I have been a fan of Michael Penn since the release of his first album, "March." I have anxiously awaited the release of his every subsequent album, but I have never been so excited about any album release as I have been about "Mr. Hollywood, Jr. 1947." Going beyond the concept of the album (which I find intriguing), the songs are among the best-crafted he has ever released, and in classic Penn style, have a way of running through my mind even when the stereo is off.
One of my favorite songs on the album is "Walter Reed," which I interpret as being about a soldier returning from WWII. Not able to fit back in to the life and love he left behind, the song very movingly projects the pain, anger, and isolation that many GIs experienced (and still experience) upon their return home.
Another favorite is "OK," a soothing lullaby for a troubled relationship. No empty promises of a perfect resolution to whatever crisis the song is addressing, but there is at least the hope of a tender and sincere reconciliation.
In sharp contrast to the quiet, gentle "OK" is the bright, peppy "On Automatic." An anthem of frenetic (and possibly irrational) optimism, it's a celebration of high times and fresh starts.
I'd have to say that for me, personally, the weakest song on the album is "You Know How," which is only spoiled for me because MP's phrasing is very reminiscent of Bob Dylan in some parts. It's still a good song, but not my favorite.
In addition to the nine very solid songs on this album, three short concept pieces commemorate specific events from the year 1947, including the Roswell UFO incident and the invention of the transistor. My favorite of these, though, is the "Television Set Waltz." It sounds so much like a period recording that for the few moments it plays, I can almost imagine I'm in another place and time.
If you're a long-time fan of Michael Penn, this album is a must-own. And if you are not familiar with his music, this would be a very good introduction. I feel it represents his best work to date.