Unplugged: Joan Jett & The Blackhearts “Changeup” album review

Photo from WNYC

Photo from WNYC

Mike Singer

On March 25, Joan Jett & The Blackhearts released their first album since 2018’s “Bad Reputation (Music from the Original Motion Picture)” album.

This time, the band unplugged and put down their electric guitars, and swapped them out for acoustic guitars.

I for one, love acoustic records. The first full-length acoustic album I listened to was the Kiss album “MTV Unplugged (Live)” which has gone down in history as reuniting the original band together. So, all in all, you could say, I have some pretty high standards for acoustic records.

The entire record has songs from her time with The Runaways which include: Kim Fowley, Lita Ford, and Cherie Currie, some of her solo material as well as classic Blackheart material. Now, I have never listened to The Runaways, I was always a fan of Joan Jett and Lita Ford solo. After hearing this song though, I must say I have to rethink some of my choices and give The Runaways a listen.

If a song is good as an electric song, then the acoustic cover will be just as good.

Man did the band not disappoint. Over the course of 25 songs and an hour and 23 minutes, the record has magic all over between Joan Jett, guitarist Dougie Needles, bassist Hal B. Selzer, and drummer Michael McDermott.

The record starts off with “(I’m Gonna) Run Away” from Joan Jett & The Blackheart’s 1981 record, “I Love Rock ‘n Roll.” The song only last two minutes and 42 seconds but is a great opener.

“We’re fakin’ it” is one of the first lyrics in the song and Jett and the rest of the band are not faking any musical talent on this album.

Let’s be honest, this isn’t the 80’s anymore and a lot of these artists don’t have that groove at the end of their careers. One of the exceptions to that is Joan Jet, “(I’m Gonna) Run Away” is a great song to establish what fans will be listening to for the remainder of the record.

The next song I want to highlight is a Runaways cover and the second track on the record titled “You’re too Possessive” which also comes off Jett’s 1981 record “I Love Rock ‘n Roll.” There is great harmony in the chorus between Joan Jett and Selzer. The song is up-tempo about a woman whose partner is all over her and is too possessive. It’s a classic Jett -style rebellion song where she does not answer to anyone but herself.

My favorite song off the record is “Coney Island Whitefish” off of 1983’s “Album.” What makes this song my favorite on the entire record is because it’s faster than your typical acoustic cover and Jett belting out the vocals just shows rock and roll do not have an age limit.

The chorus of “ya don’t leave well enough alone” has Jett yelling out the vocals. The entire song is a fun song about what can be assumed as a relationship where your partner can’t get their act together, that’s my interpretation of it least. It’s overall the best song on the album and has made me a bigger fan of the band now.

The second to last song that isn’t considered a hit that I enjoyed a lot is “Oh Woe Is Me” also off of 1981’s “I Love Rock ‘n Roll.”

“Oh Woe Is Me” is an anthem-style chanting song that has Dougie Needles, Hal Selzer, and Michael McDermott clapping along and chanting “hey” throughout the song.

Up next, we have “Frustrated” off of 1984’s “Glorious Results of a Misspent Youth.” 

Just like “You’re too Possessive,” the song is a rebellion song about wanting to break free while singing “I’m frustrated, my hands are tied.” This is the classic acoustic song with a harmonica in the background throughout the entire song. Even though it’s what a typical acoustic song is, I still thought it was a good song.

Just like any other compilations of music from artists, there are of course the hits.

Joan Jett & The Blackhearts play “Bad Reputation” off 1981’s “Bad Reputation” as well as “Cherry Bomb” which is off 1976’s “The Runaways” make an appearance on this record.

Jett doesn’t just cover The Runaways songs. On top of Runaway songs like “You Drive Me Wild” off 1976’s “The Runaways,” the band also played a cover of Tommy James and the Shondells’ song “Crimson and Clover” off 1968’s “Crimson & Clover” as well Bruce Springsteen’s “Light of Day” off 1993’s “Concert/MTV Plugged.” 

There are so many great acoustic songs on the album that it will have fans begging for the band to make a second acoustic album.

This record is one of the few acoustic records that I enjoy. I know plenty of unplugged/acoustic albums that aren’t great because bands mess around with the vocals or switch solos. Not this record though, exactly how it was recorded and produced beautifully by her own record label Blackheart Records Group.

My final thoughts on the record are the song choices fit perfectly with the acoustic record that Joan Jett and the Blackhearts were trying to accomplish. To put it simply, they achieved their desired goal. 

If you disagree with her on the other hand and think that acoustic albums make bands seem corny or it ruins their reputation then I would think Joan would have one response.

“I don’t give a damn ‘bout my reputation.”

Overall Grade: 7.5/10