toss Us Away?" Easy - MacLean is McKee's half-sister. They share the same mother. Later in 1989, country singer Patty Loveless picked up the song and recorded it. She issued it as a single and it went to #5 on the Country chart. MacLean died of a heart-attack on Christmas day in 1998.


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