It's embarrassingly easy to poke fun at journeyman belter Eddie Money. I mean, what's not to yuk about him?
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There's Ma Mahoney's kid Ed's dumb stage name, of course (Buck Dharma was taken). That well-worn Quaalude story always makes for good cocktail-party chatter, too; true or not, urban legend has it that Money's trademark crooked mouth/jawline was the result of taking a few too many 714s then passing out, face-side down, for a day or two, yielding permanent muscle or nerve damage. And of course there's the goofy image: neo-Farrah-cum-attenuated-mullet cut, a Miami Vice-informed haberdashery sense, and overwrought stage mannerisms that make Steve Perry look like Nureyev. Here is a man utterly confident that, visually, he reflects the lifestyle values of his core constituency.
So why does it not pain me to report that, dang, there are some pretty good tunes found here? Well, sure, there's a measure of dreck included. 1980's reggaefied "Running Back" offers conclusive proof that white men (Jimmy Buffett excepted) have no business doing island music. The live version of "Rock and Roll the Place," originally available on a '79 promo-only EP, presents irrefutable testimony that nobody should ever, anywhere, be tempted to use the words "rock and roll" in a song again (we called it "the Boston-the-band effect"). A variation on this latter complaint: 1983's "Where's the Party?," docked both for a similar titular violation and the hamfisted John Lee Hooker riff-rip-off (fascinatingly, the song resembles a sleeker version of Gary Glitter's "Rock and Roll, Pt. 2" and is no doubt being played at a ballgame somewhere right now but it -- oh, never mind).
All that aside, the slam-bang triad of songs that opens the disc makes for the kind of roll-down-the-car-windows, crank-the-stereo summer cruising fodder that best-ofs bank on. 1978's "Two Tickets to Paradise" has a percolating, timeless Springsteenian ring and rush to it, no matter that the guitar solo is nicked from Steely Dan's "Reelin' In the Years." "Shakin'," of course, appeared in mid-'82, just in time to take advantage of the still-new phenomenon known as MTV. Who can forget that hot-tamale Latina babe draped across Ed's car hood wiggling her cootchie straight at his sweaty, thyroidal-lidded mug ("I got real nervous/She took her coat off/She was so pretty/Awww, yeahhh!")? Plus, it's a great rocker, straight outta Paul Revere and the Raiders territory (Money was clearly influenced by Mark Lindsay), all rain dance/Burundi beats 'n' slinky riffs 'n' dripping-lust, come-hither vocals . . . awww, yeahhh! And "Take Me Home Tonight," from '86, while also benefiting from video exposure (an indelible image of co-vocalist Ronnie Spector strutting in tight minidress and heels and reprising her "be my little baby" warble for the pre-sampling era), is another impeccably arranged and performed number, an amalgam of pre-British Invasion pop, crunching-chord '70s anthemism and post-New Wave '80s dance pop (right down to the "Turning Japanese"-styled keyboards). Just try resisting the urge to sing along when this comes over the airwaves -- you'll give your neck muscles a hernia.
Shameless stuff? You betcha. This is a guy, recall, who adopted the last name Money. But what would a guilty pleasure be without the opportunity to jettison one's sense of shame, if only for three and a half minutes?