Mellencamp, Burnett, and ΧΟΔΕ

Life Death Love and Freedom

Life Death Love and Freedom

I’ve been listening to John Mellencamp’s Life Death Love and Freedom, sent to me by a friend who clearly knows my taste in music very well. It’s a very fine CD, made so of course by Mellencamp’s undoubted gifts as a songwriter, but also by the sympathetic production of T-Bone Burnett. Burnett has made something of a career for himself as a producer of grainy acoustic Americana, following the runaway success of his soundtrack for O Brother Where Art Thou?, the Coen Brother’s Dustbowl Odyssey. Most recently, his production for the Robert Plant / Alison Krauss collaboration Raising Sand helped that release not a little towards its Grammies success.

Another friend recently likened the production style of a CD of my own songs, Walk The Floor, to Burnett’s. This is high praise indeed (and I won’t be so churlish as to modestly pooh-pooh it, though I could): Burnett is my kind of producer, with a love of traditional virtues allied to a keen eye for modern possibilities. No doubt this fidelity to the particular qualities of music, and awareness of the limitations and capacities of technology, led to GBurnett’s conception of the format in which Life Death Love and Freedom was released. ΧΟΔΕ (or Code) aims to do for recorded music what THX did for movie sound, reproducing the experience of listening to the studio masters. The ΧΟΔΕ disc can only be played in DVD players, and since my own player is currently attached to a 14″ TV with a  hopeless mono speaker, I haven’t been able to test it out. Has anyone else out there?

Left only with the CD, meanwhile, the songs’ strengths have of course still been more than obvious. The CD makes for a dark listen, but its bluesy forms and clear arrangements also make it an entertaining one. We probably have T-Bone to thank for that, too. Recommended.

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