Most Helpful First | Newest First
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A strong album from St. Jimmy, better than 2009's "Buffett Hotel",
"Songs From St. Somehwere" is Jimmy Buffett's 29th studio album. Recorded over a period four years, this is Jimmy's first album since the 2009 "Buffett Hotel", with nearly a four year time gap between the two records. The only other gap between Buffett albums which is longer is the five years intervening between the 1989 "Off to See the Lizard" and 1994 "Fruit Cakes". The album is a fine (but not perfect), later day Buffett LP. For those who have been criticizing his vocals, honestly I don't have any complaints; they sound pretty good to me.
I was talking with a friend the other day and told him I was listening to Buffet's new one. He made the comment that Buffett is cliche by this point, and I said he may be "cliche", but he's damned good cliche, to which my friend agreed. By this point, just like new music from Sammy Hagar and Kiss, you know what you are going to get with a new Jimmy Buffett album. I've always maintained that there is a lot more to Buffett than his detractors allow for, and while admittedly there is a lot of chaff among the wheat, Buffett is far richer musically than the critics typically want to acknowledge. He's a first rate singer-songwriter, and while often times his more iffy material is written expressely for his fans (not that there is anything wrong with that), he has a lot of great songs those who only know him for "Margarativille" an "Cheeseburger in Paradise" would never even dream of.
"Songs From St. Somewhere" is just such an example. He is boistrous and boozy, but beneath the typical "cliche" Buffett personae, Buffett shows his skills. There are enough odd detours in "Songs From St. Somewhere" to keep the album from being just another by-the-numbers Buffett album. This particular album throws a few more curve balls than is Jimmy's wont, compared to the last few albums from everyone's favorite parrothead.
"Songs from St. Somewhere" sports story songs ("Earl's Dead - Cadillac for Sale"), a topical track ("I'm No Russian", which about Pussy Riot), ballads ("I Wave Bye Bye", "Soulfully", "Colour of the Sun"), and party tracks ("I'm Too Drunk to Karaoke", a duet with Toby Keith). There is also the latest addition to Jimmy's nautical-themed canon, the superb "Tides", a song which stands proudly with the best of his 1970s' material. He gets memorably weird on "Einstien Was a Surfer" and "I'm No Russian". Jimmy, whose first surf song was written for the late career 2009 "Buffett Hotel" (!!!), appears to be making up for lost time, referencing surfing in several tracks, and explores circus/carnival themes that he first introduced in his work with the "Big Top" track. He writes a superb surfer songs, and it is rather puzzling, given Jimmy's penchant for the Island, Margarativille lifestyle that he is so late in the game in regards to surfer tunes.
We also see Buffett showing his more mellow, contemplative side. Overall, with only one exception (the Toby Keith duet), the music is by and large much more mellow than I was expecting, given the 2009 "Buffett Hotel" and the 2006 "Take the Weather With You". Of the fifteen tracks, eight tracks are firmly rooted in that low-key, more ballad-driven songwriting style. Even the faster, more up-tempo songs have a stripped down sound to them.
Buffett deals with his mortality they way only he can in the last song, "Oldest Surfer on the Beach". I was very surprised to see that Mark Knopfler wrote this song and not Buffett. As Buffett says in the song, he's stopped looking for perfection, and the only thing that matters is the here and now, with time being much more precious to him than in previous years in his life. The song ends with the waters crashing upon the surf. If Jimmy passed without ever releasing another record, this song would be the perfect ending to his career.
For sixty six, Buffett's vocal prowess is largely unchanged in the last twenty years, and personally I enjoyed his singing on this one, although I know some have complained on this particular effort. He does talk through some of the tracks, but honestly I don't really see much difference between this and any of the other albums he's done since 1994.
There is a naturally dividing line in Jimmy's career, marked by the five year gap between "Off to See the Lizard" and "Fruit Cakes" and the appearance of the 1992 boxset "Boats, Beaches, Bars, and Ballads". The records post "B, B, B, B", like the string of Dylan records starting with "Time Out of Mind" and continuing with "Love and Theft", "Modern Times", "Together Through Life", and "Tempest", sound aurally [as] that they share a lot more songwriting DNA with each other than Buffett's albums from 1973-1989. "Songs From St. Somewhere" fits in nicely with "Banana Wind" and "Barometer Soup", and reminds me most of those two records than anything else from Jimmy's output. Even the cover art is reminiscent of that era. If you like those two mid 1990s LPs, you should really enjoy this one.
For this Parrothead, I personally find "Songs From St. Somewhere" quite the satisfying listen, and another solid addition to his post 1989 catalogue. While Jimmy's records can be uneven at times, Buffett has had a very strong run of albums from 1994-2013, and "Songs from St. Somewhere" stands proudly with his best work from this period, despite the obnoxious, out-of-place duet with ol' Toby. And for my money, overall I find this a much more satisfying listen than the 2009 "Buffett Hotel". Things keep looking up on Jimmy's island!
TRACK BY TACK COMMENTARY:
1. "Somethin' 'Bout A Boat" (written by Django Walker, Dave Berg, Patrick Davis, Jedd Hughes, James Otto, Eric Paslay - 2:44): a simple ditty, sounds tailor made for Jimmy. Thematically works well for Jimmy's type of music, but not one of my personal favorites.
2. "Einstein Was A Surfer" (Jimmy Buffett, Mac McAnally, 4:41): Probably my personal favorite off the album. Love the melody and the instrumentation on this one. Despite the rather ludicrous sounding title, lyrically Jimmy and Mac McAnally are at the top of their game here. The song acts as a meditation about Einstein's genius and relating said genius to surfing/sailing.
3. "Earl's Dead - Cadillac For Sale" (Buffett, 5:41) - a story-song about a circus carnie and his love affair with his woman, as well as the titular Cadillac. Reminds me of such songs as "Frank an Lola" from "Last Mango in Paris", "Ballad of Skip Wiley" from the 1995 "Barometer Soup", and "Jamaica Mistaica" from "Bannana Wind". "Earl's Dead' ties in nicely to Jimmy's story-telling approach that would garner him some best selling fiction.
4. "Too Drunk To Karaoke" (with Toby Keith) (Shawn Camp, Pat McLaughin, Buffett, McAnally, 4:02): the duet with Toby Keith. In 2003, Jimmy Buffett scored a massive hit with Alan Jackson on the song "It's Five O'Clock Somewhere"*, and has been mining CMT territory ever since, with this song simply being the latest offering. He even did an entire album aimed squarely at the country market (the 2003 "License to Chill"). Like "Ignoreland" on R.E.M.'s album "Automatic for the People", "Too Drunk to Karaoke" represents a vast failure in tone in comparison to the rest of the material on "Songs from St. Somewhere". Loud, drunk, with a bland melody and poorly "sung" by both Toby and Jimmy, this song was clearly added to sell unites, and is VERY incongrouous with the other songs here. While certainly cringe-worthy, this song is nowhere NEAR as embarrassing as "Math Sux" from the 1999 "Beach House on the Moon". "I'm A Piece of Work", Jimmy's duet with Toby from "License to Chill" is better, but overall "Too Drunk" would have worked better on a similiar project or followup to that album than "Songs from St. Somewhere", where it sticks out like a sore thumb and disrupts the flow of the album. Still, I understand why Jimmy is tapping into that market and will make a good concert addition to his setlist. Jimmy proves he has been able to mine that type of modern country sound much more successfully with songs like "Bama Breeze" from "Take the Weather With You" and "Nobody From Nowhere" from "Buffett Hotel", so overall you just have to write this off as one of Jimmy's novelty tunes he is so fond of doing.
5. "Serpentine" (Buffett, McAnallym 4:43) is a great ballad, and gets back into circus territory, though with much less colourful flair than "Earl's Dead".
6. "Useless But Important Information" (Buffett, McAnally 4:12): Jimmy's take on the information overload we all live through these days. There are some groan moments (rhyming Twitter with "s***ter"). The track is little more than an unofficial sequel to "Everybody's on the Phone" from "Take the Weather With You".
7. "I Want To Go Back To Cartagena" (Buffett, Peter Mayer, Roger Guth, Will Kimbrough 3:15) has a Spanish flair and captures Buffett's escapist songwriting at its peak. Buffett has said ""I sell escapism." This track is another in a long line of Buffett songs about escaping your life and disappearing into that Carribean sunset. Great song.
8. "Soulfully" (Kimbrough, 3:16), which has the same melody as "Louisana", invokes (appropriately enough) that soul-music genre. This is the most bland track here (barring only "Something `Bout a Boat"), but still pretty decent.
9. "Rue De La Guitare" (Buffett, 3:23) a great accoustic song which is an ode to Jimmy's guitar, as well as homage to Paris. Reminds me of the similiarly themed ""Tonight I Just Need My Guitar" from the 2002 "Far Side of the World", married with the fantastic French song "Chanson pour les petits enfants" from the 1979 "Volcano".
10. "I'm No Russian" (Buffett, 6:40), along with "Too Durnk to Karaoke", appears to be one of the tracks most singled out for criticism. Although I understand the objections to the former, "I'm No Russian" is rather memorable. Although somewhat topical, the song strongly reminds me of "Autour de Rocher" 8:05 ("Far Side of the World"), "Wheel Inside the Wheel" (Mary Gauthier) 7:01, and the title cut to "Buffet Hotel" (6:00). All of the tracks find Jimmy in some unchartered territory. As far as topical songs go, this is SO MUCH BETTER than "A Lot To Drink About" from "Buffett Hotel", which is as dated as Neil Young's "Living With War".
11. "Tides" (Buffett, Guth, 4:12): Brilliant. Honestly, if this song was unearthed as an unreleased outtake to one of his classic 1970s or early 1980s LPs, I wouldn't be surprised in the least. For the fans of his older material, this will undoubtedly be a highlight.
12. "The Rocket That Grandpa Rode" (Buffett, McAnally, Kimbrough, Mayer, Guth, 4:02)**: Jimmy's tribute to Neil Armstrong, NASA, and the Apollo moon landing. On July 8, 2011, Jimmy was among those invited to NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida for the final launch of the space shuttle program. While traveling to the VIP viewing site by bus, Jimmy overheard Rick Armstrong, Neil's son, tell his children that the Vehicle Assembly Building was "that's where the rocket that grandpa rode was put together." Overhearing this, Buffett turned around, introduced himself, and said that statement sounded like a great idea for a song. Buffett also played a private concert for the NASA shuttle crews and personnel that day. Flying has always been important too Jimmy, and this is a great tribute to Armstrong. We also know clearly what side Jimmy falls into as far as the whole "moonlanding was faked" conspiracy theory. Jimmy does rather date himself, however, when he says that they let the kids out of school that day and includes himself by saying "we" in that tally. In 1969, Jimmy was twenty two, so not sure what school he was going out of. Probably bar-tending training.
13. "I Wave Bye Bye" (Jesse Winchester, 3:19) is a rendition of a Jesse Winchester lost at sea love song. Don't particularly care for this one honestly.
14. "Colour Of The Sun" (Buffett, McAnally, Mayer, Guth, 3:48): "Even the worst of beaches will never let you down." Pretty much sums this ballad up. Think "Barefoot Children". A highlight, like "Tides".
15. "The Oldest Surfer On The Beach" (Mark Knopfler 4:17): a surfer's look at old age. We now have a pirate's look at forty and a surfer's look at the geriatric stage of life.
16. "I Want To Go Back To Cartagena" (Spanish Version, 3:12): a bonus track, with "Cartegena" reworked with more Spanish and featuring Fanny Lu. Pretty much identitical with the first version with the only significance differences being the addition of Fanny Lu
*Jimmy's first duet with Alan Jackson is actually Alan's cover of "Margarativille" for th 1999 Jackon record, "Under the Influence".
**Jimmy Buffett also paid homage to Armstrong on his August 25, 2012 concert, the day Neil died. Jimmy told those in attendance: "We lost a great flyer in America today. Neil Armstrong passed away, the man on the moon. As you know, flying has been an inspiration in my life the whole time, so I'd like to send this off to Neil Armstrong's family tonight. It's a little thing called 'Oysters and Pearls' and he certainly was a pearl." He added a special stanza to the song that night: ""Neil Armstrong walked upon the moon, and now he has gone to heaven."
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great new album from JImmy Buffett,
Great new album from JImmy Buffett. As JImmy Buffett matures in years, his style has taken another turn. This album is a natural continuation of the journey he took us on with Buffett hotel.
If you like JImmy Buffett, you'll love this new album, if JImmy Buffett isn't your type of music, then why are you even looking at his material.
Buffett makes music for Buffett fans, he makes no excuses for that. He and his coral reefer band are a huge draw in the USA whilst being relatively unknown in the UK and Europe.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars magic,
This review is from: Songs From St. Somewhere (MP3 Download)
Jimmy Buffett is that easy to listen to
great performer. buy this if you are a Parrothead
you wont be dissapointed
5.0 out of 5 stars Jimmy Buffett,
Jimmy just keeps surprising all his fans by bringing out a new studio album with more different sounds. I don't think there is a genre he has missed out so far.
5.0 out of 5 stars great purchase,
So glad I bought another Jimmy Buffet CD after listening to the greatest hots for a long time...
Well worth buying and it's getting it's fair share of playtime!
Most Helpful First | Newest First