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CD Review

 

Paul Williams - Someday Man
Collector's Choice Music
        For those of you who are only aware of Paul Williams through the diminutive one's smarmy appearances on talk shows of the '70's (he was a fixture on the couches of Merv Griffin and Mike Douglas during the heyday of the daytime talk show) and his acting work in such "quality" vehicles as The Muppet Movie, The Love Boat and Fantasy Island will be surprised that the little guy was actually a talented and oft-covered songwriter. 
        He managed to write a bunch of hits by the mid-'70's (the song "Evergreen" sung by Barbara Streisand and "Rainbow Connection" from the Muppet Movie being the most recognizable, though "Rainy Days and Mondays" was quite popular as well) but towards the end of his career seemed more famous for just being famous than anything else he ever accomplished. It was kind of sad in a way, as though his music was never my cup of tea as a kid, he did manage to carve out a solid niche for himself as a sort of throwback to the Brill Building style of songwriting while simultaneously setting the precedent for the kind of hitmeisters people like Desmond Child and Diane Warren would later become. By the time the '80's rolled around, the advent of new wave and other changes in pop mkusic rendered Williams obsolete. He did pretty much own the '70's, though.
        After a tenure in the soft-pop/folk band Holy Mackeral (the band recorded a lone album in 1970) along with his brother, Williams eventually struck out on his own and recorded this album of lite pop songs. Though not a big seller, flashes of brilliance and clues to his later successes are much in evidence on this disc. An interesting note is Williams was not allowed by his label to write melodies for the songs on this album, only lyrics. The melodies were composed by the album's producer Roger Nichols, who kept Williams reined in. That Williams would later see a huge amount of fame moreso for his melodies than his lyrics (which are often trite) makes this album even more of a curiosity as he would rarely ever work with a co-writer again.
        Williams as a vocalist leaves a lot to be desired (Williams voice is often thin and shows a poor range) but the songs are slight and catchy enough to allow them to be pleasing on the surface, though not really memorable for the most part. As a first solo effort, it's really not that bad but it never really found an audience when it was first released and there were no hits pulled from the album. Besides, as good as Williams later became as a songwriter, an album by Williams is not where you're going to get the best renditions of his songs. He was best as a writer for others but, as a decent songwriter, was given a record deal as a sort of vanity device to keep him happy. Labels often underwrote such projects as it was common in those days for labels to keep a portion of songwriting publishing. Songwriters used these deals to get a budget for their songs to be professionally recorded and these albums ended up serving as well produced demos for other artists to get songs, for the most part. If a songwriter scored a hit, it was seen as a bonus but not expected.
        Fans of folk rock and lite AM pop will love this album. While not as strong as his later efforts, there are plenty of decent songs here that give a clear signal as to what a formidable songwriter Williams would later become. As a Sunday morning album, it is good enough, though not great. His better work was yet to come but this is a very interesting disc and a rare look at Williams' genesis as a songwriter. - Scott Homewood


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