Wells sings with a salty edge and clarity that are convincing and engaging, and he maintains his good humor even when saddled with less than first-rate material. He provides winning renditions of Ray Charles' "The Train," Merle Haggard's "Today I Started Loving You Again" and Jimmy Reed's "Honest I Do," plus a good reworking of his own "Messin' With The Kid" and "Goin' Home." But the song that tears the house down is "Oh, Pretty Woman," featuring flashy, exciting guitar from Rico McFarland and Wells' swirling harmonica adding secondary fire. Indeed, Wells' harp playing's another bonus; it's focused and aggressive here. This is pretty good for a 1990s session.
Most animation aficionados of the 1990s know "Savage Steve Holland" as the cocreator (with Bill Kopp) of the all-stops-out TV cartoon series Eek! The Cat. But Holland had been exercising his own peculiar brand of deviltry on live characters long before Eek! came into being. In Holland's Better Off Dead, John Cusack plays a lovestruck teenager, hopelessly enamored with Amanda Wyss. When she dumps him in favor of a more popular high-schooler, the boy's entire day quickly goes to Hell. In the words of Hamlet, all occasions do inform against Cusack: he is bullied, tormented and torn apart by everyone from the paperboy (who seemingly turns up everywhere) to the disembodied voice of a radio deejay. Cusack attempts suicide, but his efforts are just as unsuccessful-and amusing-as Bud Cort's in Harold and Maude. Meanwhile, French exchange student Diane Franklin, held a virtual prisoner by her host family, develops a long-distance crush on Cusack.