A1A

Jimmy Buffett

ABC / MCA Records, 1974

http://www.margaritaville.com

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 01/27/1998

It's the middle of winter here in the Midwest - a fact I'd appreciate my Australian writers not rubbing in my face - and I need a warm-up that isn't as fattening as hot chocolate. Faster than you can say "parrothead," into the Pierce Archive and out I came with a slab of Jimmy Buffett - today's selection is his 1974 release A1A. And while it would still be three years until he reached mainstream success, his mixture of country and laid-back folk is quite enjoyable.

Though he was only pushing 30 when A1A came out, songs like "A Pirate Looks At Forty" had Buffett taking a look back at life, part in wonder, part in awe... part in disillusionment. The track is quite pretty, and was deservedly placed on his eventual "greatest hits" compilation.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

But this is not the sole great performance on this album. In the span of about forty minutes, Buffett goes from eschewing "selling out" in favor of satisfying himself first in his music ("Makin' Music For Me") to a quiet love song with a country flavor to it ("Stories We Could Tell") to an antidote to the traditional broken-heart cry-in-your-beer country numbers ("Migration").

But it is when Buffett tries to be the next Ray Stevens that he nearly capsizes the whole boat. While "Door Number Three" has occasional moments of humor, it eventually becomes overbearing and unbearable. (Never mind the fact that newly-christened Parrot-Heads might not understand the "Let's Make A Deal" references herein.)

For the most part, though, Buffett is content creating a portrait of the laid-back life of a beach cowboy who has had one too many tropical drinks. With a crack band behind him, Buffett is creating the mood that has been the magic of his music for the better part of twenty years - on this, just his third effort for MCA (then known as ABC Dunhill) Records, he's almost got it licked. (And can someone confirm for me if the Steve Goodman credited with acoustic lead guitar is the same Goodman who wrote "City Of New Orleans"? E-mail me, please.)

The one weakness of Buffett is his style of music will throw you for a loop the first time you hear it - and it might be a more difficult one if you aren't a big country music fan, as the country overtones are quite evident. Still, within just a few numbers, Buffett has you swaying along with the tunes, sipping - aww, who am I kidding, guzzling - mai tais in the living room. (Memo to my boss: I won't be in today - aaahhh, sore throat. Yeah, that'll do.)

Buffett didn't seem to care if he hit the big time on A1A; the music herein represents more of a love for the tune than the success. It is for this reason that Buffett succeeds - and leaves people wondering why he's only had one top 10 hit in his entire career.

Rating: B+

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© 1998 Christopher Thelen 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 ABC / MCA Records, and is used for informational purposes only.