Marshall Crenshaw has come a long way since he starred as John Lennon in the touring company production of Beatlemania in the late 70s. Now into the fourth decade of his career, he has returned with his first studio album in six years.
I am amazed that he is not a bigger star. His albums have sold very well if not spectacularly and he has established a solid fan base. Yet, across the board, popularity has eluded him. This is unfortunate as he has issued a number of albums that contain romantic and realistic lyrics about life that are encased in melodic and smooth music.
Jaggedland may just be the release to elevate him to the next level. It is an extremely accessible album that finds him more in the musical mainstream than in the past. His voice seems to have improved with age and his lyrics exhibit a maturity from a lifetime of living and performing. And of course he brings along his trusty Stratocaster for some tasty guitar playing.
He surrounded himself with a stellar cast of musicians. Studio drummer deluxe Jim Keltner, bassist Sebastian Steinberg, Guitarists Greg Leisz, and Wayne Kramer of the MC5 and vibraphone player Emil Richards all provide excellent support.
The twelve tracks fall in to power pop category for the most part although he does get a little bluesy in a few places.
The pacing of the album is excellent. It begins with three tracks that are about as mainstream pop as he ever gets. “Right On Time,” “Passing Through,” and “Someone Told Me” are beautifully constructed and just shine as his voice floats over the catchy music.
Just as you settle in the album changes direction. “Stormy River” and “Never Coming Down” are love songs yet give him the opportunity to show off his guitar proficiency. They are the albums strongest tracks.
The title song is a quirky instrumental that is like a puzzle that gradually comes together. The tone and changes of mood make it an interesting listen.
Jaggedland should please his old fans and hopefully win him some new ones. He brings a lifetime of experience to this new album and it shows. I rank it as one of the better releases of the year so far.