Anton Barbeau: 17th Century Fuzzbox Blues
Anton Barbeau is one of the best unknown pop singer-songwriters in the world, period. If this were 1970, and PopMatters was Creem, and I were Lester Bangs (I know, I know, in a collective sigh and reader rebuttal to me: "Lester Bangs was a friend of mine, and you, Mr. Fufkin, are no Lester Bangs), this review would cause all of you to run down to the local record shop to plunk your $3.99 down on this album. Even though we can't go back in time, and I'm no Bangs, and PopMatters isn't Creem, the reality is that this artist and this CD is creem of the crop pop music that deserves a wider audience, an audience that includes you. I've reviewed Mr. Barbeau in PopMatters before (Anton Barbeau: The Splendid Tray), and I like this release even more than the last one. The stripped down arrangements really worked for me, because it allows the listener to really hear the nuances of Barbeau's performances, all the while allowing the listener to understand the clever, quirky, literate Barbeau lyrics.
"Little Daisy" starts the CD with a rolling, soaring chorus filled with hooks. It is produced by Scott Miller of The Loud Family, a great artist who has worked with Anton before. A rousing opener. "Dig My Pig" is highlighted by Barbeau's high, soft voice with well-placed background vocals. "Six Hours Later" is another trademark Barbeau-sounding track, with the Barbeau voice front and center.
Anybody doubting my focus on Barbeau's vocals needs to listen to the stripped down composition, "Another Stoned Piano", where his vocals soar over the acoustic guitar "...Oh My God, I've been blown open again..." Great. The moment of the album. A close second is the piano and vocal composition, "Who Was the Green Bird? An amazing vocal. Lennonesque. Anton is sometimes in Lennon's vocal neighborhood, and when he is, it'll give any living, breathing person chills.
"My Babe When She Wears a White Wig" chugs along with wah wah guitars and mentions of 12-string guitars with beautiful melodies, and again, vocals. "Theme From Volkswagen" reminds me of a jazzy, late '60s soundtrack to a Peter Sellers movie. And how can you not like a song called "Hope Joy Fear (and too much beer in the dressing room)? The title is right up there with the Godfathers classic "Birth, School, Work...Death". Then, there is "Lara Brushing Her Hair in L.A." which I call a moment song, one of my favorite kinds. Just substitute someone special to you for Lara, and your hometown for L.A., and you'll be in the "moment."
One reviewer colleague of mine gave me her perspective on recordings: "If the vocals don't work for me, I will hate the record". Well, I think that is true with the public at large too. I unabashedly, without reservation, recommend this recording. It has quality songs, performances, production, arrangements and vocals. Anton's got the goods.