Jonathan Richman – Rock ‘n’ Roll With The Modern Lovers
Considering the band name in regard to this reissue it’s peculiar that the opening instrumental sounds more like it’s from a Japanese romance movie. But, taken as a whole it’s intriguing & retains the pop-attractiveness that Jonathan Richman’s music often exemplifies. The music is somewhat amateurish at times but its innovation is unmistakable. It’s what sets it apart from garage-rock bands & wannabes who just perform aimlessly.
Big Star with the late Alex Chilton was similar. Originally produced in 1977 & recorded in San Francisco by Matthew King Kaufman & Glen Kolotkin Rock ‘n’ Roll With The Modern Lovers (Drops Sept 16–Omnivore Reissue) is part of a series of 4 Jonathan Richman (vocals/guitar) reissues.
This 35-minute set with 13 tracks has no bonus cuts or alternate takes, unlike so many other bands’ reissues. Upon its original issue, it wasn’t met with the acclaim of the first. So, a few bonus pieces may have attracted a wider audience net.
“Rockin’ Rockin’ Leprechauns” is pure novelty but Richman rocks out with vigor & the sax (no credit) turn is typical 60s gusto similar to The Rockin’ Rebels’ instrumental “Wild Weekend.”
The music exudes what many bands leave out of their music since rock got more serious. It deletes the element of fun, youth & innocence. It inserts anger, protest & aggression. New wave was melodic & slick, punk was down & dirty. Rock as we had known it became highbrow – the Electric Light Orchestra & Emerson, Lake & Palmer with orchestrations & dives into classical music, huh? The Who with rock operas, The Rolling Stones & Elton John with their detour into disco-soul & funk. The rock of Elvis, Jerry Lee Lewis, Chuck Berry & Little Richard was a far cry from this bunch. Some would redeem themselves.
Richman tried to capture the ‘roll’ & return it to rock’s simplicity again. Its essence lies in the spaces between doo-wop & the British Invasion.
This was a sophomore LP & by cut 5 “Afternoon” the quality improved, the playing more precise & well-recorded. It’s simplistic, not silly. The songs aren’t classics individually as the genre Richman shaped with this repertoire. Still in a quasi-Oriental motif musically the approach was challenging. A nice departure for 1977.
Not everything was memorable or needed to be. JR filled a void few musicians explored while still supporting an earlier rock formula. For some fans of rock music, this set is a stretch but there are little shiny jewels mixed in the sand. Dig.
Highlights – the traditional “South American Folk Song,” & “The Sweeping Wind (Kwa Ti Feng),” with Richman originals — “Roller Coaster By the Sea,” “Summer Morning,” “Egyptian Reggae” & “Afternoon.”
The band – Greg ‘Curly’ Keranen (bass/vocals), Leroy Radcliffe (guitar/vocals) & D. Sharpe (drums/vocals). Photo courtesy of Jonathan Richman. CD @ https://omnivorerecordings.com/shop/rock-n-roll/