NRBQ released its first album 45 years ago and has operated on the premise of no rules ever since. Founding member Terry Adams wanted a band that could play whatever style and songs it wanted, whenever it wanted and the band has built its reputation on doing just that. While the group has gone through numerous lineup changes (Adams is the lone remaining original member), this spirit lives on in its latest release, Brass Tacks.
The album opens with the infectious pop of "Waitin' On My Sweetie Pie." Harmonies reminiscent of the Everly Brothers punctuate this bouncy number. Adams laments the evils of credit cards and the debt collectors that follow in "Greetings From Delaware." The band blends jazzy chord breaks into this otherwise straight-ahead rocker. In this era of financial hardship for so many, Adams' lyrics really hit home.
"Fightin' Back" finds the band turning in a convincing country turn while "It's Alright" is dripping in optimism. A pretty acoustic ballad, it wouldn't feel out of place on an early McCartney solo album. In a similar vein, "Sit In My Lap" is pure 60s Beatlemania pop bliss.
Adams pursues his jazzy side on "Places Far Away," a track he wrote when he was 15. While the song may be a bit of a misstep on an otherwise fine album, it shows the band's adventurous nature in full flight and for that it must be applauded. More successful is the band's rendition of Rogers and Hammerstein's "Getting To Know You. The band reinvents this old standard in such a way it sounds as if they had written it, which is what a good cover should be.
More than 40 years after the release of their first album, NRBQ still does what they want, both on record and in concert. Members of the band may come and go, but its disregard for the rules remains the same. Brass Tacks shows that as long as you have good songs, the rest shouldn't matter.