Despite its title, this isn’t Marshall Crenshaw’s 447th album. In fact, it’s only his tenth, and his first studio project in three years. But Number 447 finds Crenshaw continuing to refine the masterful pop songwriting that made his 1982 self-titled debut so memorable.
Since the first cut — “There She Goes Again” — of that first album, Crenshaw has tended toward melancholy vocal lines. There’s a desperate catch in his voice as he sees a former girlfriend run off with a “Dime A Dozen Guy”, and a palpable sense of dread as he attempts to confront a cheating lover on “Tell Me All About It”. But he kisses her off in “Glad Goodbye” and luckily finds love on “Right There In Front Of Me” and “T.M.D.” (an abbreviation for “Truly, Madly, Deeply”).
Sonically, the new disc is miles from Crenshaw’s debut, which producer Richard Gottehrer polished to a gleaming, compressed sheen. Where chiming 12-strings and dense harmonies used to rule, acoustic guitars, lap steel and fiddles now predominate. And there are a few unusual touches, such as the synth strings on “T.M.D.”
In addition to his carefully crafted pop melodies, Crenshaw seems to have stumbled upon a new creative outlet, penning three jazzy instrumentals that play like soundtracks for movies yet to be filmed. He trades lightly swinging guitar licks with electric pianist David Sancious on “Eydie’s Tune” and “You Said What??” (both of which were used in a TV documentary about Yogi Berra), and unleashes some Wes Montgomery-inspired octave riffing on the languid “West Of Bald Knob”.
One song, “Ready Right Now”, isn’t quite as solid as the others, and I have no idea what to make of the 49-second “Opening Theme”, an R&B stomp interrupted by jarring lurches that sound like the CD is skipping. But overall, Number 447 is a welcome return from this gifted pop tunesmith.