It’s been 25 years since Blues Traveler exploded onto the scene with their self-titled debut album and I’ve been a fan of the John Popper-fronted outfit from the first time I heard “But Anyway.” I’ve remained steadfast in my support of the band over the years, though their commercial popularity peaked around 1995, and still look forward to every new record.
Most of the time, the guys come through with a winner (1994’s “Four,” 1997’s “Straight on Till Morning,” 2001’s “Bridge,” 2003’s “Truth Be Told” are my favorite platters) making occasional misfires like 1993’s “Save His Soul” and 2008’s “North Hollywood Shootout” more than palatable. Yet I’m still not sure what to think about latest effort “Blow Up the Moon.”
For this 14-track slab, the band enlisted enough guest artists that you could probably call it a record by Blues Traveler & Friends. There are some inspired collaborations to be found here — Jewel kills it on ballad “Hearts Are Still Awake,” Thompson Square lend twang to keepers “Matador” and “I Can Still Feel You,” 3OH!3 impress with “Hurricane” and actor Thomas Ian Nicholas opens eyes on closer “All the Way” — but the whole thing feels a little too disjointed to be an unqualified success.
“The thing took on a life of its own,” guitarist Chad Kinchla explains. “We had so much fun reinvigorating our songwriting. We all tried to inspire something great within, especially since all of these artists are different from us and what we do.”
That leads to songs featuring Hanson, Plain White T’s, Bowling for Soup, New Hollow and Dirty Heads, among others. It’s an enjoyable listen, to be certain, but I kind of wish it sounded more like a Blues Traveler record. (Jeffrey Sisk)