Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Marshall Crenshaw 3: Downtown

Here’s another perfectly harmless album that was ignored upon release. Only three years on from his debut, Marshall Crenshaw hitched his wagon to T-Bone Burnett, then gaining ground as a producer. Even the players are different on Downtown, dominated by such Burnett go-tos as Rick Marotta, Mickey Curry, David Miner and Mitchell Froom, plus Tony Levin on a lot of bass, Mitch Easter and Faye Hunter from Let’s Active on one track and even the rhythm section from NRBQ on another.
These days the sound could be considered Americana; back then it was retro-rockabilly, completely out of step with everything that sold in 1985. Even the covers were off-beat—one namechecks Brenda Lee, while the other was first recorded by Gene Vincent. His own tunes are carved from similar wood, “Little Wild One”, “Yvonne” and “(We’re Gonna) Shake Up Their Minds” all galloping along gamely. “Blues Is King” is a welcome departure from that sound, produced in tandem with Mitch Easter, following several esoteric chords with a yearning melody. The electric sitar that dominates “Terrifying Love” would become a stock sound in both Burnett and Froom playbooks. Each side ends with a country-style lament, and both “Like A Vague Memory” and “Lesson Number One” are superior to “The Distance Between”, another tune in the same vein.
Overall, Downtown seems kinda down, and again, nobody bought it despite its few reviews, most of which were positive. He just wasn’t made for those times.

Marshall Crenshaw Downtown (1985)—3

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