Jonathan Richman & The Modern Lovers – Jonathan Sings!
This reissue is a 30-minute set that’s a little more serious than some previous Jonathan Richman & the Modern Lovers. But one has to take into consideration that Richman is an entertainer. He see-sawed between the quality of music based on what he was focused on & wished to project.
Produced originally by Peter Bernstein (bassist for The Cretones) with additional production by Josef Marc Jonathan Sings! (Drops Dec. 2–Omnivore Recordings) was created with lots of lovely Richman melodies. “That Summer Feeling,” leads off the 10-cut LP & it’s one of Richman’s best songs.
There’s still a little novelty tint to the song but it’s all in good fun because Jonathan wants his music to resonate with happiness rather than any heavy-handed serious rock & roll explorations or melancholy ballads.
These songs date from 1983 with a new Modern Lovers lineup. Joining Jonathan are Ken Forfia (keyboards), Greg Keranen (bass), Michael Guardabascio (drums), Beth Harrington & Ellie Marshall (backing vocals).
The addition of female vocals provides some interesting vocal moments. “The Neighbors” is a tune that reminds me of the see-saw dialogue during the singing that occurred at times on Shangri-La’s hits back in the 60s.
Though the whole endeavor here is crisper & better focused with songs that could be covered by other artists the melodic flavors are all 60s & each performance has a higher quality sheen. “Those Conga Drums,” is comic but it’s a stretch. Since most baby boomers will hear a familiar melodic novelty line from The Cadets’ 1956 hit single “Stranded In the Jungle.” This is a distant cousin.
While I believe “Stop This Car,” is wholly an original, the roots go back to the 60s as another well-written novelty tune. Probably could’ve stuck in the Steve McQueen film “The Blob,” in 1959. Especially when Steve decided to race another car on the main street – going backward. That’s Jonathan Richman, antics are his salesman’s pitch.
This was the first LP for Jonathan on a new major label (WB). While many songs were still rooted in a pop-light fashion, with a touch of the aforementioned novelty, Richman was stretching his creativity into areas where he could be taken more seriously.
The performances are superb. After all, this was the era of Sha-Na-Na (doo-wop revisionists), The Tubes (“TV Is King”), Deaf School (“What a Way To End It All” “Hi-Jo-Hi”), Stackridge (“The Volunteer” & “Do The Stanley”) & Sailor (“Glass of Champagne”) & such — all pushing the envelope of creative humor in song.
Start here with Jonathan Richman. Highlights: “That Summer Feeling,” “The Neighbors,” ”Somebody To Hold Me,” “Give Paris One More Chance” & “You’re The One For Me.”
Color image by Haydn West/PA. CD @ Amazon & https://omnivorerecordings.com/shop/jonathan-richman-the-modern-lovers-jonathan-sings/