Celebrating Chuck Berry’s Vision
Ted Nugent does not waste a moment pretending to be someone he isn’t and his latest album, Detroit Muscle (29 April 2022; Pavement Music), is further testament to all the things he loves.
The album, Nugent’s first since 2018’s The Music Made Me Do It, consists of 11 tracks, and again features his regular bandmates, who he describes as the “rhythmgodz”: bassist Greg Smith (Alice Cooper, Billy Joel, Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow), and drummer Jason Hartless (Joe Lynn Turner, Mitch Ryder). Nugent of course is back on lead guitar and vocals, and doing what he does best, banging out brash, rocking numbers, and setting them alight with scorching solos.
Nugent was raised in Detroit and now, in his mid-70s, seeks to pay homage to his native city. Tracks such as Born in the Motor City give clues as to the type of upbringing he had: “Dad said, "Get your gun, boy, and don't you ever be late”; and the music that influenced him: “Well, I was born in Motown how I love the groove, Well, I'm a child of Motown, Lord, how I love the groove. You got that fire in your belly, you know you just can't lose.”
American Campfire, Alaska and Feedback GrindFIRE all further develop the themes that are key to him, especially around the great outdoors, freedom and the barely concealed double-entendres. Cat Scratch Fever is probably still the most famous example of this particular brand of humour; although the opening track Detroit Muscle, with its roaring motorbike entrance, is not a bad shot either.
The two standout tracks are, however, Come and Take It and Leave The Lights On. The former cut is Texas’ famous call to arms, and in the accompanying video Nugent flashes his Gibson custom stars and stripes Les Paul, and features images of what appear to be the The American Civil War, US battleships and planes going into attack, and the US couple who pointed guns at Black Lives’ Matters’ protesters – the message is explicit: come and take my gun, ‘go ahead, try’. The latter, Leave The Lights On, begins with a gentle solo and builds into a surprisingly catchy anthem.
Another surprise, at least for a certain section of libertarians, is Nugent’s lifelong anti-drug and alcohol stance, which is again expressed on this record in Drivin’ Bind. Here he sings about “cruisin’ down the highway, I was in control, I always knew I had to do it my way, This is my rock n roll.” It’s not the best track from the maverick musician, but it is an important one for him to include.
Nugent appropriately closes with a new rendition of the Star-Spangled Banner. It is soaked in feedback, like Hendrix’s version, though it is a good deal more concise.
Detroit Muscle delivers all the things that might be expected from the self-styled ‘Motor City Madman’, and if you are looking for some great rock n roll and guitar, you’ll find it here. The record contains a ‘lifetime celebration of energy’, and according to Nugent, he has: “never had so much fun celebrating Chuck Berry’s vision!”