The stand-out acoustic guitar work that gets little feature time except on "Painted Desert" is the opposite road traveled for Neil Giraldo than what was displayed on some of Benatar's hard-hitting rock classics. They seem to be exploring other avenues than most rock artists get to wander down as the life expectancy is below at best. Benatar's tenure has been long and substantive, so no one will question her departure while the band experiments and gains beyond a hit-making band.
Now they have begun to build a discography that is floating on artistic development. Understanding that music is more than getting a cheer from the crowd, they are pushing the envelope of storytelling beyond the 'he said, she said' or pop vs. rock songs. Grombacher has stepped up his game within the band and is contributing great writing on this album. His esteem drumming works in a partnership with Neil Giraldo's well-balanced guitar lines. Giraldo has scripted lyrics that are painstakingly fashioned from a female mindset. He seems to be focused on writing directly for Pat Benatar, the individual who is in direct contrast to the rock anthem style of his early days in the band.
"We Belong" is going to be in every live set for the Benatar crew, as the lyrics forge an intense love story. It was not written by any of the band members but certainly Benatar read the script dripping between the lines. A hit song does not always jump off the page and bite to be recorded. Usually, when a good singer grips the lyrics, it is that connection that catapults a little song into billboard history.
The record is mellow in blend and physique, but most songs will benefit well in a set list built around the hit songs. "Painted Desert" will do well with a reflective moment lights down and just the guitar and some bongos for effect while Pat Benatar woos the crow with her soft vocals. A solemn moment in a heated rock driven show that needs a moment of acoustic guitar to let the audience breathe before the encroachment hits the fans with "Heartbreaker" and / or "Hit Me With Your Best Shot."
I love the moment of uncertainty that exists during "Temporary Heroes", where the band seems to have lost the beat but it is purposeful. Subtle distortions that are not overly changing the direction of the band are refreshing and shows something the band should expand on.
"Ooh Ooh Song", written by Benatar / Giraldo is reminiscent of Betty Everett's 1964 single, called "The Shoop Shoop Song", written by Rudy Clark and appearing on her You're No Good album. A bit more rock appeal, but staying true to the 60's pop culture that was exploding on every radio station just prior to the British invasion. Benatar no longer has to prove her musical worth, she just needs to produce what she feels comes natural.
This shows in the collaborative "Suburban King" by Giraldo and Billy Steinberg that mirrors the layoffs and job restructuring that is breaking down America. The theme continues with "Crazy World Like This", with the ideas becoming worldly and mature. Social issues of the day implemented over enlightened musical scores that transcend the artistic reaches.
We do not review compilations even if they consist of new tracks, as this is often a money move by the record companies. Here we will say that Live From Earth, which consist of two new studio tracks: "Love Is A Battlefield" and "Lipstick Lies". They show the new direction all these players are directing the career of the band towards. Tropico is a continuation of what those tracks were accomplishing in moving the band beyond just a rock 'n roll clique of what they used to be.