CD Review of Working Class Dog by Rick Springfield

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Working Class Dog
starstarstarstarhalf star Label: RCA/Legacy
Released: 2006
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There’s a popular opinion that one has to be female to like Rick Springfield. That’s not entirely true…but, statistically speaking, lord knows that the difference in percentages between how many of his fans are men and how many are women must be rather significant. Hey, that’s what happens when your big break in the US market comes via a role on “General Hospital.” (Just ask Jack Wagner.) Still, just because Springfield was a soap opera star doesn’t mean that he’s not a musician of some note…and if you had to go through his back catalog and pick the one album that was most representative of his pop/rock style, well, it always comes back to Working Class Dog, doesn’t it? It was his breakthrough album, his first to make it into the top 10, and it gave him not only three top 20 singles but also a Grammy Award.

It’s also a damned fine pop-rock record, one that’s held up well over the years.

Working Class Dog opens with the chugging verse of “Love Is Alright Tonight,” a song with a chorus that virtually defines the concept of “soaring.” It’s far from alone on this album in possessing this attribute. “I’ve Done Everything for You” begins with that monster riff, then heads skyward when Springfield recites the title, adding, “You’ve done nothing for me!” “Carry Me Away” has a similar feel; it’s the hit single that should’ve been…and probably would’ve been if it weren’t for its line, “I’m so tired of all this shit that I feel.” Both “Carry Me Away” and “The Light of Love” manage to blend guitar and keyboards successfully without coming off as cheesy. “Red Hot & Blue Love” finds Springfield taking a stab at blues-rock and succeeding surprisingly well at it…better, at least, than the cod reggae of “Everybody’s Girl.” “Daddy’s Pearl” is another pop-rocker, while the closer, “Inside Silvia,” has a surprisingly effective 10cc sound to it. (Trust me, the swirling chorus will remind you of that bit in “I’m Not In Love” where the voices whisper, “Big boys don’t cry.”)

Okay, now that we’ve talked about virtually every other song on the album, let’s talk about “Jessie’s Girl” for a moment. With the way radio stations tend to rewrite history in order to simplify their playlists, kids today probably think Springfield was a one-hit wonder, since it seems like this is the only song you ever hear from him anymore. (Its inclusion on the soundtracks to “13 Going on 30” and “Boogie Nights” probably haven’t helped that reputation any.) Thing is, no matter how many times you hear it, it still holds up. It might annoy him sometimes, but there are a lot worse songs Springfield could be remembered for.

The liner notes are way more in-depth than casual fans might expect. Producers Keith Olsen and Bill Drescher contribute their memories of the recording sessions, and Springfield offers extremely elaborate discussions of the period leading up the album, along with a few lines about each song, including the three bonus tracks. Those tracks, by the way, include “Easy to Cry” (which sounds, by Springfield’s own admission, notably similar to Kansas’s “Carry On Wayward Son”), the original version of “Taxi Dancing” (a re-recording of the song as a duet with Randy Crawford would appear on the soundtrack to “Hard to Hold”), and the original 4-track demo of “Jessie’s Girl,” with Springfield playing all the instruments himself.

So go ahead and laugh derisively and sneer, “You gave four and a half stars to Rick fucking Springfield?” Hey, if it wasn’t for “Everybody’s Girl,” it probably would’ve gotten five. Pop/rock albums don’t get much better than this.

~Will Harris