August 18, 1993
Moon Martin, Cement Monkey (Core 1993) -- Here's an excellent reason to keep an open mind when you visit the record store. I thought Moon Martin had folded up shop long ago and got a day job. After all, the last release I'd seen from Moon dated around 1982. Imagine my very pleasant surprise when I discovered the new EP-length Cement Monkey.
Moon's first album, Shots From a Cold Nightmare (Capitol 1978) has rightfully achieved its place as a cult classic. Not yet available on CD (although Moon says a Capitol reissue is likely), it contains the classic songs "Cadillac Walk" and "Bad Case of Loving You" (later made into a smash hit by Robert Palmer).
On Cement Monkey, Moon shows that he still has "his sound". It's pop/rock, with strong vocals and compressed recording techniques. Plus, Moon knows how to write a catchy riff. Hearing is believing.
I spoke with Moon at some length, and he gives the following report on life as a semi-expatriate artist extraordinaire.
Moon now lives in Tom Petty's old house in Los Angeles, where he has built a home recording studio and spends most of his time when not touring overseas. Moon has given some thought to moving to Austin or Memphis (so as to build a bigger place and avoid LA's restrictive zoning laws), but his plans remain in flux.
Moon says that his early albums caught on quickly in France, Germany, and Holland, and he started touring heavily in Europe. In fact, in the late 70's and the early 80's, Moon was Capitol's biggest selling act in Europe.
Moon moved to LA, and started hanging out with the Linda Ronstadt crowd. However, Moon never built much of a following in the United States (for reasons unknown), and after four fine LPs for Capitol, he left the label.
Moon says he has a real big following in France, and just returned from a ten-week European tour. In fact, four European tours are scheduled for this year. Moon does not speak French, so all his shows are in English. When he appears on French TV, he uses a interpreter. Moon is also preparing a live recording for FNAC, a French label, that will be released later this year. Moon says a U.S. tour will be staged either this fall or in 1994.
Moon has strong but justified words for American record labels. According to Moon, American labels just want to sell lots and lots of records; they have little respect for artistic integrity, and refuse to accept modest (but steady) sales, as is permitted by record companies in other countries.
Moon's right. Every group doesn't have to be the next Wilson Phillips. Hell, even Wilson Phillips doesn't have to be Wilson Phillips -- no one needs all that extra baggage.
Moon acknowledges that the French press has a tendency to over-intellectualize matters (I mentioned the French notion that the Three Stooges really represent the id, the ego, and the superego), but prefers them to the English press (too flighty) and the American press (too cynical).
Moon reports that in France, a rootsy, atmospheric sound is the rave, while in Germany he says all the rockers are "headbangers" into heavy metal. In his spare time, Moon reads and fishes. In fact, one of his main dislikes of LA is that there are no lakes. Moon doesn't listen to a lot of contemporary music (he says that after being in the studio all day, he's tired), but mentions numerous authors as influences, including Raymond Chandler, James Crumley, James Lee Burke, Capote, Dickens, Balzac, and William Styron.
Moon's his own man, and says he's happy. When asked "What its all about?", Moon replies "Making records, and getting some feedback. Fame is nice, but artistic freedom has greater rewards." Moon recalls meeting with a Nashville songwriter who said Moon's songs would never sell because they have "too much for personality." If this kind of songwriting is wrong, Moon prefers to be wrong.
Moon comes across as likeable, earnest chap. He is not rich or famous in the United States, but has become an icon in Europe. Moon makes music for a living, and takes satisfaction in his performances (both live and in the studio). He has always been a damn fine songwriter, and deserves greater attention in the States. Go get a copy of Concrete Monkey. Support an artist who cares more about his work more than about fame.
Sons of the San Joaquin, Songs of the Silver Screen (Warner Western 1993) -- Local trio Sons of the San Joaquin pay a hearty tribute to the original Sons of the Pioneers on this collection of songs from cowboy movies. The production seems technically sound, although this kind of hardcore western/cowboy music is not really my bag.
But be forewarned! This disk is only 28 minutes long. And it still costs full list price. That's ridiculous. This disk should be sold at a mid-market price. Anything over $10 is too much.
Jennifer Warnes, "Cold Enough To Snow" (Hollywood 1993) -- Jennifer Warnes' new single appears on the soundtrack to Life With Mikey. I didn't see the movie, and most of the soundtrack has a fakey TV sitcom feel to it (which I think was the purpose, thereby making the album a success in some perverse way).
But the single is great. People ask where all the contemporary female vocalists have gone. She never left. Jennifer is enormously gifted, with a huge, expressive voice and an exquisite sense of timing. If you need proof, get her wonderful 1986 collection, Famous Blue Raincoat (every cut's a winner, especially "Came So Far For Beauty," about a priest who examines his decision to join the clergy).
I wouldn't spend $16 just to hear "Cold Enough To Snow." But I'd think about it. Jennifer's waiting for you. Answer her. Call the radio station (your choice) and tell them to play this song. Make it a hit.
-- Randy Krbechek
Copyright (c) Randy Krbechek
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