Take The Weather With You

Jimmy Buffett

Mailboat Records (RCA/Sony), 2006


REVIEW BY: Jason Warburg


Jimmy, Jimmy, Jimmy.

The plain fact is, the man from Margaritaville is now so accomplished a businessman that the very thing that got his empire started -- making music -- has become almost a footnote.  Restaurants, merchandising, books, Broadway musicals -- not to mention, flying, sailing, longboarding and doing movie cameos -- take up so much space that it’s a wonder the man still has time to tour, let alone record the occasional new studio album.

In recent years this has been somewhat of a blessing, as Buffett has seemed content for the past decade to rest on his laurels musically and simply rewrite his own back catalogue.  And indeed, after a brief (and profitable) detour to his sometime country roots in 2004’s License To Chill, Buffett’s barefoot-by-the-beach attitude and Caribbean vibe are back in full swing here.

That in itself guarantees at least a guilty pleasure of an album -- Jimmy is too charming and carefree a host ever to fail to at least entertain -- but is there any meat on these bones?  The answer comes back mixed and muddled.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

“Bama Breeze” and “Party At The End Of The World” open things up in full-on party mode, the former offering an appealing ode to a homey Southern bar, the latter a salsa-fied party anthem that shoots for escapism but betrays a kind of fatalistic ennui instead, as in, we’re all screwed anyway, so pass the margaritas.  Buffett also goes for the laughs with “Everybody’s On The Phone,” but both the all-too-obvious cellular-madness gags and Buffett’s attempts to build a flow over the chugging boogie rhythm fall flat.

The highlights, counter-intuitively, come when Buffett gets serious.  The title track surprises you first with the simple fact Jimmy is covering Crowded House, and secondly with how strong a cover it is.  Here Buffett actually sings like he means it, rendering one of the Finn brothers’ finer moments with all the keening sincerity it demands, while turning the song into one of his own.  “Breathe In, Breathe Out, Move On” feels genuine and heartfelt as well, a contemplation on New Orleans, Katrina and perseverance.

Beyond these two, the most intriguing number is “Wheel Inside The Wheel,” a soul-searching tune about mortality and transcendence.  The weakest part of the song is Buffett’s flat reading of the opening verses, but as the chrouses pile one upon another and the momentum builds, Jimmy’s vocals rise to the occasion.

Other strong moments include the lilting coming-of-middle-age number “Nothin’ But A Breeze” and the shimmering “Reggabilly Hill,” embellished beautifully with steel drums and Hammond.  “Cinco De Mayo In Memphis” also sways luxuriantly with steel drums, mellow acoustic picking and a rich horn section. 

Unfortunately, once you get beyond this handful of solid tunes, there’s an awful lot that feels more like Jimmy Inc. filling time than Jimmy the artist spinning tales.  The once-prolific songwriter delivers 10 covers out of 14 tunes, and the album is littered with languid throwaways like “Silver Wings” and “Duke’s On Sunday” which suggest Buffett is going to be one content retiree before too long.

You can’t expect a lot from a Buffett album these days -- profound has rarely been his goal, and he’s already worth more than he could ever hope to spend -- but this disc is mediocre even in the face of lowered expectations.  Die-hard Parrotheads won’t have any trouble keeping the party going with this on in the background, but anyone else could easily pass.

Rating: C+

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© 2006 Jason Warburg and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Mailboat Records (RCA/Sony), and is used for informational purposes only.