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No Better Than This

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A Meditation on John Mellencamp’s Life, Death, Love and Freedom
A few years ago, the Hungarian ambassador to the United States asked me to moderate a panel discussion at the embassy on “Rock & Roll as a Force for Freedom on Both Sides of the Iron Curtain.” The panel was to consist of the ambassador (András Simonyi), Tommy Ramone and me.
“In all respect ... Read more in Amazon's John Mellencamp Store

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Product Details

  • Audio CD (August 17, 2010)
  • Original Release Date: August 17, 2010
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Rounder / Pgd
  • ASIN: B003NWS5DQ
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (101 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #40,683 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

1. Save Some Time To Dream
2. The West End
3. Right Behind Me
4. A Graceful Fall
5. No Better Than This
6. Thinking About You
7. Coming Down The Road
8. No One Cares About Me
9. Love At First Sight
10. Don't Forget About Me
11. Each Day Of Sorrow
12. Easter Eve
13. Clumsy Ol' World

Editorial Reviews

2010 album from the American singer/songwriter. No Better Than This is an album of all new original songs that was recorded at a variety of historically significant locations around the south. The album was produced by T-Bone Burnett who earlier collaborated with Mellencamp on the much-lauded Life Death Love and Freedom. No Better Than This was recorded over the course of a few break days afforded Mellencamp when he was on tour of minor league ball parks last year, sharing the bill with Bob Dylan and Willie Nelson. The album was recorded on vintage equipment - a 55 year old Ampex tape recorder with just one microphone - in Savannah at the First African Baptist Church, in Memphis at Sun Studios and in San Antonio in room 411 of the Gunter Hotel. Mellencamp wrote the 13 songs included on the album during a 13 day span last spring.

Customer Reviews

The lyrics are beautiful and the performances amazing.
Karen L. Haight
Myself, I have found that I only really like 7 songs, but some of them I truly love and I know I will keep on listening to them, for a long time.
G. K.
He writes story songs that immediately grab and speak to people of all walks of life- the essence of American music.
Rudy Palma

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

79 of 81 people found the following review helpful By Rudy Palma on August 17, 2010
Format: Audio CD
With "No Better Than This" John Mellencamp deepens the rich, intimate simplicity of his last record, focusing on strong song craft. Recorded in mono, the album is disarmingly warm and inviting, giving the songs room to breathe with lo-fi, unadorned arrangements. T-Bone Burnett once again takes up production duties.

This is not an album that will ship a million records, but it is ripe for an audience looking for hearty Americana.

As time soldiers on so too does Mellencamp's persona. Like his contemporary Bruce Springsteen, he has become something of a retrospective malcontent with his 60s creeping up on him. He still harbors the restless spirit of a much younger man, calling out for social justice and pondering life's big questions straightforwardly.

In the heartbreaking, matter-of-fact "The West End," for instance, he proves himself a first-rate poet as he magnifies the vicious circle - the "broken promises" - that keep the oppressed immobile in contemporary society.

"For my whole life I've been down in the West End/It sure has changed here since I was a kid/It's worse now - look what progress did/Someone lined the packers out - I know who that is."

He also ponders the possibility of a better existence beyond mortal life on "A Graceful Fall" with a cynical eye:

"'Cause I'm sick of life, yeah, it's easy to do/When everything is so hard has been handed to you/Yeah I'm sick of life, it's been lost, it's been found/I will see you in the next world if there is really one."

The subject matter is not always harrowingly heavy, of course.
Read more ›
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49 of 52 people found the following review helpful By John Terry on August 17, 2010
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
Remember when John Cougar was the next David Bowie and T Bone Burnett was a guitar player in Dylan's "Rolling Thunder Revue"? Doesn't seem like all that long ago to me. John Cougar became John Cougar Mellencamp and finally just plain John Mellencamp. He went from "heartland rock" to roots rock and now he's made it all the way back to the roots of rock. T Bone has had a solo career that critics and devout fans sing the praises of. Then a little movie called "O Brother Where Art Thou" suddenly made him the closest he'll ever be to a household name. More importantly, he proved to the recording industry that record buyers would embrace roots music.
"No Better Than This" was recorded by John and T Bone during John's off days from a minor league baseball park tour he was doing with Bob Dylan and Willie Nelson. Recorded in mono, T Bone and John used places like Sun Studios and The First African Baptist Church in Memphis, the first African Baptist church in North America dating back to before the Revolutionary War. Also used was room 414 of the Gunter Hotel in San Antonio, Texas where Robert Johnson first recorded for Brunswick Records. "No Better Than This" is a live record with real musicians that feels real and sounds absolutely terrific. With "Freedom Road" and "Life, Death, Love and Freedom", it marks the high point of an American folk rock trilogy that shows John Mellencamp hasn't become a nostalgia act. Indeed, he may just be hitting his creative stride. An amazing piece of work.
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19 of 21 people found the following review helpful By DanD VINE VOICE on August 17, 2010
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
John Mellencamp has lately turned to folk/blues music, the likes of Woodie Guthrie, Robert Johnson, etc. This has, in many ways, been a fortuitous career move: he has crafted meaningful music that has delved into the heart of both Americana and humanity. However, it's also created albums that, while elegant and magnificent from an artistic standpoint, have been almost painful to listen to--music so dark and haunting that it must be taken in small doses.

NO BETTER THAN THIS is something of a breather, though not a passive one. Its lyrics are just as important and beautiful, but they are accompanied by a country/folk backbone that makes even the most downtrodden lyric ("I'm sick of life 'cause it's lost its form/I'll see you in the next world if there is really one") almost pleasant to listen to. Not that everything here is tears and frowns; "Save some time to dream/Because your dream might save us all," he croons in the opening number, and elsewhere (the title track, for instance) he seems relaxed and contended.

It's a false contentment, of course; even at his happiest, Mellencamp can't help but question the world around him. "Gee, it's a clumsy old world," he sings in the final track (and concludes with a wry chuckle); Mellencamp, like most of the great singer/songwriters before him, is in love with that clumsiness, with the imperfection of human nature. NO BETTER THAN THIS is a marvelous album; it's fun, it's catchy, and it's meaningful. Will it top the charts? No. But Mellencamp has more important things on his mind than record sales.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Daniel Hurley VINE VOICE on August 20, 2010
Format: Audio CD
If you're expecting Mellencamp with that great garage band sound with acordion and Miriam Sturm playing a major part in a variety of up beat sounds, you may initially be disappointed but this is a totally different sound, Mellencamp's latest CD is composed of a throw back sound that replicates the stark bareness of the early 50's of rock n roll with the straight forward simple sounds of guitar, drums and bass. There are not too many up beat or fast tempo songs but a number of the tunes remind me of a bluesy version of Arlo Gutherie backed by Buddy Holley's simple band the Cricketts creating a mix of blues folk and old fashioned rock n roll. Being used to the variety of sounds associated with Mellencamp's past bands, it may be an adjustment to listen to Mellencamp's bare voice backed by a minimal use of instruments. The songs are relatively slow speaking from the heart and telling of simply stories and feelings of pain with plenty of acoustical guitar. However, the more I played the tracks, the more I appreciated the concept and appreciated the simply arrangements that really allow the instruments to stand out. Mellencamp's voice sounds a bit raspy at times but that adds to the blues sound. I also appreciated the instrumentation very much particular the old sound of what sounds like a classic Fender guitar and the use of a bass is particularly welcome throw back, hence my reference to the Cricketts. The most enjoyable song to me is "No Better Than This" with one of the few up beat tempos on the album and where the bass and guitar really put out a thumping, knee stomping sound. "Save Some Time to Dream" could possibly have been a pop hit with a faster beat but it still stand outs on the album along with "Don't Forget About Me" and "Each Time of Sorrow".Read more ›
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