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Number 447

music reviewmusic review  out of 4 Music Review: Number 447

Artist: Marshall Crenshaw
Genre: Rock/Pop
Release Date: September 1999

Review by LarryG
2½ stars out of 4

The title of Marshall Crenshaw's new CD supposedly is based on Crenshaw's belief that most people probably think he's put out a few hundred records by now. This is actually his eighth studio album not including his Nine Volt Years collection of early work, a live record and whatever else is out there. Crenshaw's point may be that while the larger audience he had back in '82 with Someday, Someway and his first album is long gone, he's going to keep putting records out. That's good news. Crenshaw is a great guitar player and his encyclopedic knowledge of rock history gives his good pop songs depth. Still, Crenshaw is never going to recapture the latter day Buddy Holly energy and innocent enthusiasm of his debut or even the brilliant pop songwriting of his sadly overlooked (and now out of print) masterpiece Mary Jane and Nine Others. Crenshaw's last CD Miracle of Science was extremely inconsistent. The beautiful, evocative Starless Summer Sky was one of the best songs he'd ever done and 2541 was very good but the rest was pretty slight and often quite lame. #447 is more consistent. It's an adult work that's solid if unambitious.

#447 opens with a snippet of Fats Domino style 50's R & B rock. It's a lot of fun. Crenshaw shows he can still create irresistable authentic period style music, singing "it's all about rock" as a sax wails. However, the opening is apparently a joke because #447 is definitely not all about rock. Songs that would stand up to louder rock arrangements are given a fairly lo-fi treatment. Television Light is a sad, sweet song about Crenshaw walking the streets of his town, regretting how he almost ruined his relationship. Violas and violins, rather than guitars, are featured. The effect is nice and soothing but rock's excitement is missing when a fiddle, rather than Crenshaw's guitar, takes the solo. Glad Goodbye, with a simple sound and steel guitar, is unexciting but pleasant. Dime a Dozen Guy is a good moody rocker, like Life Too Short's Fantastic Planet of Love but without that song's edge. Crenshaw mostly made #447 on his own. He didn't work with a live drummer, relying mostly on drum machines and keeping the beat subdued. The low budget treatment can work brilliantly. Right There in Front of Me, 447's only song where Crenshaw didn't use any other musicians, may be its best. It has the same relaxed momentum as Life Too Short's Walkin' Around as Crenshaw gleefully sings of finding a lover in a long time friend. Crenshaw has fun, adding subtle electronic effects to his voice and doing his own backing vocals. But sometimes the modest aspirations of #447 are disappointing. Crenshaw's vocals are sometimes so restrained that they seem lifeless. And did he really have to call his nice but sappy love song Truly, Madly, Deeply and bring to mind Savage Garden's even sappier mega hit. Crenshaw seems silly on Tell Me All About It, sympathetically listening to the woman who dumped him talk about her new love.

Crenshaw seems comfortable in the more relaxed setting. Crenshaw's attempt at gritty vocals on the one tough rocker, Ready Right Now, seems foolish. In fact, three of the best songs are instrumentals. With his unrushed guitar and help from David Sancious' electric piano on a couple of them, Crenshaw creates easy, cool jazzy moods. In all, #447 has few surprises but it's an easy listen, a smooth, well played record.



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