Chicago Tribune July 7, 1991
LE MUSEUM DE BENATAR Articles:
Music Connection 9/9/91
The Music Paper, July 91
The New York Post May 16, 1991
Benatar's singing the blues on this much touted comeback record. There's certainly no question that she has the pipes for such an endeavor and she shrewdly enlists Roomful Of blues to back her, which they do splendidly. The material -- a few originals scattered among such smoky numbers as B. B. King's "Payin' The Cost To Be The boss" and Albert King's "I Get Evil" -- is first-rate. The only variable here is public receptiveness to such a project. The record graveyard is littered with such change-of-pace albums, but this one deserves to succeed.
SundayJuly 7, 1991
"You can call it a comeback, a wayback, I don't care what you call it," says Pat Benatar about her latest LP, "True Love."
After six platinum and two gold razor's-edge rock 'n' roll LPs, plus a greatest-hits album last year, Benatar's latest effort is a blues album. It features the swing-blues combo Roomful of Blues as sidemen to Benatar and her guitarist-husband, Neil Giraldo.
The songs on it are not the usual tough-as-nails Benatar fare. Except for three originals, including the title track, the songs on this LP are covers of classic blues numbers by B.B. King, T-Bone Walker, Wynonie Harris and Albert King.
Benatar says the album reflects a recoupment of creative control over her music after the expiration in 1988 of a stifling 10-year contract with Chrysalis Records.
"The promotion people are lying down, and I had to give them oxygen; they were in shock," she says about having turned over the new LP to record company executives.
"I'm 38 years old, and they're trying to stick me into a 26-year-old box," she says, explaining how music is marketed for the postpubescent MTV age bracket. That's one reason the new LP is targeted toward Benatar's more mature peer group, the over-25 crowd who can appreciate the bluesier sound. And that's why Benatar was a featured artist on VH-1, MTV Network's Baby Boomer video channel.
But why would she depart so radically from her usual rock 'n' roll style? For Benatar, everything that came after she dropped her opera singing is a change.
"Everything's a departure. I mean, my roots are in classical music," she says.
"The reason we chose to do an uptempo jump blues thing is because . . . it's not that far a jump. When I'm singing it, it rocks really hard just like the other stuff rocks, just with a different thing."
At home, Benatar loves to listen to classic blues artists like Sonny Boy Williamson II and Big Maybelle Smith. When Giraldo suggested that they cut an album of her favorite music, she says she reacted with more than a little trepidation.
"Just because you love it doesn't mean you can sing it," Benatar says. "I really approached it from doing it like I would do it and not trying to emulate people, because you can't duplicate what they did. . . . They're my idols."
Although her talented voice has a proven track record in the rock and classical genres, it lacks the grit of Chicago's West Side or the soulful sadness instilled by the poverty of the Mississippi Delta. "It's never going to do that," Benatar says.
"I made this record with the utmost absolute respect and reverence for what they did," Benatar says about the classic blues artists she covers.
Initially "True Love" was to have contained only covers of Benatar and Giraldo's favorite blues numbers. Each artist compiled a list, they combined them and then selected the eight covers that appear on the LP. The process, Benatar says, took six months.
"It was really hard. There's like five, 10 versions of everything . . . picking stuff that the lyrics would work. I was looking for specific things."
She adds that most of the songs she chose were ones that she had listened to and then said, "If I ever get the chance to sing it (the blues), it would be this." She laughs about how many she and Giraldo picked at first. "Once we got down to 100, it got easier."
The three original numbers on the LP were written more as an afterthought. "The plan was to do all old stuff, not really do any of our own things," she says. "It's just that when we started playing everything, we just started writing at the same time."
All the songs Benatar and Giraldo picked were adaptable to a Big Band swing format. Benatar says picking the blues band to collaborate with on the project was easier than selecting the tunes. For years, Giraldo had been a big fan of Roomful of Blues, and the band was their first choice.
"Roomful of Blues was nervous because they didn't want to make a rock record with horns on it. We gave them a tape of all the stuff we were going to do, and when they came in the first day, it was swinging right from the first minute," Benatar says.
Working with a blues band is yet another reflection of how Benatar's musicianship has matured. When they begin touring and playing theater-size venues, she says she looks forward to the format change effected by playing the blues.
So is "True Love" a comeback LP, or is it just one more mold for Pat Benatar to break the way she did the male-dominated rock 'n' roll one back in the late '70s? She says she doesn't care. Just like "the rock thing," this is what she wants to do.
"Everything that comes from this is like a present, because we expected nothing."