Contrary to what the conventional hype would have us believe in this red-hot, media-dominated world (making even David Cronenberg’s Videodrome seem staid and retro) — and despite the pressure to crown each new work a masterpiece, the best, a tour de force — each effort is in fact just another note, a few more strokes of the brush, one more page in the ongoing, overall work that is the artist’s life.
Which brings us to where Part 1 left off: with the March release of Coming Home Again, Elliott Murphy’s 29th album in 34 years. Like many of Murphy’s albums, the new one’s gifts are many; but, like a miserly old dowager (a Brooklyn dowager, even), the album doesn’t give up its treasures freely. With each listening, however, the songs reveal more of themselves, slowly and steadfastly finding their way into your head and your heart.
Lots of good songs here. Right now my favorite is the opener, “Pneumonia Alley.” That guitar line, that hook — the song, so passionate that it’s muscular, so tender it hurts, reaches out and grabs you by the collar and won’t let go as delivers a deep kiss. “As Good As” presents Murphy at his wordplaying best, referencing James Brown, Mount Kilimanjaro and Hemingway’s frozen leopard in the snow, and even Paris Hilton, while still managing to wax poetic (“I saw the continuous coexistence of heaven and hell”) and confessing that he thinks Jewel is “kinda cool.” Other favorites include “Johnny Boy Gone,” the lovely, loping “A Touch of Kindness” and the stark but beautiful “Making Friends with the Dead.” And I want to hear Lucinda Williams or the Rolling Stones (how about Lucinda Williams and the Stones?) cover the countryish “Losing It.”
Check back with me in a few months or, especially, a few years, when I know all these songs by heart and understand them in the correct context of the albums that came before and after Coming Home Again. Then I’ll tell you what I really think.