liz_marcs (liz_marcs) wrote,

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Music from the Cube: What Am I Listening To Today?

I know. It's a looooong weekend and I'm posting this. That's because it took me forever to write this up the way it should be.

In any case, you are all in for one hell of a treat. Okay, maybe it's more me that's in for a hell of a treat.

This mega-massive post with many, many MP3 samples to download, colorful covers, and drooling fangirlism is my salute *stands with hand over heart* to Marshall Crenshaw.

Dive in and enjoy the greatness!

Please comment if you download.

Marshall Crenshaw
[Support the Artist; Artist's MySpace Page]

Detroit-born rocker Marshall Crenshaw has been all over your radio dial (you may not know that), sneaking onto your television shows (you'd be surprised where he's turned up), hanging around in your movies (you may not know about that either), on your bookshelves (he's written and contributed to several books), and did his time on stage (road show version of Beatlemania). His debut self-titled album is considered not just a classic, but a must-have for fans of power pop and new wave. His live performances are fantastic, even without a band backing him. He has a reputation for both intelligence and just being a nice guy. As far as I'm concerned, one of the enduring mysteries in the history of American pop is why the multi-talented Crenshaw isn't monster huuuuuuuge.

I can only conclude that he was either born too late — as in past the point where the perfect 3:05 pop song was considered the height of awesome — or born too soon — since I suspect MP3 love would've helped immensely in spreading the Pop Gospel of Crenshaw. I can't make up my mind on which it is.

In either case, I've been following Crenshaw's career for *mumble-mumble-mumble* years, starting with his time in the Warner Brother salt mines, through his single official RCA release on the now-defunct Paradox Records label, his present run with indie music company Razor and Tie, and the Rhino Records re-releases and collections. I've sniffed out rare releases, live limited-release CDs, and DVDs of his live performances.

I even checked out his #447 tour when it hit the Boston area (nothing is better than Crenshaw and just his guitar) and sat next to him in the small bar he played while he chowed down on dinner. The funny thing about this anecdote is that Crenshaw was eating with all of us patrons who had paid a cover charge to see him perform later that night. Not one of us went up and bothered him for an autograph. Let's hear it for reserved Bostonians who know the meaning of personal space, hunh? And believe me, we all knew who he was.

Anyway, the funny thing about the crowd that night was that a whole bunch of them had actually worked at Boston-area clubs during the 80s, back when Crenshaw almost managed to break through to the big time. The reason why they were paying to see him almost 20 years later? Because he was nicest performer they had ever worked with or for while he was barnstorming on the strength of his debut album. He was so nice, he made them die-hard fans for life.

There's something wicked awesome about that.

And before you ask, yes, that really is Marshall Crenshaw's MySpace page. I got to it through his Web site.

God. Now I look like a complete stalker fangirl. It's actually kind of embarrassing.

Marshall Crenshaw (Rhino re-release) Rating=$$$$$
How I Got This CD: Bought the cassette tape used in Boston. Lost it. Bought the original 12-track CD used in Rhode Island. Found the Rhino re-release during my Bordersverse daze and bought it new during employee appreciation daze. What? I warned you I was a drooling fangirl.

If you love pop, if you love new wave, or even if you love good music, the original 12-track CD is a must-have, whether you're a Crenshaw fan or not. Every song is a perfect gem of pop awesome in a toe-tapping, butt-dancing orgy of musical genius. Crenshaw's craft and discipline in both writing music and lyrics shine through and gives the listener a true musical treat for the ears. No matter how bad my mood, no matter how much my life sucks, this cassette tape and later CD never failed to lift my spirits and make me ready to take on the world. There is nothing bad about or on this CD. As a debut CD, there are none better.

The Rhino re-release (God Bless Rhino!) goes one step further by adding 9 tracks' worth of B-sides, demos, and rare tunes (the CD actually lists 8, but there's a hidden track after Crenshaw's live 1981 cover of 'I've Been Good to You'). Even if you've got the original release, the Rhino re-release is worth having and loving to death.

Choosing the sample tracks from this fabulous CD package was a hell of a lot harder to do than you'd think. Although you'd think the big hit off this CD, 'Someday, Someway,' would be the crown jewel in this CD, you'd actually be wrong. Every song is as infectious, as catchy, and as good as Crenshaw's signature song.

Because 'Someday, Someway' was so huge when it hit the airwaves back in '82, and because it is one of the best known songs on the CD, I'm including it as part of the downloads. However, this slick, ready-for-radio version isn't my favorite version of the song. Still, I highly recommend giving it a listen.

'Cynical Girl,' which is also off this CD, happens to be my back-up theme song for life. (My first theme song for life is 'Brown-Eyed Girl' by Van Morrison.) How can I not love a love song to the world's most imperfect woman? No, seriously. It's pure love. Tell me I'm wrong.

Also in a bit of a twist, 'Someday, Someway,' while one of my faves of his, isn't actually my all-time favorite song from Crenshaw's pen (it's not even my second or third favorite). My favorite Crenshaw tune, believe it or not, is reserved for 'Whenever You're On My Mind.' And because Rhino obviously can read my mind, and because they obviously love me, they included a 1979 demo of this song in the additional tracks. It had to be included on the download. I call this one a must-have.

The final download is a live 1982 cover of 'Look at What I Almost Missed' by the Parliaments (George Clinton's first band). It's a fun tune, and gives you a little taste of Crenshaw live.

Sample Song Downloads: Someday, Someway, Cynical Girl, Whenever You're On My Mind (1979 demo), Look at What I Almost Missed (Live, 1982)

Field Day Rating=$$$$$
How I Got This CD: Bought used in Rhode Island.

This is a solid follow-up to Crenshaw's debut album. The tunes are equally catchy, and equally well-crafted. The sound isn't as stripped-down as it was in the debut album and there is more of a world-weary sense to the lyrics. In many ways, Field Day is the prefect bookend for Crenshaw's debut, much like the second chapter in a really good book.

Like the debut album, this one was very, very hard to narrow down to some key MP3s. The good news (or maybe it's bad news), a lot of the songs are not well-known on this album. As a result, it's both a delight and surprise, especially since at the time I bought it, it had become devilishly hard to find. It's since gotten a lot easier to get your hands on it, in large part because it's easily available online.

Of course, I had to include my all-time favorite tune, 'Whenever You're On My Mind,' what is easily the most perfect pop song ever, made its actual debut in the public eye on this album. Nothing makes me smile more than the opening bars of this song. Nothing. This is the must-have, so much so that even if it was the only song on the CD that was any good, the CD would still be worth buying. Question: Can you write a love song where the word 'love' or any other mushy sentiment is never, ever used? Answer: The song says, "Oh, yes!"

'One Day With You' is more orchestrated, especially in comparison to 'Whenever You're On My Mind,' so much so that Crenshaw's vocals seem to be almost overwhelmed. Despite that, the lyrics are too good to get completely lost. What really makes the tune is the retro-rock guitar riff. Ahhhh, they just don't make them like this any more.

For some reason, 'Monday Morning Rock' cracks me up. I don't know if it's the clever lyrics, or the picture of a guy who's so sick and tired of being a good-time Charlie on the weekends that he actually looks forward to the weekdays so he can relax into a little everydayness. Even with the pop-y beat, there's something relaxing about this tune.

'All I Know Right Now' for some reason reminds me of Crowded House, from lyrics to musical feel to even the sound of Crenshaw's voice. Since this CD came out before Crowded House even existed (although it would be contemporary with the Finn Brothers' first band, Split Enz), it's funny state of affairs — at least I think so.

Sample Song Downloads: Whenever You're On My Mind, One Day With You, Monday Morning Rock, All I Know Right Now

Good Evening Rating=$$$
How I Got This CD: Bought used in Rhode Island.

Now we skip ahead a few CDs (Downtown and Mary Jean & 9 Others were lost in a tragic cassette tape accident — please don't ask) to Good Evening, Crenshaw's last release for Warner Brothers. This CD has a different sound than either Crenshaw's debut album or Field Day, both of which were primarily solo songwriting efforts. Good Evening brings in a cast of solid musical artists and lyricists to lend Crenshaw a hand. The end result is an expansion beyond Crenshaw's early power pop years to something that sounds a little bit more in line with late '80s music.

The problem with Good Evening, I think, is that Crenshaw's unique voice gets somewhat lost among among the helping hands. There's a little bit of an infusion of country twang, a little bit of an infusion of synth, and a little bit of an infusion of heavy-handed orchestration. Don't get me wrong, it's a solid album, but the infectious spirit is missing on some of the tracks and the tunes aren't nearly as much fun. What makes Good Evening an interesting effort is that there's a sense of menace and darkness in some of the songs that isn't there in Crenshaw's earlier releases.

An interesting piece of trivia: In a recent interview, Crenshaw admitted that he can't even listen to this album because "it's a drag." Judging by the context, I'm guessing he's talking about the circumstances under which this album was recorded.

'You Should Have Been There' is a rather angry song by a man that's been stood up by his date. The tune and the lyrics are actually full-on creepy, with the blues-y country feel and the tight orchestration. This is definitely the must-have off this CD. There's nothing sweet or nice about this one.

'Someplace Where Love Can't Find Me' is a John Hiatt-penned tune that is catchy and bouncy. It almost, but not quite, manages to re-capture Crenshaw's earlier carefree musical style. It's a nice portrait of a man who is just sick of it all and wants to get away from dealing with any complicated emotion.

'Some Hearts' is what happens when Crenshaw gets his hands on a song by multiple Academy Award-, Golden Globe Award-, and Grammy Award-nominated songwriter Diane Warren. I love this song almost just for the story behind it. Crenshaw told a Boston audience that when he got the song, he decided to country it up, turning it from a sweet love song to a bit of a hootenanny. Warren was apparently so annoyed by what he'd done with it, that she stopped speaking to him. I've heard other versions of this song. Crenshaw's is still the best of the bunch.

'Let Her Dance' has that infectious, dance-inducing lyric and musical line. It sounds like quite the ruckus in that recording studio. Easily the most fun song on the whole CD.

Sample Song Downloads: You Should Have Been There, Someplace Where Love Can't Find Me, Some Hearts, Let Her Dance

Marshall Crenshaw, A Collection Rating=$$$$$
How I Got This CD: Bought off E-bay.

A Collection is my first rare release from Crenshaw. This was a promotional CD sent out by the MCA-owned Paradox Records label to radio stations in an effort to re-introduce Crenshaw to the DJs and, hopefully, to a wider listening audience in preparation for 1991's Life's Too Short. It sadly didn't work.

In any case, this is both an overview of Crenshaw's career to date as well as a sneak preview for his upcoming CD. Since there were no Greatest Hits collections floating around (and it was looking like Crenshaw would never release one since he'd fallen out of the public consciousness), I snapped it up and loved it to death.

The first two tracks are off of Life's Too Short, which hadn't been released when this promo CD was sent out. It shows Crenshaw pushing more into the rock end of the spectrum and away from the power pop that marked his Warner Brothers releases. The rest are from Crenshaw's back catalog of tunes from previous releases.

'Somebody Crying' is off Mary Jean & 9 Others and definitely has that late 80s pop feel, with a touch of country guitar thrown in for good measure. A solid track to include in an overview CD designed to re-introduce Crenshaw to the listening public.

'Crying, Waiting, Hoping' is the Buddy Holly cover Crenshaw played for the La Bamba soundtrack (he played Buddy Holly in the movie). I also have several Buddy Holly CDs, which include this particular track. Crenshaw comes very close to Holly's sound, but it's obviously not an exact match. It's not surprising that Crenshaw does so well, especially since Holly is not the first musical impersonation Crenshaw's pulled off. During his run in the Beatlemania road show (which was before he signed with Warner Brothers), he played the part of John Lennon.

'Calling Out For Love (At Crying Time)' is another one off of Mary Jean & 9 Others and is either about someone going through a series of one night stands or a tawdry affair. Either way, he feels like utter shit about it.

'I'm Sorry (But So Is Brenda Lee)' is off of Downtown. There's something slyly nasty about the lyrics in this one. The apology for failing to live up to obligation is nicely sarcastic and insincere, with just a hint of 'well, you suck, too.' This isn't so much 'happily ever after' as it is 'I'm happily ever after without you.'

Sample Song Downloads: Somebody Crying, Crying, Waiting, Hoping, Calling Out For Love (At Crying Time), I'm Sorry (But So Is Brenda Lee)

Life's Too Short Rating=$$$$$
How I Got This CD: Bought new (it was still in the cellophane wrapping!) in a New Hampshire used record store.

This one is probably the most pure "rock" (as opposed to pop or music highlighting an infusion of multiple influences) of all of Crenshaw's CDs to date. This is the last of Crenshaw's major label releases, but what a send-off! The lyrics are slightly more complicated, even though the music is the sparest it's been since his debut CD. While some might look at this as Crenshaw moving back to safer ground, at the same time, there's a more adult AOR feel when you listen to the CD in its entirety. The individual tracks are sharp and smart, but the back-to-back selection of tracks is really what makes this CD an excellent addition to the whole collection.

From what I understand, this CD, which was released on MCA's Paradox label, is very tough to find since it's out of print. A quick look around Amazon confirms that this is true, since I had to dig deep to find a used copy of this CD floating around. Imagine my surprise when I found out that Life's Too Short falls into the "rare release" category. Pity. It's most certainly worth owning. Lord knows I've played this CD often enough. It's a wonder I haven't worn it down to nothing.

'Better Back Off' with its clever lyrics and catchy beat is easily one of the best 'tough love' songs you'll ever hear. Feeling put upon? Feeling like no one appreciates you? Just listen while the lyrics give you the kind of pick-me-up that only someone with no sense of tact can give. It's a marvelous piece of lyrical trickery that still tickles me pink whenever I hear it.

The lyrics for 'Don't Disappear Now' in a lot of ways throws me off. Is it about lost love? Is it about missed opportunities in a one-night stand? I honestly can't tell. Either way, there's something creepily obsessive and possessive in the lyrics and tune as a man sings to an unseen someone not to disappear because he needs her too much.

'Stop Doing That' is a rocking post-break-up tune. I can almost picture two angry ex-lovers facing off against each other as one demands that the other stop torturing him. How the torture is going down is unclear. All that's clear is that if the ex-honey doesn't cut it out, she's going to be dead to him.

'Everything's the Truth' is the kind of song that you can rock out to, complete with fantastic guitar riffs and terrific drum beats. Pull on the torn jeans and put on those workboots so you can kick back and enjoy the sound of garage rock.

Sample Song Downloads: Better Back Off, Don't Disappear Now, Stop Doing That, Everything's the Truth

Live: My Truck Is My Home Rating=$$$
How I Got This CD: Bought new at a Strawberries. Not sure how that happened, actually.

The live tracks on this CD, Crenshaw's first release for indie label Razor and Tie, are culled from multiple live performances over a 12-year period (1982 to 1994). It's a fantastic live collection full of Crenshaw's favorites, hits, and cover songs. The guitar work is first rate, the patter with the audience is humorous, and Crenshaw's voice is allowed to shine with all its strengths and flaws. A terrific performance CD that doesn't get boring, probably in large part because it's been culled from recordings spanning years instead of a few nights.

While a good collection, there might be some sound quality issues on some of the tracks, and sometimes the mix is a little off, which knocks it down a peg. Even so, well worth having if you're a Crenshaw fan. I'm less certain that this CD will actually convert anyone who isn't, though.

For whatever reason, all the samples I'm offering for this one are cover songs that were recorded right around the release of Life's Too Short. I didn't plan it. It just sort of happened. There are plenty of good tracks included on this CD that were recorded both earlier and later.

The first sample, 'Wanda and Duane,' is a cover tune from rock-country singer-songwriter Dave Alvin that's somewhat in the same vein as 'Frankie and Johnny,' only without the homicide at the end. From crazy, hip, newly in love to old marrieds with the bloom off the rose. This was recorded in 1992 at the Bottom Line in New York City.

'Julie' is yet another cover. Crenshaw's voice is in fine form, in a large part because it's just him, an acoustic guitar, and single back-up singer putting that song out there. Recorded in New York City during 1992 at Tramps, all I can say is that the spare performance contrasts nicely with the big hall echo sound. I have to admit that Crenshaw's brief spoken intro to this song is really what makes it.

'Have You Seen Her Face' is a terrific cover of The Byrds taken from a 1991 performance at The 930 Club in Washington, D.C.

How can you not love a man who covers Abba? This particular cover of 'Knowing Me, Knowing You' comes from a 1992 performance at Esther's East in Newark, Delaware.

Sample Song Downloads: Wanda and Duane (Live), Julie (Live),Have You Seen Her Face (Live), Knowing Me, Knowing You (Live)

Miracle of Science Rating=$$$
How I Got This CD: Bought new in Rhode Island.

The packaging on Crenshaw's first studio release for Razor and Tie is...unusual. The CD insert is basically a tiny square that folds out. It's smaller (about 1-inch-by-1-inch square) than your average CD jewel case, which means there was no good way to secure it in place. The CD itself has a shiny, zig-zag design that showed up very well through the clear plastic cover from behind this small square that was inserted in the dead center. Clever idea, but horrendously impractical.

It took me a little bit to warm up to this CD, and I still go back and forth on how much I like it. It's good. It's solid. The Crenshaw-original lyrics are clever, the cover songs are well-done, and the stripped-down instrumentation dosen't overwhelm Crenshaw's voice. Even more impressive, Crenshaw played quite a few the instruments himself on this CD. Yet, for some reason, I can't escape the notion that Crenshaw is being a little too-clever by half. In either case, it's a solid first effort for Razor and Tie. I like the CD, and enjoy it quite a bit whenever I listen to it, but it's usually not the first CD I reach for when I'm in the mood for some quality Crenshaw time.

'What Do You Dream Of?' harks back to his earlier releases both lyrically and in musical feel. Maybe not all the way back to the debut album, but certainly would fit in nicely with Good Evening. There's some good guitar riffing going on in the bridge, and some excellent percussion work.

I've been reliably informed by ludditerobot that I have something of a rarity with the cover of Grant Hart's '2541.' Although I'm not entirely sure of the full story (searching through my archives hasn't turned up the exact explanation), it appears that in early pressings of the CD, Crenshaw sang the wrong lyrics for one line. When he found out what he'd done, he went back into the studio, re-recorded the song, and then had the corrected version inserted on later pressings of the CD. I, apparently, have an early release where Crenshaw sang the wrong lyrics. Please don't ask me which line it is that's the incorrect one, because I honestly have no idea. (ETA: ludditerobot helpfully answers my question here. Thanks!)

'Starless Summer Sky' is actually one of those songs that have been banging around in Crenshaw's catalog for quite awhile. The earliest version I have in my collection is a demo from 1979 when it was called 'Starlit Summer Sky.' It's nice to hear this song in its final form, even with the name change. It feels like a tune that could've (and maybe should've) been included on Field Day.

'Only an Hour Ago' definitely gives me a sense of deja vu in that this one is a very Beatles-esque tune, or maybe a very Crowded House-esque tune. I'm not sure. It's something about the lyrics, or maybe the tune. Either way, there's something vaguely menacing in the instrumentals, even though the lyrics aren't. Or at least they don't seem to be about anything more than a man walking out on a relationship.

Sample Song Downloads: What Do You Dream Of?, 2541, Starless Summer Sky, Only an Hour Ago

The 9-Volt Years: Battery Powered Home Demos and Curios Rating=$$$
How I Got This CD: Bought new during my Bordersverse daze.

I enjoy this CD, mostly because I love hearing the earliest steps of any musical artist. It's sort of the reason why I have an undue fondness for the first seasons of my fave television shows. I like seeing the early stumbles that ended up left by the wayside, story lines that didn't quite work, the shaky steps when everyone was less sure of themselves, but most of all, finding those little seeds of greatness that got nurtured and allowed to grow.

The 9-Volt Years has all of that and more...provided you're a Marshall Crenshaw fan. I'm not entirely sure if someone who doesn't know Crenshaw's work would love it, especially since some of the tracks were clearly recorded under some very poor conditions and lacks anything resembling a polish. If you're a fan, it's very much worth digging around to find. If you're not...well, I hate to say give it a miss because it's a damn good collection, but you probably won't be in love with it.

Ahhhhh, this CD includes my all-time favorite version of 'Someday, Somwhere,' a demo version that sounds like it was recorded in someone's garage. It's loud, fast, and rockin'. It crushes the album version of this song like a grape.

'You're My Favorite Waste of Time' is a demo that doubled as a B-side. It crops up quite a bit in Crenshaw's collections, even though it never had a "home" album. It also shows up on the Rhino re-release for Marshall Crenshaw, the MCA demo Marshall Crenshaw: A Collection, and on The Best of Marshall Crenshaw: This Is Easy. The version that's on this CD is actually different from the mono-sounding version that can be found on the other CDs.

You're not going to find 'First Love' anywhere, making this a true rarity for your consumption. I actually love this song madly and deeply. There's something so innocent in those lyrics that it practically harks back to the 50s, even though the music itself is pure new wave at its in new wave if it had been recorded mono.

'Something's Gonna Happen' is another fantastic demo that puts a new and interesting twist on the version that's most commonly heard. It's easily just as good (if not slightly better) than the version that was released as a single prior to his signing on with Warner Brothers. I confess to playing the "air drums" whenever I hear this demo version.

Sample Song Downloads: Someday, Somewhere (Demo), You're My Favorite Waste of Time (Demo), First Love (Demo), Something's Gonna Happen (Demo)

#447 Rating=$$$$
How I Got This CD: Bought off Ebay. Twice. Don't ask. I clicked when I should've clacked.

I loved this CD right out of the box. Its funky blues and jazz groves interspersed with that pop sensibility and killer hooks (along with Crenshaw's trademark clever lyrics), makes this a charming release that anyone can warm to. There's a little bit here for everyone, from instrumentals to songs that paint a picture in your head. This is probably the most laid-back of Crenshaw's albums and one of the ones that I often throw on the CD player when I'm in a mellow mood.

'Dime a Dozen Guy' is the song that 'Jesse's Girl' and 'Is She Really Going Out With Him' wishes they could be. Just a touch of sour grapes, just a touch of bitter, and just a touch of yearning makes this a terrific mix of a song for everyone who's ever suffered the dreaded UST.

'Television Light' is easily my second-favorite Crenshaw-penned tune. It's got great guitar work, a fabulous violin solo in the instrumental bridge, and lyrics about a near miss with tragedy that just makes you ache. If anyone out there is looking for a 'love makes you do the wacky' song, this song encapsulates that sentiment so perfectly that it hurts.

You can practically hear the protagonist rolling his eyes in 'Tell Me All About It' when he confronts an unfaithful lover about her indiscretions. Not a happy puppy. No. What makes this song a real keeper is that this is the kind of song that you'd normally expect a female singer-songwriter to put out there. The fact that it's a cover song, as opposed to a composition by Crenshaw, doesn't detract from it at all.

'Right There In Front of Me' is rockin' little tune about finally realizing that the person that's been dangling right in front of his nose has been 'the one' all along. The infectious hooks along with the storytelling lyrics is really what levers this song head and shoulders above cliché.

Sample Song Downloads: Dime a Dozen Guy, Television Light, Tell Me All About It, Right There In Front of Me

The Best of Marshall Crenshaw: This Is Easy Rating=$$$$$
How I Got This CD: Bought new during my Bordersverse daze.

This is CD is a great introduction to Crenshaw's years with the major labels. Generally, this 22-track CD includes roughly 4 songs each from Marshall Crenshaw, Field Day, Downtown, and Mary Jean & 9 Others, with the remaining slots split unevenly between Good Evening, Life's Too Short, Miracle of Science, and #447.

By and large, the choice of tracks is pretty good, especially considering that Crenshaw has few Top 40 hits to his name (a mystery for the ages, that). In fact, had I been the one pulling together this CD, I'm pretty sure I would've chosen most of the same songs, with a few exceptions. The Rhino compilation is an attempt to "set things right" by giving Crenshaw and his work the spotlight they deserve.

'Mary Anne' is a track off Marshall Crenshaw and one that appears to be a fan fave. While I like the song (don't get me wrong), I like a lot of other Crenshaw songs a whole lot better. Yet, Mary Anne reliably shows up in just about every Crenshaw collection that you can possibly find.

'Our Town' from Field Day is a leeeetle bit over-orchestrated, but I can forgive because of that Wall of Sound feel that gives this track a little bit of mojo.

'Little Wild One (No. 5)' from Downtown has an infectious guitar hook that just won't quit. It's a fantastic piece of power pop that just gets under your skin and sets the toes a-tapping.

'This Is Easy' from Mary Jean & 9 Others is not a fave of mine, but since it lends its name to this collection, I thought it best to include here.

Sample Song Downloads: Mary Anne, Our Town, Little Wild One (No. 5), This Is Easy

I've Suffered For My Art...Now It's Your Turn Rating=$$$$$
How I Got This CD: Bought new during my Bordersverse daze.

This is a terrific CD recording of Crenshaw's 2001 performance for the King Biscuit Flower Hour, a weekly, live-performance, syndicated radio program. The archives of the full concert performances (as opposed to the edited performances aired via radio or released on CD) can be heard at the Concert Vault. Let's just say the selection of artists that you can find there is just a little bit intimidating.

In either case, this is a great CD to have. It's better at highlighting Crenshaw's talents as a performer, guitarist, and lyricist than Live: My Truck Is My Home and has a heavier focus on Crenshaw's own work. This is well worth going out of your way to find. The problem is, you just might have to go out of your way to find it if you don't order it online. There's also a DVD release and bonus CD that are companions to this called Live at the Stone Pony (unh, yeah, I have this).

I won't bother to introduce the MP3s, since these are live versions of songs that are already available for download in this post. Just trust me when I say that they make for very good listening. It's only the merest coincidence that they happen to occupy my 'Top 4' spots for favorite Crenshaw tunes.

Sample Song Downloads: Television Light (Live, Acoustic), Cynical Girl (Live, Acoustic), Whenever You're On My Mind (Live, Acoustic), Someday, Someway (Live, Acoustic)

Greatest Hits Acoustic Rating=$
How I Got This CD: Bought new during my Bordersverse daze.

Let me make something clear: the horribly low rating is not at all a reflection on Crenshaw. It's a reflection on BMG, which actually released the CD as a low-budget version of I've Suffered For My Art...Now It's Your Turn.

When I first bought this, I was completely unaware that this was a stripped-down version of I've Suffered For My Art...Now It's Your Turn. Why on earth BMG repackaged the CD — which was easily available and being sold for full-price in record stores at the time of this BMG release — and sent it out in the world (complete with chintzy paper for the liner notes), I have no idea. There are only 10 tracks (as opposed to the 14 on I've Suffered For My Art...) and the set list has been re-ordered. Also, I detect a distinct drop in sound quality between this CD and the source material.

Bah. I'm not going to offer any downloads from this one. Instead, I'll just point to the CD above this one and say that you should stick with the superior product.

What's In the Bag? Rating=$$$
How I Got This CD: Bought new during my Bordersverse daze.

The watch-word here is "world weary." This is a long way from the upbeat, sunny Marshall Crenshaw, yet it's also somehow a logical conclusion. Life, love, and happiness takes work to maintain and it's not entirely clear that the protagonists in these songs will ever get there. This CD represents a fusion of country, blues, jazz, and a little bit of soul to illustrate the struggles of people trying to hold their emotional lives together

While I can appreciate the sheer artistry of this CD, and Crenshaw's growth as an artist, this is the not the CD I reach for when I need a lift. I've listened to it on several (rainy) days, but it's probably never going to be the first Crenshaw CD I reach for. Or maybe even the second.

That said, I'm glad I have it and I wouldn't give it up for anything.

I have to be honest here: 'Take Me With U' is here because the sheer weirdness of Crenshaw covering Prince is too delicious not to not offer it up. Seriously.

'Despite the Sun' is a mellow little instrumental that sneaks up on you like a lullaby (that's a good thing). Even with the low key riffs, the guitar work is positively fabulous to listen to as it hypnotically weaves in and around the base melody and drum beat.

'The Spell Is Broken' is a nice salute to lost love. This isn't about the bitter immediate aftermath, but more about the point beyond that. It's when someone can look back on a relationship without bitterness and be surprised that the loss no longer hurts like it once did.

'Long and Complicated' is a mellow song about trying to say goodbye to a relationship, but being unable to because of emotional complications and because the protagonist loves her despite himself.

Sample Song Downloads: Take Me With U, Despite the Sun, The Spell Is Broken, Long and Complicated

If you just want to hit one page, you can download all files listed above from a single Marshall Crenshaw project page by clicking here.


To find previous thumbnail reviews, go to the Review Index.

After the download links expire, you can listen to streaming MP3 files linked with reviews at my Vox shadow blog for media.


Rating system:
None = Avoid at all cost. Worth cutting your ears off to avoid if someone threatens to play it for you. When faced with even the threat of its cellophane-wrapped presence, your best option is to RUN AWAY! RUN AWAY!

$= If you stumble across it for cheap in a used bin, it might, maybe, perhaps could be worth the buy, but only if you need a cheap coaster for your cold drinks or a cool-looking Frisbee.

$$= You might want to give this CD/artist a try, but only if the sample track tickles your fancy. Don't bother buying this one new because the good tunes you'd get out of this one ain't worth that kind of money.

$$$ = Worth looking for on a casual basis and maybe even buying new, but no big rush.

$$$$ = Definitely worth having in the ol' CD collection and definitely worth buying new, but don't re-arrange your personal "must have" list to get your hands on it.

$$$$$ = Why haven't you bought this CD yet? Go. This is a "Want. Take. Have." situation because you so want this.

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Tags: music: download, music: music from the cube, music: review

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