Jimmy Buffett released his 27th original album on December 2. It’s my least favorite in many years. It ranks closest to “Beach House on the Moon” and “Somewhere Over China”. I would rank those two last if I were ranking Buffett albums, with the last three being, in order, Hotel, Beach House and China.
With that said, it’s still decent and I’m enjoying several of the songs a lot. The last three or four of albums have been really good, so I guess it is inevitable for there to be a bit of a dip in overall appeal (even if there has been a bit of time since the last one). Here’s my track-by-track take, with a conclusion at the end.
1. Nobody From Nowhere – penned by Coral Reefer Mac McAnally who is also a recent Grammy nominee, this song has a Little Feat feel to it. This song actually would be at home on one of Jimmy’s early albums, such as A-1-A. Nice harmonies, catchy melody and nice straight-ahead rockabilly. Good opening track.
2. Wings – This is my favorite song on the album. Jimmy sings some of the lines a bit of a whimsically, so it sounds a bit (at times) like it could be a children’s song. Given the children’s books he has written and his involvement with the film Hoot it wouldn’t be the first time. This song is about having self-confidence and it’s a great, positive message with fun music. “Take a little trip on wings that you can’t see”.
3. Big Top – Written for the Parrotheads, it’s sure to become a concert staple. Competent, easy going music and fun lyrics make it a characteristic Buffett song complete with a lot of imagery of fun times and hanging out in the parking lot before the concert. This is a crowd pleaser that a lot of people will like. Another typical Buffett device: he mentions “Rhuma-ing in my flip flops” which ties this song to another on the same album, “Rhumba Man”. He also nods to “Volcano” and “Coconut Telegraph”.
4. Beautiful Swimmers – If “Wings” isn’t my favorite on this album, it’s this one. Slow song with gorgeous music. This song contains lots of reference to water of course, and themes of being oneself and self esteem. There are a couple of places where the lyrics are a little awkward; for example the line “she was old, but she still was cool” would flow better without “still” in there. But really a great song.
5. Turn Up the Heat and Chill the Rose – I suppose Jimmy get points for trying something different. Unfortunately, he’s experimenting with rap. It’s not pretty. It’s never a good idea to try to rhyme “metatarsals” even if you can. The music is actually pretty good but ultimately this song is too goofy and annoying to be enjoyable. It ranks down there with “When Salome Plays the Drum” and “Math Sux” both of which I dislike.
6. Summerzcool – (pronounced “Summer School”) this was released last spring as a single before the 2009 concert season. This is another one that fits in with the party song category and will be a concert staple from now on, I image. It’s actually a really fun song – it makes you want to get up and dance and move around. “Get your ass to the beach or at least to the pool Younger fans will probably like this one a lot, too.
7. Rhumba Man – penned by singer/songwriter Jesse Winchester who has written some of my absolute favorite songs that Buffett has a recorded, this is another fun song with some clever lines sung smugly by someone that this song aptly describes. It’s also got a Little Feat feel to it, especially at the “I can’t help myself” part. I like it, and the older fans will too.
8. We Learned To Be Cool From You – This one probably sounds the least like a Buffett song. Great lyrics about growing up and keeping with the theme of being yourself (and being “a man”) while Buffett describes some of his heroes. Beautiful, beautiful music on this one and a great feel to it. The only thing that keeps this one from being a really, really great song (e.g. “classic”) is if he had found a better word for “cool”. Trouble is, I’m not sure there is one.
9. Sufring in a Hurricane – I lived the four years of my high school days in Panama City, on Florida’s Gulf coast. Even though the surf at the beach is usually very calm, there are nevertheless quite a few surfers (wannabes mostly). Surf shaks of course sell a great deal of surf gear, and you can find guys driving their pickup trucks around with surfboards in the back. But you rarely can actually surf because of the weak waves. But when a tropical storm or hurricane comes – look out! The beaches become choked with surfers with deathwishes trying to catch a wave before it becomes too dangerous. I can totally relate to this (well, not that I’m a surfer but I get it). Jimmy claims it’s the first surf song he’s ever written, but he did re-record “Up On the Housetop” for his Christmas album in a surf style. This is a fun song, too.
10. Life Short, Call Now – a nice, nostalgic and introspective song. Doesn’t really sound like a Buffett song, either. I really like the muted trumpet and piano dancing with each other in this one. I don’t know, maybe this one is my favorite on this album. 🙂
11. Buffet Hotel – For those that don’t have an eye for detail, note there is only one “t” in the first word of the title of this song and two “t”s in Jimmy’s last name. This song is based on a trip Jimmy took with some other musicians to a music festival in the desert of Mali. The lyrics and vocals are great and I enjoy most of the music, but it could do almost entirely without the slide guitar, which overpowers the song and detracts from it. “Sand in the cous cous, sand in the wine. There was sand in my guitar case and stories in my mind.”
12. A Lot to Drink About – With several clever lines, Jimmy calls this one a “high speed drinkin’ song” It’s not bad and has already appeared in several concerts this year. It’s a commentary on current events that relate to the recession and other world woes.
There are several decent songs and a couple really good ones. There was a lot of good material here but I can’t shake the feeling that almost everything could have been better. The album was produced by Coral Reefers (band members) Mac McAnally and Michael Utley. Those guys are great don’t get me wrong but I believe this album might have been a bit better overall with an outside producer who wasn’t a Buffett insider.
Still, it’s a Buffett album and it ain’t bad. Thanks, Jimmy – I’ll always be grateful for the music you continue to give us.