CD Review of Sweden Rocks by Ted Nugent
Recommended if you like
Alice Cooper, Motley Crue, Kiss
Eagle Rock
Ted Nugent: Sweden Rocks

Reviewed by Mojo Flucke, PhD


errible Ted, Motor City Madman, 59 years young, is still terrible. A cranky conservative, he makes no apologies for his political beliefs, and while he's perfectly comfortable in his own skin – shooting guns off in rock-n-roll style – he can't be very well appreciated by the Republican establishment. He's kind of the Roger Clinton – or Billy Carter – of John McCain's America. They can't deny he's out there, but they can certainly pretend as if Nugent – rocking out and spewing obscenities in his trademark camouflage cowboy hat – doesn't exist. He also tends to put on the liberal shades on occasion when talking about wildlife and environmental management systems, making him more of a maverick in the eyes of Ann Coulter types than even the lyrics of "Snakeskin Cowboys" might suggest.

Politics aside, however, there's no question the Nuge has still got it on the stage. Always a renegade, he abandoned his teenage band, The Amboy Dukes, after they logged a couple seminal psychedelic-era hits in "Journey to the Center of the Mind" and an ingenious cover of the old blues saw "Baby Please Don't Go." Through the '70s he, Iggy Pop, and Alice Cooper (who wasn't from Detroit but got adopted by the locals as one of their own no-compromise hard rockers) formed a sort of insane troika of bad boys who got us through the Bread and Osmonds era until help arrived in the form of Cheap Trick and the Clash. The Nuge racked up 35 million album sales along the way – which financed the purchase of truckload after truckload of ammo, as well as enough strings for his famous Gibson Byrdland guitar that he could play hard as he pleased.

His latest CD catches him live in 2006 at the Sweden Rocks festival; a companion DVD arrived in June. Clearly, age hasn't eroded Nugent's brash persona one scintilla, as he rages through his own personal hard-rock canon: "Wango Tango," "Cat Scratch Fever," "Free for All," and "Dog Eat Dog." The recording quality is superb, and the cadence is so tight there's barely a wasted nanosecond on the disc. The screaming, the energy, the crunchy licks, they're all here – amazingly so, considering most mortals' voices would have gone silent after nearly a half century of such abuse, not even taking into account all the gunsmoke and engine exhaust he's sucked in on his various annual hunting expeditions.

Interestingly, one cover he picked for the set was "Soul Man," considering his checkered past when it comes to political – er, I mean, politically incorrect – rants on the topics of race relations and poverty. Like, the last thing most people would consider Nugent would be a "soul man." But maybe that's the point – the Nuge has been all about outragreousness and doing the unexpected. The question is, does anyone care anymore? The Swedes obviously did on this concert recording, but methinks America's pop culture Carnival Cruise left him off at one of its 1989 stops and sailed on without him.

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