"Live in Brazil" (Ark 21 Records; 2003)

Reviewed by Keith Guillotine

Let's get this straight right off the bat: If you're looking for hard rock or heavy metal, you're not looking for Concrete Blonde.

Those who remember the band will recall Concrete Blonde's sound as a mid-80's mellow pop sound comparable to bands like Til Tuesday and Pat Benatar. In fact, the song "Little Conversations" could even be considered a Country and Western classic. Of this two disc set, only one track has any "heavy" potential and that's "Violent." (disc 2, track 3).

Still, this 2 CD package, running nearly 95 minutes, contains many of the band's big hits, including "Joey," "Caroline," "Everybody Knows" and "God is a Bullet." All were recorded while the band was on tour in South America. It's your standard live album with your standard crowd noise in the background, but nothing makes it special except, perhaps, that it's the band's first ever official live album.

Recently, I saw the band live here in California and the show I saw was exactly like the show recorded on the album - right down to slams against the Bush administration.

One of my favorite songs from the 80s was "Caroline" and that's captured on this CD as well. However, the new rendition is way too slow compared to the original. On the other hand, "Live in Brazil" contains an outstanding performance of "Joey." 

As I said at the top, although I like this band because their music helps me relax, it's not what I would recommend to anyone who "likes it loud." 

Concrete Blonde is primarily Johnette Napolitano on Bass and Vocals; but also includes James Mankey on Guitar and Vocals, Gabriel Ramirez-Quezada on Drums and Vocals, and Felix Brenner as the Audio Engineer (front of house). 

For more information, check out their website at and check out my live review by clicking here.

"Bloodletting" (IRS; 1990)

Reviewed by Jeff Rogers

Before you send me a “nasty gram” about this review, take a moment and listen to the CD again. It just might change your internal settings when it comes to a re-discovering an old artist. 

I know Concrete Blonde probably isn’t in many Rough Edge readers’ musica bibliotecas. I toss in a little Spanish there because Johnette Napolitano, who plays bass, has an interest in Hispanic music. She would later release “Mexican Moon” (it didn’t do as well as “Bloodletting” but you can hear a little of that on this release). Napolitano's voice is part Heart and part Goth; an odd combination, perhaps, but she sings with passion.

Labeled as “College Rock” back in its day, Concrete Blonde had a hit with the song “Joey” which dealt with alcoholism. I guess that was the start of the angst-ridden subjects. Being into both Goth and Mexican culture, Napolitano fused what she loved and what she wanted to explore. 

I really want to call attention to the guitar on this disc though. It’s very good; not rude, but it’s got a fiery and stylish sense to make the listener's ears perk up. When a guitarist lists Thin Lizzy as an influence that should tell you something. 

Although college rock does incorporate some theatrical elements, the theme of "Bloodletting" isn’t as evident but it has confrontational and passionate songs throughout the disc. There is a haunting edge to this CD which makes it worth discovering ... or re-discovering.

If you want to step out of your comfort zone and try a slightly different sound I recommend Concrete Blonde's "Bloodletting."

The best tracks are “The Sky Is A Poisonous Garden,” “Caroline,” “Darkening Of The Night,” and “Joey.”

Concrete Blonde: Johnette Napolitano – vocals, bass; James Mankey – guitar; Paul Thompson – drums.

For more information, check out

Rating Guide:

A classic. This record will kick your ass.

Killer. Not a classic but it will rock your world.

So-so. You've heard better.

Pretty bad. Might make a nice coaster.

Self explanatory. Just the sight of the cover makes you wanna hurl.


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