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Action Packed: The Best Of Jonathan Richman

4.6 out of 5 stars 9 customer reviews

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Audio CD, February 5, 2002
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$14.99 & FREE Shipping on orders over $35. Details Only 5 left in stock (more on the way). Ships from and sold by Amazon.com. Gift-wrap available.

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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Jonathan stripped away the garage trappings of his Modern Lovers days and presented his endearingly innocent songs in stripped-down settings during his '80s/'90s Rounder years. Stomp your foot along with his as he sings Action Packed; Everyday Clothes; Fender Stratocaster; Closer; Reno; The Neighbors; When I Say Wife; Parties in the U.S.A. , and 14 more charmers!

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When the mid-'70s Jonathan Richman traded the "snotty," Velvet Underground-tinged sensibility of the original Modern Loves for a strummed, twangy electric style and an even lighter percussion sound, he didn't give up his convictions. The 22 cuts here, drawn from Rounder releases from the '80s and '90s, are as joyful and unironic as anything cut during those years. He explicitly acknowledges his roots in the innocent '60s on "Parties in the U.S.A.," both lyrically and in its borrowed "Hang On Sloopy" riff, and he reaches back to the Collins Kids' rockabilly nugget for this collection's title track. Richman celebrates urban delights ("I Was Dancing in the Lesbian Bar," "Cappuccino Bar," "Vampire Girl"), but these tunes find him digging ranches ("Circle I") and island jaunts (an expansion of "Bermuda" includes a pointed jab at the old Lovers' "She Cracked"). Openheartedly, he even cut a whole album in Nashville (well, Springfield, Missouri) style and a long-player in Spanish. Finally, "She Doesn't Laugh at My Jokes" sounds like the product of a much less damaged Brian Wilson circa The Beach Boys Love You. --Rickey Wright
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Product Details

  • Audio CD (February 5, 2002)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Rounder
  • ASIN: B00005Y1ZJ
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #209,466 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Audio CD
Jonathan writes rock and roll songs. They could have been written in the 1950s or 1960s, but there's also a sense of timelessness about them. Like Ray Davies, Jonathan doesn't write about Big Subjects. He writes about everyday clothes, cappucino bars, love, and occasionally Bermuda or Vampire Girls for fun. And like Ray Davies, his focus on the everyday, combined with his big heart, makes him one of the best rock songwriters ever.
This is a grand collection of the music he did for Rounder Records. Jonathan sharpened his focus and honed his craft during his time on Rounder, and this terrific selection of songs shows that. Most of the music here is Jonathan as a solo artist ("believe me, it's better that way") putting his heart out there, as open as the sky and beautiful as the moon. The material ranges from the rockin' (Parties in the USA, Dancing In The Lesbian Bar, Fender Stratocaster) to 50s-style country (Reno, The Neighbors) to wistful balladry (The Girl Stands Up To Me Now, You Must Ask The Heart). Every song on here is a gem waiting to be discovered.
There's not much any reviewer can say that can match the songs themselves. Jonathan's interviewers and attempted biographers all find a guy who hasn't got much to say about his life or his music. That's because his life is his music, and his music tells you all you need to know about Jonathan. His music is clear and honest and speaks from the heart, and in the final analysis, that's exactly what music is supposed to do. To Jonathan's credit, that's what he's done since the Modern Lovers days, and that's what he says he'll do "until it stops being fun." Let's hope it stays fun for a long, long time.
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As the liner notes state (which by the way are a great addition to the package) favorite songs are going to be left off.
It seems they went heavier on the Richman albums that aren't as popular and rather skim on the classic discs. Why do we get four cuts from the mediocre "Having A Party" and only two from the his much agreed upon masterpiece "I,Jonathan"? Why four from the OK "You Must Ask the Heart" and only two from the great "Modern Lover's 88".
It's a good disc because simply it's Jonathan and it's a good sampling of a phase of Jonathan's life. Keep in my mind this isn't an introduction to Jonathan's music, just a snapshot of a particular time. This is a good album to have if you can't afford the albums the songs individually came off of. You are missing out on some classics by doing that however (When Harpo played his Harp,That Summer Feeling). I suppose you are getting treated to some classics too (New Kind of Neighborhood,Parties in the USA). My only complaint with this is the complaint I have with all "best of.." collections is that it never is the best of and often times it can be the worst if. (I really think Reno is a terrible song).
Four Stars for the music, Three for the idea.
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This 22-track collection could have featured some of Jonathan's forays into instrumentals ("Blue Moon," "Grunion Run") or spoken-word pieces ("1963," "Twilight in Boston"). There, I'm done quibbling... What this disc lacks in variety, it compensates by showcasing Richman's strengths as a songwriter. His songs from this period (1988-95, on the folk-based indie label Rounder) generally revolve around relationships ("You Must Ask the Heart"), music ("Fender Stratocaster"), dancing/partying ("I Was Dancing in the Lesbian Bar," "Parties in the U.S.A."), rural joys ("Circle I"), urban delights ("Reno"), and the minutiae of daily life ("Everyday Clothes"). The simple rock 'n' roll arrangements place Jonathan's often humorous lyrics front and center. Action Packed is a solid introduction to Richman's post-Modern Lovers career. Fringe Benefit: The liner notes include Jonathan's charming third-person account of his "First Twenty Years in Show Business."
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Format: Audio CD
I've followed Johnathan Richman's career sporadically over the years, and I'm usually fairly impressed by his albums. In fact, his 2001 "Her Mystery Not of High Heels and Eyeshadow" was one of the best releases of the year. But, listening to "Action Packed", hearing many of Johnathan's best songs together on one disc has really made a case for him as one of the most astute cartographers of the human heart. These, like the best love songs, are less about the objects of the singers affection than about the singer *himself*, and the very nature of love *itself*. Whether he's singing about women, guitars, or both, Richman captures like few other songwriters, the intricacies of the human experience.
Sure, many will never forgive him for abandoning the thin, dark, minimalist punk he invented with The Modern Lovers LP. Still others will dismiss him as a cheerier Lou Reed, but listen to this disc, and I think you'll find Richman to be very much an original and gifted songwriter and a dazzlingly expressive singer. My only real gripe is the bizarre inclusion of "Monolouge about Bermuda", which is tolerable once, but needs to be skipped thereafter. And how could they leave out the great "Our Swingin' Pad"???
Still, good stuff!
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