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Cherie Currie | Blvds Of Splendor – Digital Album Review
Blvds Of Splendor was supposed to be Cherie Currie’s “comeback” album after The Runaways movie (largely based on Currie’s 1989 book Neon Angel: A Memoir of a Runaway) came out in 2010. For unspecified reasons, the record featuring Slash, Duff McKagan and Matt Sorum (who also produced the album) from Guns N’ Roses and the Smashing Pumpkin’s Billy Corgan, was shelved by Kenny Laguna, Joan Jett’s manager. He had signed Currie to Blackheart Records (co-owned with Jett) in the midst of the movie and renewed interest in the Runaways. Other things came up and the record was sidetracked. While waiting to see what would happen next, the original leader singer of the Runaways, the “blonde bombshell” as she’s been called, returned to her other passion — chainsaw art.
Currie cut another record in 2015 called Reverie with the support of her son Jake Hays, the late Runaways producer Kim Fowley, and former Runaways band mate Lita Ford. It was a solid effort, and it showed she had evolved, not only in sowing up differences with the ghosts from her past, but also as a singer. By all accounts, her growl had become more seasoned, more refined, more mature. Four years later, she recorded and released an album with Fanny drummer Brie Darling, and soon after, Blvds Of Splendor made its first public appearance as a limited edition vinyl release on Record Store Day. And now, during the coronavirus lock-down, it’s become available as a digital download with three extra songs left off the 2019 LP. Concerts are canceled, record stores shuttered, and everyone is on edge about what the “new normal” will become. Caught in the moment, perhaps Blvds Of Splendor couldn’t have come at a better time.
This is an album designed to show off all sides of Cherie Currie’s musical cache. The first half is primarily straightforward rock and roll. She pushes the pedal with the GNR crew on the opening “Mr. X” and breathes new life into Nick Gilder’s glam-infused hip-shaker, “Roxy Roller.” This momentum carries through on “You Wreck Me,” “Black Magic,” “Forced To Be Reckoned With,” and “Bad And Broken” — all high-energy spitballs that put Currie out in front and center, delivering each lyric as if she lived it, her cred frothing at the turn of every power chord.
The mood goes slightly sunny-side up when Currie is joined by Corgan on the album’s title track. This is a ripe opportunity for the singer to test her range and transcend the perception with a subtle duet, simmering in a stew of modern flourishes and guitar treatments. A similar sensibility is applied to the epic “Rock & Roll Oblivion,” which builds on a driving rhythm, uplifted by a string section, pulsating with a powerful melody that highlights the diversity of Currie’s vocal capabilities.
“Shades,” co-written by Currie and her son Jake Hays, is the album’s tugger of heartstrings, a ballad that allows the singer to instill a dose of personal salvation and sensitivity to the mix. “Breakout,” an upbeat skip to keep the party rolling, angles for position between valiant covers of Tommy James’ “Draggin’ The Line” and Albert Hammond’s “The Air That I Breathe.” A snappy take of the Monroes’ “What Do All The People Know” is one of the three bonus tracks added to the download. To bring it all home, Currie invited Brody Dalle, the Veronicas, and Juliette Lewis to sing on the Runaways’ “Queens Of Noise.” It serves as a tribute to the band that started it all.
A spin through Blvds Of Splendor and there is little doubt that this is the “comeback” record we should have gotten from Cherie Currie 10 years ago. Now, at a stage in her life where music, family, friendships, and art co-exist without the pressure and anxiety, the singer recently said if she never makes another album again, she’s happy to let Blvds Of Splendor stand as her final statement. In times like these, you certainly can’t take anything for granted, least of all an honest rock and roll record to make the situation a little more tolerable.
~ Shawn Perry