A review for The Folk and Acoustic Music Exchange
By C. Robb Worthington
The first major label release of "The Foremen" is simply excellent. Predominantly a string and vocal band with a sharp songwriter, Roy Zimmerman, on board, they have added a fine of array of studio cats to augment their sound.
I usually write about just the strongest tunes on a CD but that's impossible with this one, not a weak tune in the lot. Due to the exceptionally high caliber of satiric lyric on this CD much of my commentary revolves around the attitude of the lyric rather than the musical performance. The performances are very well done throughout. A few off pitch notes have been left in, which I don't mind at all. The production is great, well-recorded guitars, enough but not too much reverb, up front but not too far out front vocals, and much spot-on arranging.
Disclaimer of Bias: Let me just say that I'm a liberal. I might have been hesitant to admit to that in the eighties, calling myself a spineless moderate back then. However, I'm sure that even conservatives will appreciate this CD, those with a sense of humor at least. Is that a contradiction in terms?
NO SHOES-this is the bait on the hook. A brief reminder that there is always someone worse off than yourself.
AIN'T NO LIBERAL-oops can I say that word on the Internet. This is a gospel tune about the "conversion" of a liberal to the one true faith. I want to produce the video for this one, complete with choir and blinding flashes of light from above. Do you remember the church scene from the "Blues Brothers?" Well, just replace all the choir members with angry white males who can't dance.
HELL FROZE OVER TODAY- Is this what they mean when they talk of an alternative universe on Star Trek? What will life be like when it happens? Chances are it will be pure Foremen; no embellishment, beautifully sung, well played, this is great stuff.
DON'T PITY ME- A poignant tune about the contrast between the realities of life for two very different people whose paths cross on the street.
OLLIE OLLIE OFF SCOTT FREE- Oliver North may not be particularly topical any longer but I'm glad they decided to include this one. It's hilarious and like most of the tunes on this album - and a bit of a scary reminder as well.
BUILDING FOR THE FUTURE is like a Simon and Garfunkel style anthem but with a wicked hook. This one refers to the typical solution proposed by the "prosperous few" to the problem of the "restless many," more prisons, but turns it on its head.
PEACE IS OUT-This is the crowning achievement of this album from a production standpoint. My hat is off to producer Andy Paley. The musical flourishes, inserted harmonies, and overall structure so closely match the brilliant lyrics as to be one seamless performance. It evokes a plethora of past musical styles from the relevant era of nehru jackets and "All we need is love" sentiment. This song is an homage to not only the spirit of but also the musical vision of groups as diverse as The Mama's and The Papa's, The Association, and The Beatles. Beautifully executed!
DO THE CLINTON - A wonderful description of the political dance as a ...dance. Sort of a synopsis of the current administration's methodology. I wonder if Nader will be on the Washington State ballot?
SEND EM BACK is xenophobia taken to its logical conclusion. Though I must admit, this country would be healthier if all of us immigrants "went back." But then Europe would be awfully crowded. This one would be funnier if it didn't have such a familiar ring to it.
"The great social adventure of America is no longer the conquest of the wilderness but the absorption of fifty different peoples."-Walter Lippmann
MY CONSERVATIVE GIRLFRIEND- I still laugh every time I hear this send up of the 50's "boyfriend" tunes. I've been party recently to a debate about the nature of feminist music. I'm wondering, is this feminist music?
RUSSIAN LIMBAUGH- It's only fair that they have one to, "a right wing extremist, ultra nationalist, power hungry blowhard." Duma duma duma duma........
FIRING THE SURGEON GENERAL- If the dance analogy doesn't suit you here is another more apropos analogy for the current state of politics in the land of the self indulgent. This tune is self explanatory. It features some fine slide guitar work by Marty Rifkin. Hey Roy, you left one out, what about "Jostle the elder."
EVERY MAN FOR HIMSELF is another tune very reminiscent of Simon and Garfunkel, a perfect choice. It is indeed a "power ballad" for the ditto heads. Look for the this one on the PA at the republican national convention. Was it Reagan that commended Springsteen for the patriotic nature of "Born in the USA"?
In 1968 Bob Dylan released "John Wesley Hardin," Paul Simon's "Mrs. Robinson" was a hit, and I went to my first folk show. A satirical folk duo performed at the local college, as hot a bed of political activism as could be found in Savannah GA in those days. I don't remember the name of the group but I'll never forget the punch line to a musical political joke. They sang "L..Y..N.........D..O..N....................M.O.U.S.E!" to the tune of Mickey Mouse. Now I might have been just ten years old but I knew that Lyndon Johnson had recently announced cessation of our bombardment north of the 20th parallel in Vietnam, he was topical. The reason I mention all this is that listening to The Foremen "Folk Heroes" brought it all flooding back. I remembered what I originally thought folk music was and is. Not that I believe that that is all it is, but as an educational tool for the activation of social consciousness, folk has historically been very important. I take the first major label release of this fine satirical group to be a hopeful sign of the awakening of social and political activism by those very people buried under the "landslide." How did they get this one passed the media monopolists' at Time Warner?
"We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the hateful words and actions of the bad people but for the appalling silence of the good people."-Martin Luther King, Jr.