Razor And Tie Records, 1999
REVIEW BY: George Agnos
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 01/28/2000
The title of pop-rock singer/songwriter Marshall Crenshaw's latest CD, #447, is a tongue and cheek exaggeration on the number of recordings he has released. However, far from being the generic CD that the title suggests, I think #447 is one of Crenshaw's best efforts.
When his debut album, Marshall Crenshaw, came out in 1982, its back to basics rock and roll was a breath of fresh air in a polluted world of overproduced pop. His sound reminded me of a cross between rock pioneer Buddy Holly and an early John Lennon. (I guess I'm not the only one who thought so because he ended up playing both artists: Holly in the movie La Bamba and Lennon on stage in Beatlemania).
Crenshaw scored a minor hit with the song "Someday, Someway," but has since failed to make any impact in the music business, despite writing some wonderful songs along the way for himself as well as other artists. (For example, he co-wrote the Gin Blossoms hit "Till I Hear From You").
What makes his latest CD, #447, so good is how he combines the charms of his early work with a maturity only hinted at in previous releases. A good example of this maturity is on the song "Dime A Dozen Guy", a lightly bluesy number co-written by David Cantor of the lounge-pop group, Dave's True Story. The lyrics are sharp, and there is a nice guitar solo by Pat Buchanan (NOT the politician, but the leader of a rock group called The Idle Jets).
Crenshaw continues in a rootsy vein on what I think is the best song on the CD, "Television Light". His plaintive vocal and urgent lyrics combine with his usual great sense of melody to give this song some weight. And the guitar, fiddle and mandolin instrumentation helps move the song along nicely.
Another highlight is "T.M.D." (which stands for truly madly deeply). This would be my choice for the single because of its strong melody and unusually romantic (for Crenshaw) lyrics. I hear co-writer Bill Demaine's hand in this song as its romanticism reminds me of the songs he has written for his band, Swan Dive.
There are a number of trademark Crenshaw pop-rock ditties scattered throughout #447 such as "Glad Goodbye" and "Tell Me All About It", but there are some surprises as well. For example, "Ready Right Now", co-written by power-pop wunderkind Bill Lloyd, is a rhythm heavy rocker that is a bit of a departure for either of them. Crenshaw, who handles the drumming here and throughout #447, combines with bassist Brad Jones, to create an intoxicating rhythm that recalls the Beatles song "Come Together".
The other surprises on #447 are the inclusion of three instrumentals: "West Of Bald Knob" not only gets to show Crenshaw's chops on guitar, but has an irresistible melody. The other two songs, which include former E-Street Band keyboardist David Sancious, are in a more jazzier vein. "Eydie's Tune" works as a jazz ballad with some soulful guitar licks from Crenshaw. "You Said What??" really cooks with a nice Sancious organ solo.
If you fondly remember Crenshaw's early work but have lost touch with him, #447 is a must listen. Even if you have never heard his work before, one listen to #447 will make you realize what you've been missing.