If you’re a new visitor to this blog, the purpose of my Wrestling With The Angel series (or category) is to highlight and share individual songs that are on a list of mine entitled: Devastatingly Great Songs. The title phrase, “Wrestling With The Angel,” is my paraphrase of a line from a poem by Herman Melville called “Art.” You can read the complete poem in my archived post of November 4, 2011: “The Source.” (This is the first time a chapter in this series has been about an entire album.)
Given the size of my music collection, selecting the perfect soundtrack for an afternoon in the car running errands can be a daunting task. Every now and then, however, I find that a specific disc almost seems to call out to me from the shelves.
The CD that beckoned most recently was Marshall Crenshaw’s first album.
Well, I barely got out of the driveway before the instantly-infectious opening track, “There She Goes Again,” reminded me that Marshall Crenshaw is one totally incredible record!
First, there are the twelve extraordinary songs: ten Marshall Crenshaw originals (“There She Goes Again,” “Someday, Someway,” “Girls…,” “I’ll Do Anything,” “Rockin’ Around In N.Y.C.,” “The Usual Thing,” “Cynical Girl,” “Mary Anne,” “Not For Me” and “Brand New Lover”), one by Crenshaw with Rick Cioffi & Fred Todd (“She Can’t Dance”) and one cover of a song from 1962 written by Buzz Cason & Tony Moon and recorded by the R&B/Country vocalist Arthur Alexander (“Soldier Of Love”). Each and every one of these numbers is memorably melodic, lyrically well-crafted, irresistibly danceable and appropriately concise. (The longest cut logs in at 3:07.)
Then, there’s the band and let me tell you, these guys can rock! Marshall Crenshaw plays all of the intricately-layered electric and acoustic guitar parts and is a fabulous lead vocalist; Chris Donato joins in on really good-sounding bass guitar; and drummer Robert Crenshaw, Marshall’s brother, contributes much of the records spirit and energy. All three collaborate on the album’s outstanding back-up vocals. (Marshall spent from 1979 to 1980 being John Lennon in the West Coast road company of Beatlemania, so he knows a thing or two about quality back-up vocals!)
Last but certainly not least, this record sounds fantastic! Marshall Crenshaw was recorded at The Record Plant in New York City in January of 1982. Richard Gottehrer and Marshall shared the producing duties and Thom Panunzio was the engineer with assistance from Jim Ball. This talented team managed to capture the guitars, drums, bass and vocals in all of their gorgeous tonal glory and then carefully honed a mix that allowed every sparkling detail of each impassioned performance to shine through loud and clear.
Ultimately, Marshall Crenshaw does on Marshall Crenshaw what a great Pop musician is supposed to do: bring together the best elements from the music of the past and create new music that sounds fresh, exciting and timeless.
Hey, now! Don’t just take my word for it. Give a listen for yourself. You’ll be glad you did!(Headphones highly recommended.)
Here’s “Someday, Someway,” the song that was released as the single from the album.
And here’s “Mary Anne,” the third track on Side 2 of the original vinyl LP.
Marshall Crenshaw was released by Warner Brothers Records on April 28, 1982.
The album received a 4-star review from Rolling Stone magazine and a 5-star review in the AllMusic Guide To Rock. It made the “Best Albums Of The Year” list from the critics of several publications including the L.A. Times, Trouser Press and Newsday. Stereo Review magazine gave it a “Record Of The Year” award for 1982.
In the liner notes to the 2000 Warner Archives/Rhino Records Reissue/Compilation CD of Marshall Crenshaw, Marshall Crenshaw writes: “This stuff is pretty celebratory throughout and was deliberately designed as music to dispel anxiety – my own and anybody else’s.”