(This is edited from the review I originally wrote for my old Angelfire site in 2003. John Lee Hooker passed on in 2001, so he’s obviously no longer “recently deceased.” I got Deep End Live! just a few months after Iron Man, thus completing my collection of Pete’s solo albums. One of these days I’ll get the Lifehouse Chronicles boxed set and Scoop 3.)
I would give this 3 or 3.5 stars if it weren’t taken in context as a musical adaptation of a popular children’s story, written by British poet laureate Ted Hughes. How many children’s albums produce great classic songs or have a great reputation as solid, critically-acclaimed albums? Children process music differently than adults, and adults usually don’t listen to kiddy music of their own free will.
The other main criticism, other than simplistic songs, is that there are too many guest stars. These people are there to sing the roles of different characters, such as a chorus of woodland animals and the Iron Man. It wasn’t billed as a solo album, but as a musical. Musicals normally have different people to sing each role. You’d have to be majorly egomaniacal to sing each and every role yourself!
The album starts with bells ringing, sinister music, and a scream from ten-year-old protagonist Hogarth. The opening number, “I Won’t Run Anymore,” is pleasant and upbeat. This is one of my favourites, even though none of these songs exactly qualify as overall favourites for anyone, even the few people who actually like IM.
“Over the Top” is another enjoyable number, sung by John Lee Hooker. I’m not at all familiar with the recently deceased blues legend’s music, but I can’t deny that this man was a LEGEND. There was a great choice made when he was recruited to sing the role of the Iron Man.
“Man Machines” is a pointless 42-second number sung by Simon Townshend. Come on, the closing track on Plastic Ono Band, “My Mummy’s Dead,” is only 48 seconds long, and it’s much better than this pointless piece of crap! Simon is a talented musician in his own right, outside of his big brother’s shadow. Too bad he had to waste his talent on this.
“Dig” is performed by The Who, and also featured live on Join Together [the live triple album from their 1989 25-year anniversary tour]. It’s rather enjoyable, one of the better tracks, but certainly not near up the calibre as their stuff from the Seventies.
“A Friend Is a Friend” is also a rather enjoyable, fun number. It’s kind of whimsical and childlike, but then again, this whole album is supposed to be that way!
“I Eat Heavy Metal” is also sung by John Lee Hooker. Great vocal treatment and sinister music. One of the standouts.
“All Shall Be Well” is mediocre. This is where side two begins, and it’s considerably worse than side one, which, while not classic or great, was at least fun to listen to and featured mostly enjoyable songs (except for “Man Machines”). The lyrics aren’t that complex, but it’s not as horrible as some of the songs to come.
“Was There Life” is without a doubt the best fucking song on here!
“Fast Food” has got to be one of the worst songs Pete ever wrote, even considering this is a children’s story. Right up there with “Cache Cache” and “Squeeze Box.” The lyrics are laughable and quite silly, even though it’s meant to be a frightening song sung by a sinister evil Space Dragon who’s imprisoned the bodies and souls of millions of children all around the world, crying out for liberation. It’s cringe-worthy.
“A Fool Says” starts out really beautifully, but it’s way too short. It could have added at least another minute or two and it would’ve been a lot better.
“Fire” is also done by The Who. I just can’t get the original by The Crazy World of Arthur Brown out of my head, and compare it to this one. I think the original is far better; this one is just too mild, and not hectic and crazy enough!
“New Life/Reprise” isn’t as awful as “Fast Food” or “Man Machines,” but it definitely still leaves something lacking. The lyrics are kinda corny, and not complex enough. An unsatisfactory ending to what could’ve been a really great project.
In conclusion, save this one for last like I did (though there’s still Deep End Live! to come). It’s not evil or unlistenable, but it’s no classic like Empty Glass or White City either. In the dictionary next to which album not to get first by an artist or band, this has got to be one of the pictures there!