Music Review: ‘Elliott Murphy’

Elliott Murphy CD

A neat little database program on my Mac called CDPedia keeps track of the music collection that has taken over a big chunk of my life. Among the many things it can tell me is how many albums I have of each artist—a reflection partly of my tastes and partly of the artists’ career longevity. At the top of the heap is Bob Dylan (50 discs), who’s followed by Bruce Springsteen (37), Elliott Murphy (35), Van Morrison (30), the Rolling Stones (29), and the Beatles (25).

I’ll bet I can guess what you’re thinking: Who’s that Elliott guy? Thirty-five albums? Yup, and if those are the questions you’re asking, you’ve got a lot of catching up to do.

His self-titled latest recording, while perhaps not the best place to start, does contain moments that rank with his finest, most notably the infectious opening track, “Poise ‘n Grace.” Somewhat reminiscent of “Pneumonia Alley” (from 2006’s Coming Home Again), it takes off in a burst of rhythm and Murphy’s trademark wordplay and never lets up. I’ve already smiled and foot-tapped my way through it at least two dozen times. Other strong points include several love ballads, among them the melancholy “The Day After You,” “Gone Gone Gone” and the terrific “Take This Devil Out of Me.” Then there’s “With this Ring,” one of the best songs to play at a wedding since Springsteen’s “If I Should Fall Behind”; and the provocative, sometimes haunting “Train Kept a Rolling,”

But there’s a bit of filler here too, at least to my ears. “Rain, Rain, Rain” and “Rock ‘n Roll ‘n Rock ‘n Roll,” for example, may be great rave-ups in live performance, but on record, they don’t do much to showcase the traits that make Murphy so special.

You don’t have to be a completist to want this very good album, which incidentally was well produced by Murphy’s 20-year-old son Gaspard, who also plays on several tracks. But if you’re new to Murphy’s music, a better starting point might be Diamonds by the Yard (an anthology of early work) or such relatively recent outings as Soul Surfing and Alive in Paris.

(originally published in No Depression)

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