The Hit List, Joan Jett’s new album of covers, doesn’t quite connect. As Jett’s equivalent of Bowie’s Pin Ups or UB40’s Labour of Love, it plays like a classic-rock radio station that has been programmed by chance — where the bad-boy bluster of AC/DC’s “Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap” leads incongruously into the heartache and vulnerability of the Everly Brothers’ “Love Hurts,” which is then rear-ended by the punk fury of the Sex Pistols’ “Pretty Vacant.”
Though the album itself is obviously a labor of love, one which demonstrates the breadth of Jett’s rock & roll passion, a significant collection of remakes needs to reveal something about both the songs and the artist who has chosen them. Jett’s choices are too familiar and her performances too faithful to offer anything more than a basic rock survey from AC/DC to ZZ Top. Previous Jett albums featured covers of songs by everyone from Sly and the Family Stone to Tommy James and the Shondells, raising expectations The Hit List fails to meet. Bar-band anthems such as “Dirty Deeds,” “Tush” and Jonathan Richman’s “Roadrunner” are predictably solid and nothing more; the album’s only significant surprise is an evocative performance of the Kinks’ bittersweet “Celluloid Heroes.”
Elsewhere, a wooden rhythm section mars Creedence’s “Have You Ever Seen the Rain?”; the reading of the Doors’ “Love Me Two Times” is way too perfunctory; and Jett’s rendition of “Up From the Skies” isn’t likely to compel anyone to clamor for a whole album of Joan Does Jimi. Jett needs to do more than share songs she likes with her listeners; she needs to make those songs her own.