I've been collecting hard rock and heavy metal CDs since the late '80s.
Jetboy, "Born To Fly"
(Frontiers Records, 2019)
12 Tracks, Run Time: 44:46
I was a latecomer to the Jetboy party. I'd heard of the San Francisco based sleaze rockers during their brief late '80s hey day, but I didn't actually own any of their albums till I scored their cult-classic 1988 debut, Feel The Shake, in a used-CD store about a dozen years ago. That album ended up spending a lot of time in my player and I regretted that I took so long to check the band out!
Since then I've been trying to make up for lost time, tracking down as many of their other CDs as I can find. (Better late than never, right?) I highly recommend 1990's sophomore release, Damned Nation, and the 1999 Make Some More Noise odds-and-ends compilation.
Like many of their '80s rock brethren, Jetboy split at the dawn of the grunge-rock era, but they reunited in the early 2000s and have been sporadically active ever since. In 2019 they released Born To Fly, their first full length studio album in almost 30 years, via the retro-rock specialist label Frontiers Records. Born To Fly features three-fifths of the classic Feel The Shake lineup, maintaining the core trio of vocalist Mickey Finn and guitarists Fernie Rod and Billy Rowe, with new recruits Al Serrato and Eric Stacy (ex-Faster Pussycat) filling out the drum and bass positions, respectively.
Pressing "play" on Born To Fly, you'd never know that Jetboy's last full length was released during the first Bush administration. They may be older and look less "glamorous" than they did in the '80s -- Mickey Finn has lost his trademark Mohawk and sorta resembles Duff "Ace of Cakes" Goldman nowadays -- but Jetboy are just as capable of kicking your ass today as they were thirty years ago. Respect!
"Beating The Odds"
Born To Fly easily recaptures Jetboy's traditional style - no frills, hard driving sleazy rock with a strong undercurrent of rockabilly and blues. This organic, gritty sound set them apart from the overly polished, pretty boy hair bands they were lumped in with back in the day, and that attitude and swagger remains in full force here. The machine-gunning opening track "Beating The Odds" sets a perfect "Hell yes, we're BACK, motherf***ers!" tone. (trivia note: If you listen close to the "radio chatter" during the mid-section of this song, you'll hear a few words from the late, great Lemmy Kilmister of Motörhead)
The title track is an easy going blues-rocker with a major AC/DC influence, and Finn gets to show off some of his harmonica skills on the Aerosmith-flavored "Old Dog, New Tricks." A bit of tasteful acoustic strumming and organ leads into the moody Southern fried rock ballad "The Way That You Move Me," which sounds like something the Black Crowes might have cooked up in their heyday.
The melodic rock of "Brokenhearted Daydream," the thumping "Inspiration From Desperation" and "All Over Again" keep the party going, but "She" is the mid-album highlight; this heavy AC/DC styled stomper has a chorus to die for. "Every Time I Go" is back in the Allman Brothers/Black Crowes ballpark and "Smoky Ebony" is a primo slice of straight up, bluesy sleaze rock with some great dive-bombing guitar work. The album comes to an end with the loud 'n' proud anthem "Party Time!", which wraps up the collection nicely.
In short: it's great to have these guys back!
"Born To Fly"
Summing It Up
I may have missed out on Jetboy during their first go-round, but I'm glad I got on board in time for Born To Fly. I have always had a soft spot for "forgotten" hard rock bands like these, many of which (in my opinion) were better than the acts who did make it to the multi-platinum big time during the late '80s hair-metal boom, (yeah, I'm looking at you, Poison, Warrant, et cetera!).
Jetboy obviously aren't trying to re-invent the wheel on Born To Fly, they're simply picking up where they left of a very long time ago. Their musical muscle has not diminished during their absence, and if there's any justice in the rock n' roll world, then Born To Fly should mark the beginning of a successful "second act" for these seasoned veterans.
© 2020 Keith Abt