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Editorial Reviews

Unvarnished, Joan Jett and the Blackhearts first studio record in more than seven years, breaks new lyrical ground for the pioneering female rocker while remaining true to the veracious sound that Jett is known for. Jett teamed up with some stellar collaborators on Unvarnished including Laura Jane Grace of Against Me, Dave Grohl, Blackheart band members Dougie Needles and Thommy Price, and longtime songwriting partner/producer, Kenny Laguna. Soulmates to Strangers was written with Against Me singer Laura Jane Grace, with whom Jett first became acquainted while on the 2006 Warped Tour. Dave Grohl from the Foo Fighters co-wrote the single Any Weather. Amazingly, the single features just the two musicians performing the song, with Jett on vocals and rhythm guitar, and Dave playing every other instrument that is on the track. Make it Back, is about the spirit that Jett saw first hand in the aftermath of Sandy. With her neighbors being some of the hardest hit, not to mention Jett being displaced in the wake of the storm, she was able to see this spirit that was really beautiful come out in all the people, and people helping each other. Among the more lighthearted commentaries is a meditation on one of today's more deplorable trends: over-sharing. Jett says, TMI concerns everybody throwing every little detail out there and is both cautionary and observational of this new reality. Unvarnished is inspired, as always, by Jett's overriding philosophy: Rock 'n' Roll is about a certain integrity...just being true to your own self.

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Songs from this album are available to purchase as MP3s. Click on "Buy MP3" or view the MP3 Album.

Song Title Time Price
listen  1. Any Weather (606 Version) 3:24$1.29  Buy MP3 
listen  2. TMI 3:49$1.29  Buy MP3 
listen  3. Soulmates to Strangers 3:12$1.29  Buy MP3 
listen  4. Make It Back 3:17$1.29  Buy MP3 
listen  5. Hard to Grow Up 4:21$1.29  Buy MP3 
listen  6. Fragile 3:39$1.29  Buy MP3 
listen  7. Reality Mentality 3:05$1.29  Buy MP3 
listen  8. Bad as We Can Be 3:53$1.29  Buy MP3 
listen  9. Different 3:36$1.29  Buy MP3 
listen10. Everybody Needs a Hero 2:34$1.29  Buy MP3 

Product Details

  • Audio CD (April 1, 2013)
  • Original Release Date: 2013
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Blackheart Records
  • ASIN: B00EP22QKG
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (110 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,156 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

18 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Richard Bellush, Jr. on October 3, 2013
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
It's often said that young people don't believe they will die. Strictly speaking, this is untrue. Of course they know it intellectually, but there is something to the argument that (barring some personal event that drives the point home), by and large, they don't feel it in their bones. Mortality doesn't impinge on their moment to moment world view. I know it didn't impinge on mine. When young musicians write or sing about death, they are likely do so playfully (Jim Morrison) or indulgently (Jagger/Richards "Paint it Black").

A change often happens in middle age. Their references turn retrospective and thoughtful, not playful. Frank Sinatra released the album "September of My Years" in 1965, the year he turned 50. At age 49, Peggy Lee had her last big hit with "Is That All There Is?" At age 56, Bob Dylan released "Time Out of Mind," which included the melancholic refrain, "It's not dark yet, but it's getting there" on the "Not Dark Yet" track.

This shift in perspective is very evident in the 55 y.o. Joan Jett's "Unvarnished." Joan always has favored simple, no-frills, back-to-basics rock-and-roll. For those of us who like that sound, her albums are reliably good. "Unvarnished" is very very good. There isn't a bad or dreary track on it, a rare feat for any artist. Yet, running through her lyrics are a reflective tone and an awareness of time, most manifestly in "Hard to Grow Up." "I think about my own mortality" is actually a lyric in the track "Fragile." The album ends with the whisper, "Life and death/the change to rearrange/life and death."

I'm probably making the album sound like a downer, but it isn't at all. It rocks. Joan's current perspective simply adds a layer of richness, just as it did for Frank, Peggy, and Bob before her. If you've ever liked Joan Jett, you'll almost surely like this album, too. Recommended.
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22 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Edward Alan on October 1, 2013
Format: Audio CD
Several bands from the 70's & 80's tried to be "relevant" by following the current musical trends, but really should have stuck to what they do best. Yes, even Joan Jett has a rap song. Now that the smoke has cleared and we are left with a vast disposable musical wasteland, many of the trendsetting artists of the 70's & 80's are putting out some of their best recording since their heyday. Thank Goodness. This is one of them!
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27 of 31 people found the following review helpful By dead pool on September 30, 2013
Format: MP3 Music Verified Purchase
What's great about the internet is that I was able to listen to all of these songs well before the record store opens this morning. What sucks about the webs is that I have already heard the whole album. Thank you, Joan, for allowing us to record tons of material at live shows. The album versions are a little tame now that I've listened to the live versions for months.

Haven't listened to the vinyl yet, so I can't comment on the alternate versions of "Any Weather" or "Different". Here's my break down.

1. Any Weather (606 version)
This was written by Dave Grohl. The vocals are nice. Fans won't be disappointed.
2. TMI
On each of the Black Hearts' records, there are a few throwback tracks that seem like they would have fit better on an older album (like "Insecure" on Pure & Simple). The music on this track has an old-school vibe.
3. Soulmates to Strangers
This was written by Laura Jane Grace. This is the second most Joan Jett song on the album. You'll see.
4. Make it Back
Definitely the most Joanest Jettest track on the album. Listen to the guitar, no one else could have written this song. I love it.
5. Hard to Grow Up
One of her less bubble-gum, more emo songs. The guitar is nice.
6. Fragile
Flows well after the previous track. It seems like Joan really likes this one, so I'm trying to like the keyboards.
7. Reality Mentality
This and TMI are the throw backs. If you close your eyes, you can imagine that this is Patti Rasnick singing for The Hunnz.
8. Bad as We Can Be
Haven't decided on this one yet. It's the filler.
9. Different
Can't believe she didn't put this on Glorious Results... Just saying.
10. Everybody Needs a Hero
No spoilers. You have decide for yourself on this one.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Pen Name on September 30, 2013
Format: Audio CD
Great album the sound is amazing. I really really love the live bonus tracks. You also get free Joan Jett stickers which is pretty cool. I can't stop listening to it!!!
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16 of 19 people found the following review helpful By S. Lilly on October 1, 2013
Format: Audio CD
It's been easy to write off Joan Jett in the last two decades. The rarely-released albums were scattershot at best, with production, writing, and vocal skills all over the place. For every killer cut ("Fetish", her cover of Sweet's "AC/DC") there were five so-so tracks and one or two downright embarrassments. The live shows still rocked, but that's where the legend ended. SINNER, released in 2006, was a step up but still too hit-and-miss to make many ripples in the still lake that her recording career had become. With UNVARNISHED, Joan Jett proves that there are still waves to be made, and she and the boys are just the folks to make 'em.

Despite a strange and hopefully-ironically-intended album cover (a closeup of Jett makeup-free would've worked; should the cover of an album called UNVARNISHED look like everything in the picture is covered in varnish?), Jett for the most part is as straight-forward as it gets, playing to her strengths as tough-chick everygirl. The result is her most satisfying album since 1994's PURE AND SIMPLE (which in my mind is the best thing she's ever done by far).

The proceedings start out with a hot stutter of guitar and a "Hey!" from the players, starting the pop-rock of "Any Weather". The song is a little muted by unnecessary piano, but that and the cliched lyrics are outweighed by a clever arrangment and solid playing from the "band" (Jett and guest Dave Grohl). It's a good warm-up for "TMI", a high-energy continuation of Jett's Gary Glitter tribute fetish that kicks in hard and stays there. This would have made a better leadoff track, but it's great wherever it is.

From there Joan keeps the train on track for the most part.
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