REVIEW: Steve Goodman’s “Unfinished Business” will Thrill Aficionados

Reviews

 

August 9th the late singer-songwriter Steve Goodman’s 2 posthumous LPs (Santa Ana Winds & Unfinished Business) will release in expanded reissues on Omnivore Records.

With Unfinished Business, this may be more of a collection suited best for aficionados & loyalists though new fans could find something to like since it’s filled with Goodman personality.

Originally released in 1987 the LP won the 1988 Grammy for Best Contemporary Folk LP – but, the songs are primarily unissued recordings, demos, & outtakes. Most recorded surprisingly well. The first 10 tracks are quite good, and the bonus tracks have acceptable well-recorded clarity except for one or two.

The opener is impressive – “Whispering Man,” — could’ve been on any previous Goodman LP. It’s simple, melodic & reminiscent of something the Doobie Brothers would perform. Co-writer Mike Smith plays acoustic guitar & background vocals among other proficient musicians.

Studio guitarist & former Doobie Jeff “Skunk” Baxter joins Steve on “Mind Over Matter,” & Jim Rothermel adds sax. This is Goodman stretching into another genre as he often did — with vaudeville type light touches of jazz & saloon.

Recorded for a radio show Goodman uses his humor to his John Prine best on “God Bless Our Mobile Home,” with mandolin added by Jethro Burns. Not something that would ever be a hit Goodman was more concerned with entertainment value. He never failed at that. He has a vein of the late (sometimes novelty) country singer-songwriter Roger Miller (“King of the Road”), that runs potently throughout his country-soul & songs like this quietly endear Steve to his loyal audience.

Though funny, the fast & dynamic take of a Billy Vera-Russell Brown penned “Millie Make Some Chili,” possesses a killer Jeff “Skunk” Baxter lead guitar with Peter Bunetta drums. Jethro Burns injects mandolin into the old Hank Snow song & Elvis Presley hit in the 60’s – “(Now & Then) There’s a Fool Such as I.” I prefer Steve’s creative re-imagined version over the Bob Dylan cover.

A Steve Goodman rocker in typical John Prine tradition ignites “Don’t Get Any Sand in It,” – a charming bouncy performance & the LP includes the demo version as well & it’s equally hot. This another Dave Edmunds type rocker & The Radiators provide background vocals. Mitch Perry’s retro guitar decorates the tune with perfect tone & 100-proof Duane Eddy-Lonnie Mack inspired playing.

For an intro to the exquisite acoustic guitar playing of Steve Goodman the solo track “The Dutchman,” is excellent. It shows that Steve Goodman, like Gordon Lightfoot, John Prine & Arlo Guthrie – just need a guitar to be engaging.

Goodman’s connection stylistically to his good friend John Prine is evident in “Colorado Christmas.” Anyone who’s a big fan of Prine’s songbook will find Steve Goodman necessary. Jo Pusateri’s drums are captured crisp & Howard Levy’s harmonica upfront.

Goodman’s not a California singer-songwriter like Jackson Browne – he has more down-to-earth pedigree, humor, quirkiness & poignancy that sets Steve apart from many singer-songwriters who simply never tap into all 3 with proficiency.

Of the bonus tracks “Good Morning Blues,” is a keeper. with its cool blues-drenched experience, fancy lead acoustic guitar (instead of electric) & Goodman vocal. OK, Steve doesn’t have that whiskey-spiked voice that seethes blues with authenticity – but, Steve does create a tight groove & his acoustic maintains it all with distinction.

The 19-tracks — over an hour adds 9 bonus cuts of varied quality & are more for completists. The original LP produced by Al Bunetta & Dan Einstein. Varied other producers are credited in the stitched CD insert.

The reissue produced by Cheryl Pawelski.

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