Known for such party classics as Cheeseburger in Paradise and the Parrothead anthem, Margaritaville, singer/songwriter/novelist Jimmy Buffett has put together his first release of new material in five years and his best album since 1986's Floridays.
Every song on the new Fruitcakes is typical Buffett fare. However, Buffett's versions of the Grateful Dead's Uncle John's Band, the Kinks' Sunny Afternoon and Hank Cochran's She's Got You go over surprisingly well.
Six-String Music _ a country ballad _ is perhaps the best song on the CD and is very reminiscent of much of the work Buffett put out in the 1974 releases, Living and Dying in 3/4 Time and A-1-A. Like many of country music's great singer/songwriters (Hank Williams Sr. comes to mind), Buffett's voice gives the feeling that he sings what he feels. His voice sounds pained, yet wise to the world, and hasn't sounded this good since A Pirate Looks At Forty.
Ever since his release of A Ever since his release of A White Sportcoat And A Pink Crustacean in 1973, Jimmy Buffett has been looked upon as country music's outcast. He was the first person to bring Caribbean rhythms to Nashville and has consistently managed to offend just about everyone with such songs as Why Don't We Get Drunk (and S__) and My Head Hurts, My Feet Stink and I Don't Love Jesus.
Similarly, Fruitcakes is not without this dark side of Buffett. Songs like Vampires, Mummies and the Holy Ghost and Fruitcakes find Buffett criticizing MTV, movie theaters, TV preachers and a host of other things he finds reason to comment upon.
Humor in music is rare, especially when it is done so well. Catchy rhythms, solid harmonies and acoustic guitars make his lyrics all the more humorous. "Half-baked cookies in the oven/Half-baked people on the bus/There's a little bit of fruitcake left in every one of us" is evidence that the Parrothead madness is still as amusingly funny as it ever was.
As in most success stories, the people who find success never expected to, and Jimmy Buffett is no exception. He never wanted to be a star, as evidenced in the lines from Quietly Making Noise: "I don't want to be a victim of fashion/I don't want to see my name in the paper each day."
But Buffett has not forgotten his roots and the people who made him the shining star of South Florida. In the song Everybody's Got a Cousin in Miami, Buffett pays tribute to the city that brought him fame and fortune by singing "I am umbilically connected to the temperate zone/It brought me life/It brought me love/I have never outgrown."
Buffett has not had a hit song since 1977's Margaritaville, yet his accomplishments outside of music make him one of popular music's greatest talents. He has written two best-selling novels, Tales From Margaritaville and Where is Joe Merchant, is consistently one of the summer's hottest touring acts and, with the release of Fruitcakes, looks to surge once again to the top of the music charts.
His songs, sometimes brilliant and other times just plain hokey, are taken from his past experiences as a sailor, smuggler, journalist and, most important, a calypso poet. Though Fruitcakes may not be his best record, it is a reminder to the Parrothead clan that Jimmy Buffett is an American icon that is to be relished like the last beer in the fridge on a hot summer day.
Jimmy Buffett: Fruitcakes (MCA Nashville)