Saturday, September 28, 2019

David Hasselhoff: “Open Your Eyes” (2019) CD Review

Recently David Hasselhoff released a music video for “Open Your Eyes,” the title track from his new album. It seemed a perfect song for these days, with the line “Open your eyes, see the lies right in front of you.” Yet the song actually came out in the early part of the Reagan years, another frightening time politically, when it was performed by The Lords Of The New Church. On Open Your Eyes, David Hasselhoff offers renditions of some popular songs, covering a surprisingly wide range of musical genres, including hard rock, new wave, pop, country and folk. He also has special guests joining him on nearly every track. Most of the songs he has chosen are from the 1980s, a decade that gave us a whole lot of fun music, as well as the decade that David Hasselhoff came to our attention in Knight Rider. It was also the decade that he began releasing records. Yeah, David Hasselhoff has released more albums than you’re likely aware of, certainly more than I was aware of, including a Christmas album. This CD includes a “Hoff Army” patch, which made me laugh and which my girlfriend refuses to wear. I think once she hears this entire disc, she will change her mind.

Open Your Eyes begins with its title track, a powerful song that seems to speak directly to our times. Check out these lines: “Violence rules within our nation's midst/Well, ignorance is their power tool/You only know what they want you to know.” David delivers a passionate, earnest rendition that captures the strength of the original. James Williamson (from The Stooges) joins David on guitar on this track. “They scare us all with threats of war/So we forget just how bad things are.” That’s followed by “Head On,” a fun tune with a delightful 1980s sound. It was written by William Reid and Jim Reid, and originally recorded by The Jesus And Mary Chain. “Yeah, the world could die in pain/And I wouldn't feel no shame/And there's nothing holding me to blame/Makes you want to feel, makes you want to try/Makes you want to blow the stars from the sky.” David Hasselhoff delivers a seriously good vocal performance here, and is joined by Elliot Easton (from The Cars) on guitar. Then Steve Stevens (Billy Idol’s guitarist) joins him on a rendition of Modern English’s “I Melt With You,” a song I love. Actually, that entire Modern English album, After The Snow, is excellent, and should be a part of your music collection. This version features some wonderful touches on guitar, and it is those moments that really distinguish it from the original, giving it a slightly harder edge.  I love the way David sings the lines, “I made a pilgrimage to save the human race/Never comprehending the race has long gone by.” There is a bit of sadness to his delivery, matching what a lot of us are feeling these days. David follows that with another 1980s pop song, “Lips Like Sugar,” delivering a cool version of the Echo And The Bunnymen tune. He is joined on keys by Mike Score (of A Flock Of Seagulls).

David Hasselhoff then dips into the 1970s with a wonderful take on David Bowie’s “‘Heroes’,” singing a portion of the lyrics in German. This song was from Bowie’s Berlin period, and he himself released a version in German. The song is closely tied to the Berlin Wall, perhaps a reason why David Hasselhoff chooses to cover it. You might recall him singing “Looking For Freedom” at the rubble of the Berlin Wall in 1989. Gil Sharone plays drums on this version of “‘Heroes’” (you might know him from his work with Stolen Babies and Marilyn Manson). That’s followed by “Here I Go Again.” I have to admit I loved this song when I was a kid, and listened to that Whitesnake cassette quite a bit. But then I moved on, and hadn’t listened to it in decades. Well, it is fun to revisit it here. Tracii Guns (of L.A. Guns) plays guitar on this version. Then Todd Rundgren joins David Hasselhoff for “Jump In My Car,” a song originally done by Ted Mulry Gang. This track is a total delight. There is something completely lovable about David Hasselhoff. He seems to have never taken himself too seriously, and has a good time with whatever projects he is involved in. That is evidenced, for example, in his cameo in John Waters’ A Dirty Shame (my vote for best cameo ever in a film), and in this wonderful track. David Hasselhoff released this song as a single more than a decade ago, putting out a rather goofy music video to accompany it (if you watch it, be sure to watch it to the end). This new version ends with him asking “What was I thinking in the first place?

At the beginning of “Rhinestone Cowboy,” David Hasselhoff dedicates the song to Glen Campbell, who had recorded it in 1975. David had recorded this song before, including it on his Sings America album. On this new rendition, he is joined by Charlie Daniels on fiddle. This version has more of a pop vibe. What I love is that David really throws himself into each of these songs, singing each with conviction while simultaneously enjoying himself. He follows “Rhinestone Cowboy” with an unusual take on Gordon Lightfoot’s “If You Could Read My Mind,” giving it a bit of an electronic pop sound. His vocal performance is heartfelt, and he is joined by Ava Cherry on vocals. David then throws himself into one of the silliest and catchiest of bubblegum pop songs, “Sugar Sugar,” a song originally done by cartoon darlings The Archies. Here he is joined by Steve Cropper on guitar. Is this version fun? You bet! But it’s not as fun as “Mit 66 Jahren,” a song by Udo Jürgens, here delivered partly in German, partly in English. “Life begins as 66/I’m having a wonderful time/Life begins at 66/And everything is fine/Life begins at 66/The best is yet to come.” This is probably my favorite track. I fucking love it. Patrick Moraz (of The Moody Blues) plays keys on this track. “People try to tell me I should be slowing down/I’m putting on my dancing shoes and heading for the town.” Amen!

Coming from Massachusetts, I have a special love for Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline.” It is a song that is in the air there, and it is played at every Red Sox game in the eighth inning. David Hasselhoff’s rendition of “Sweet Caroline” has a strange, industrial sound. He is joined by Ministry on this one. I don’t think I’ve ever heard an approach quite like this before. It is likely not the only industrial pop version of a Neil Diamond song, but it is the only one I think I’ve heard. So good, so good. David Hasselhoff wraps up the album with “That’s Life,” a song associated mainly with Frank Sinatra. This is the one track of the album not to feature a special guest. David delivers a totally enjoyable rendition, featuring some good work on keys. This is a song that feels like some kind of blessing in these twisted times, a song we need to keep in mind and in heart. “Each time I find myself flat on my face/I pick myself up and get back in the race.”

CD Track List
  1. Open Your Eyes
  2. Head On
  3. I Melt With You
  4. Lips Like Sugar
  5. “Heroes”
  6. Here I Go Again
  7. Jump In My Car
  8. Rhinestone Cowboy
  9. If You Could Read My Mind
  10. Sugar Sugar
  11. Mit 66 Jahren
  12. Sweet Caroline
  13. That’s Life
Open Your Eyes was released on CD and vinyl (red vinyl!) on September 27, 2019 on Cleopatra Records.

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