Jonathan Richman

REVIEW: Jonathan Richman & The Modern Lovers “Back In Your Life”


Jonathan Richman & The Modern Lovers – Back In Your Life

This 33-minute reissue originally produced by Beserkley Records founder Matthew King Kauffman; Glen Kolotkin & Kenny Laguna (1979) features a few Jonathan Richman staples & closed his tenure with the label.

12-cuts with 4 covers & though it credits the Modern Lovers, they only appear on half the LP. The tunes lean heavily & honestly into faux doo-wop & a smidgen of children’s songs. A Billy Swan cover “Lover Please,” emerges as a Duane Eddy-Lonnie Mack-type instrumental that’s nostalgically interesting.

Back In Your Life (Drops Nov 11–Omnivore) isn’t classic rock by any measure but it’s entertaining. This concept is also not set in the same cement Richman (vocals/guitar) had established himself. I sometimes feel Richman straddled the outer reaches of novelty-oriented Frank Zappa during The Mothers’ daring days that featured Flo & Eddie of The Turtles. But these people were progressive, this isn’t.

“Abdul & Cleopatra,” silly as it sounds is rendered well. It’s close to novelty but doesn’t fall into that trap. Richman tries to go 50s rockabilly with “(She’s Gonna) Respect Me.” But Richman isn’t Robert Gordon. The narrated cum upbeat groove work is fine but it’s basically not quite what classic late doo-wop sounded like (“Remember Then”) on its last legs in 1961.

“Affection,” has good intentions, & doo-wop fluency but thin lead guitar & garage-band rawness. “Back In Your Life,” & “Party In the Woods Tonight,” aren’t the best efforts to capture a genre that was long gone but as children’s music? That might work.


But Richman, who never had a strong vocal is flying on fumes. This doesn’t register as pure R&R or good doo-wop. It actually confirms why doo-wop wasn’t an easy concept if it was done correctly. However, Richman did attempt to add more satire than seriousness. As silly as “I’m Nature’s Mosquito,” is, this is a good children’s tune.

“Emaline,” comes off as a good melodic tune with heartfelt backup vocals. What it needs is a more solid arrangement to flesh out the playing. If “Lydia,” didn’t remind me so much of Groucho Marx’s “Lydia, the Tattooed Lady,” I’d like it more. It’s viable upbeat doo-wop with both good backup vocals & a tasty sax solo. Little else.

This particular album is for fans of Richman or selective, eccentric tastes.

Musicians – On 8 songs: Leroy Radcliffe (guitar/vocals), D. Sharpe (drums/percussion/vocals) & Asa Brebner (bass/vocals). On 4: Skip Duelks (bgv), Don Gladstone (double bass), Kenny Laguna (glockenspiel/bgv), Andy Paley (guitar/bgv) & Steve Tracey (bgv).

Highlights – “Abdul & Cleopatra,” “(She’s Gonna) Respect Me,” “Lover Please,” “I’m Nature’s Mosquito,” & “Emaline.”

Cover art: Linda Dennis & Jonathan Richman. CD @ Amazon &


Leave a Reply!