With over a dozen of the smartest old school tracks ever released by a single label making up its tracklist, Cleveland Rocks was built to rock your world, and it’s getting a second chance to steal the spotlight this spring courtesy of a long-awaited reissue from Cleveland International Records. After a decade-long hiatus, Steve Popovich Sr.’s son has brought the label back into the fold, and to mark the occasion, has greenlit the rerelease of its most powerful record aside from Bat Out of Hell. Jim Steinman, Ellen Foley, Meat Loaf, Ronnie Spector & the E Street Band, The Boyzz and Essence are only half of the talent that comprises Cleveland Rocks, and even if you think you know this material by heart, I have a feeling that listening to it one more time in this illustrious setting might produce some surprisingly new feelings of both the nostalgic and surreal variety. Steve Popovich Jr. is doing an amazing thing for modern rock by reopening his father’s label, and I can’t think of a better way to celebrate its return than by cranking up these songs as loud as humanly possible.
The production value here is super polished, but we’re not getting a watered down mix of the melodies in The Rovers’ “Wasn’t That a Party,” The Euclid Beach Band’s “There’s No Surf in Cleveland” or Southside Johnny & the Asbury Jukes’ “I Don’t Wanna Go Home” at all. There was a lot of attention paid to the minor details in these tracks, and while they’re stylishly packaged for us in Cleveland Rocks as to suit the needs of the current generation of pop fanatics, they’re not even slightly reimagined versions of the originals. Songs like “We Belong to the Night” and “Time Warp” don’t need to be touched up with a lot of extra frills to make the same bold statements that they made back in the day, and though some tracks like “Have a Good Time (But Get Out Alive)” are more symbolic of the time and place in which they were conceived, there’s never an air of archaic energy from the moment we start off in the record to the second we reach the finish line.
Fans of classic pop both young and old alike will be very satisfied with what they find in Cleveland Rocks, and I’m not at all hesitant in saying that this will be one of the best comps we’re going to hear before the decade expires. When strapping in for the rollercoaster ride that this LP delivers with each and every listen, I highly advise putting all external elements to the wayside and focusing solely on the music and the music alone because, let’s face it, trying to drive down the road when the title track comes blaring over the speakers isn’t just a whole lot of fun – it’s downright dangerous at high speeds. This is the engaging listening experience that was thus far missing from the airwaves in 2019, and for those of us who need more than one style of beats to get our hearts racing, Cleveland Rocks is an album of unparalleled charm.