With a taste for the theatrical and heavy notes of Broadway-esque style, Jeremy Schonfeld has cracked open his mind and is sharing the results on 37 Notebooks. Fans of big, bold musical theatre will find a lot to like about Schonfeld’s record, as the songs play together like some kind of musical of the mind. There are boisterous numbers and poignant pieces here and Schonfeld’s sense for the “big song” is apparent from the outset.
It is important to note that Schonfeld is the songwriter here. He does not sing on each track and, in fact, he does not sing on most of them. It may be fair to suggest that this is a sort of “various artists” compilation, but Scholfeld’s heart is in the music and his art is the focal point of 37 Notebooks.
We’re first introduced to his sense of the grand story with the first track, “Storyteller.” Sung by Schonfeld, this little ditty introduces us to some of the tales on the record and serves as a sort of “gather round” moment.
From the warm introduction, Schonfeld’s 37 Notebooks are plunged through with emotional energy. Employing a host of different singers with different sensibilities, the record spins from delightful love songs to sad tales of loss while telling its great central story of the art of the song.
Some of the tunes on the album appeared elsewhere before finding their resting place on 37 Notebooks. “Song for New Orleans” was commissioned by the Winter Harbor Theatre Company for a Hurricane Katrina tribute record, for instance. Other songs were originally written for The A-Train Musicals (“Do You Want My Life?” and “A Simple Plan”).
Schonfeld’s songs feel right at home in the genre of musical theatre. The silly lyrics of “Greta” paint a picture of an overly scrupulous woman looking for an ideal mate. Singer Amy Spanger tells us “I’m not always this crazy / More of a laid-back and mellower chick / Smoke a few bongs / Read a book / Catch a flick / And I’m set for the night.”
It is Schonfeld’s ability to create such characters that makes his songwriting notable and creates such broad and enticing tapestries for the record.
To be honest, 37 Notebooks won’t be for everyone. The excitable and theatrical sense of the lyrics and of the songs is more suited to those with a keenness for musical theatre and Broadway, although there are many softer moments that will likely win Schonfeld some new converts to his brand of lyrical justice. The songwriting is strong and beautiful and Schonfeld’s ability to transform his headspace into a breeding ground for authentic characters is certainly worth checking out.
Overall, 37 Notebooks is a collection of quality songs built from the ground up. Jeremy Schonfeld proves himself to be a solid songwriter with the ability to legitimately take on different characters and formulate stories from the heart.