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Learning to Crawl (Expanded & Remastered)

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Album Review

Chrissie Hynde took a long, hard road to rock & roll stardom, but when her band, the Pretenders, finally broke through in 1979, they wasted no time, growing from promising newcomers on the British music scene to major international stardom with a pair of smash albums to their credit in a mere three years. But the Pretenders' meteoric rise came to a crashing halt in 1982, when drug abuse claimed the life of guitarist James Honeyman-Scott and forced Hynde and drummer Martin Chambers to dump bassist Pete Farndon, who would also succumb to an OD in April 1983. Hynde was forced by circumstance to reinvent the Pretenders for their third album, 1984's Learning to Crawl, but if the new edition of the group lacked some of the spark of the band that made the first two LPs, through sheer force of will Hynde created a masterpiece. While Hynde hardly held back in her emotionally potent songwriting in the Pretenders' early work, on Learning to Crawl there's a gravity to her lyrics that blended with her tough but wiry melodic sense and streetwise intelligence to create a set of truly remarkable tunes. "Back on the Chain Gang" is a touching tribute to her fallen comrades that still sounds bitterly rueful, "Middle of the Road" is a furious rocker that explores the emotional and physical toll of a musician's life, "Time the Avenger" is a taut, literate examination of a businessman's adulterous relationship, "My City Was Gone" deals with the economic and cultural decay of the Midwest in a manner both pithy and genuinely heartfelt, and "2000 Miles" is a Christmas number that demonstrates Hynde can be warm without getting sappy. As a guitarist, Robbie McIntosh brought a simpler and more elemental style to the Pretenders than James Honeyman-Scott, but his tough, muscular leads fit these songs well, and bassist Malcolm Foster's solid punch fits Chambers' drumming perfectly. Three albums into her recording career, Chrissie Hynde found herself having to put the past to bed and carve out a new beginning for herself with Learning to Crawl, but she pulled it off with a striking mixture of courage, strength, and great rock & roll; with the exception of the instant-classic debut album, it's the Pretenders' finest work. In 2007, Rhino Records released an expanded and remastered edition of Learning to Crawl featuring seven bonus tracks. "Fast or Slow (The Law's the Law)" and "Ramblin' Bob" are two unreleased cuts that (respectively) give Martin Chambers and Robbie McIntosh a chance to show off their songwriting chops (and they both sound better than many folks would expect), while "Tequila," a country-influenced number from Hynde's pen recorded for the album but cut from the running order, finally surfaces on this disc, along with demos of "I Hurt You" and "When I Change My Life" (the latter of which would be re-recorded for 1986's Get Close). The disc closes out with two great live tunes from the Pretenders' set at the 1983 US Festival, "My City Was Gone" and a witty cover of Barrett Strong's "Money." Add Ben Edmonds' fine new liner notes and crisp new mastering and this is a near-definitive presentation of one of the great albums of the '80s.

Customer Reviews

Great Album!

Buy the whole album for a great repeated listening experience, not for single hit pop song. Though there are plenty of great tunes - all really - My City Was Gone is one of my favorites. However, I have always listened to it in context of the whole album. This is one of those albums that bring back memories and associations of the times. I love it! I venture to say that the current instant gratification youth of today may have a hard time listening and appeciating a "whole album." Those of you that do, the words are smart, voice authentic, and semi-polished, minimalist sounds.

great album

now i like this album for back on the chain gang but in response to JD ... I agree with you on some of that but i am a young person who really has a bad taste in music (To most people) because i listen to pretenders, los horoscopos de durango, duelo, selena, kumbia kings, country, and stand up... and im 13. so i am criticized for what i like but it is really the current music i cant stand what with all the lip syncing and lights and drugs. because everything above is pretty much all thats left even though i may be missing some good people. but sorry for taking up your time have a nice day

What I'll be missing

Headed over to the "Desert" here in a week, and I wont be able to listen to Rush as often as I least I can take his theme song with me...hehe


Formed: 1978 in London, Engalnd

Genre: Rock

Years Active: '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s

Over the years, the Pretenders became a vehicle for guitarist/vocalist Chrissie Hynde's songwriting, yet it was a full-fledged band when it was formed in the late '70s. With their initial records, the group crossed the bridge between punk/new wave and Top 40 pop more than any other band, recording a series of hard, spiky singles that were also melodic and immediately accessible. Hynde was an invigorating, sexy singer who bent the traditional male roles of rock & roll to her own liking, while guitarist...
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