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on August 30, 2002
Oddly enough, I stumbled upon Marvin Pontiac in January while reading Elmore Leonard's "Tishomingo Blues". In the book, fictional character Robert Taylor plays "guess that tune" with another character in the book. The tune in the novel is "I'm a Doggy" which, according to the novel, purportedly was recorded in 1952 and soon became a minor hit. In the novel, Robert Taylor reports that Mr. Pontiac only recorded one album during his career and only after the producer agreed to mow Pontiac's lawn. Other accounts of Mr. Pontiac life are just as mysterious. Some say he went insane after claiming to have been abducted and probed by aliens and he died in 1970 at the Esmerelda State Mental Institution in Detroit. Other accounts report that he was hit and killed by a bus in June of 1977. All in all, his life and death is probably the biggest sham since the "Paul Is Dead" rumors and clues circulated in the 70's. Careful attention to the liner notes reveals that Pontiac is, in fact nothing more than, the alter ego of John Lurie. Most notably, the lone recording of Pontiac appears on Lurie's label, "Strange & Beautiful" which did not exist in 1952 when Pontiac purportedly recorded and released "I'm A Doggy". Moreover, the CD features musicians that include Lurie's brother Evan, John Medeski and Marc Ribot who would have been infants at the time of the actual 1952 recording. Finally, this CD was recorded in 2000, 30 years after the latest purported death of Pontiac. Are these the vocals of a dead man or just Lurie having a little fun? I suspect it's the latter. Whatever the reason for the deception, the CD itself is delightful to listen to. It features an array of styles from back porch blues to lounge lizard jazz. All complimented with Lurie's Barry White styled vocals. Alter ego's aside, this is a fine production by Lurie. I am just sorry that Lurie buried Pontiac without recording a sequel. Buy it and contemplate the mystery while you enjoy the music.
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on April 14, 2000
I've been a Marvin Pontiac fan since 1967 when I bought my first double-A side single -- "Arms and Legs." Since then I've scrambled to find any official Pontiac releases, but they were few and far between. The sublime "Wanna Wanna" was my wedding song, and I sometimes catch my 18-year-old daughter singing "Bring Me Rocks." To have all these classics -- "I'm a Doggy," "Little Fly," "Sleep At Night," etc. -- on one comprehensive CD saves me years of searching for the singles at record shows. My short stack of 45's wore out long ago.

Over the years I've been lucky enough to see over 500 concerts, everyone from Jimi Hendrix to Miles Davis to Sun Ra to Black Flag to Chuck Berry to Tom Waits to Frank Sinatra to the Plasmatics to everyone in between. Marvin Pontiac is by far the most intense and charismatic performer I've ever seen. Marvin's pretty elusive, so I saw him only once, in 1972 at the Bleeker Street Club (aka Club BS). Everyone was there -- Dylan, Ginsberg, Nixon -- and I made my way up to the stage just before showtime to watch Marvin tune his guitar. When I requested "Pancakes" he stopped tuning, walked over to me with a smile, and knocked me unconscious with his guitar. Thank goodness some wounds never heal.
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on April 5, 2001
I bought this CD entirely because of the implausible biography and tongue-in-cheek quotes attributed to the likes of Flea and Iggy Pop that were on the outside packaging liner of the disc. Was it a joke? A throwaway album at best, I presumed. Imagine my surprise when I found it to be a cucumber-cool collection of imaginative, original songs! Subtle, bluesy rock and quirky, detached vocals evocative of Tom Waits or David Byrne, driven and supported by masterfully engineered electronica- ephemeral, repetitive sound effects and altered vocals. Who is this guy, and why had I never heard of him? Of course, it is none other than John Lurie, frontman of the Lounge Lizards, in a made-up persona replete with Spinal Tap-esque bio. Despite its goofy playfulness, the album makes for demanding listening - I had to go back and listen several times before I was comfortable, but by that time it had already entered my bloodstream and there was no escape from the catchy hooks and mesmerizing mantras. I found myself listening over and over again, particularly to the two best tracks, the jazz groove "Bring Me Rocks" and the hypnotizing "Small Car". This is a worthy album, and a great joke. I only hope Lurie will find it in his divine heart to reincarnate his only begotten son, the Late Marvin Pontiac, for a follow-up album.
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on July 27, 2004
When I was a young boy, sitting on my Granpappy's knee, I would spend lazy afternoons listening to his old croaky humming of a tune long forgotten by anyone else for miles around. He'd smoke his old pipe and I remember breathing in the beautifully scented blue smoke. He would occasionally be stirred out of his reverie as if spirits were in the room; he'd shake his head and snarl and suddenly lurch for the old phonograph, which he kept, right there by the back door woodpile, as if his crooked old life depended on it. He'd reach for the mysterious sleeve of black discs contained within the small box beneath the dormant turntable, wrench one out, crank up the box and drop that needle beautifully onto the spinning disc. Only then would he calm right down and be transported, by that music he heard, to another world.

When I learnt to read, I finally was able to make out the crude and mysterious shapes of the letters on those old 78s. Many of them were different from each other but two words remained the same on each disc: Marvin Pontiac. He was the only singer my Granpappy would listen to.

Now Granpappy was a strict old buzzard and a grouch and in his declining years he was a painful old sod to be around but you could always be guaranteed that when he put on his Pontiac records, Granpappy would calm right down again.

When Granpappy passed from this world he left nothing to no one. Except me. His Marvin Pontiac 78s. Some of the songs I had on those discs haven't made it to this CD collection. Songs like, "Diggin' In Yer Heels", "Pass The Tobacco, Nurse" and "Detroit? Schmetroit!"

Years passed and I eventually lost these 78s to a cab driver who I later discovered cheated during our poker game. Thank God for the re-release of these discs on CD. They have brought my memories back.
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VINE VOICEon July 17, 2000
I'm not sure how many John Lurie fans were fooled by the initial hype surrounding this album, which purported it to be the recording of a musical genius who died in an asylum in the 70's. Lurie's voice is so distinctive that it was obvious that it was him singing, so perhaps Lurie fans were confused at worst. However, the album itself is fabulously entertaining, a total musical pleasure. Since the success of this album, a number of Lurie albums are being re-released, notably his soundtrack to his eccentric Independent Film Channel series "Fishing with John" and some past work with the Lounge Lizards. If you're just coming to John Lurie's work, you couldn't find a better place to start than with Marvin Pontiac, my favorite CD so far this year.
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on June 1, 2003
Yes it's a hoax! There was no such old blues guy as Marvin Pontiac; he is an invention of the strange mind of John Lurie, but that doesn't take away from the fun of this album. As somebody once said, "It's true even if it didn't happen!" This is some great blues and cool music. First song "I'm a Doggy" is great, funny, and worth the price of the CD right there. Not all of the album is as good, but definitely worth a listen.
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on April 15, 2000
If you've ever spent any time persusing the bins of used record stores for old Gems then you'll really appreciate this CD. Listening to it is a similar experience to playing some of those "cutout" albums from unknown performers who often were really really good. I can think of a few of my faves, Orchestra Luna, George Crumb, Eric Salzman (Remember the Nude Paper Sermon!). Anyway....John Lurie and Strangeandbeautiful has really done the listening public a service bringing these relics to the forefront. Pontiacs' distinctive singing voice is sort of a blend of Leon Redbone, Tom Waits, & Edith Piaff in a rather Minnesotan gee by golly Mississippi Southern phrasing. I am not exagerating when I say that I literally swayed and rocked in a mesmerized state all through the CD. It is easy to picture Marvin in his later years with only this music to get him through day to day at the asylum.
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on January 3, 2014
I've been a big fan of Lurie's work over the years, from his music to his art to his acting. When I first heard about this album, I knew I had to track it down. I finally bought the mp3 version through amazon, and loved it. John Lurie apparently created the character of Marvin Pontiac in part as a vehicle to release a vocal album, lacking the confidence to do so under his own name. However, his shyness is unwarranted, as Lurie is as good a vocalist as he is everything else. I am now considering buying the physical copy of this album just to have access to the artwork and booklet that come with it.
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on January 23, 2013
I had bootleg MP3's of these songs several years ago, and was thankful to finally find the CD. But, the illusion is somewhat spoiled once you know that the enigmatic Mr. Pontiac is a complete fiction, and his colorful life never happened. The hoax has been propped up with fake bio websites, and even fake Amazon reviews claiming that "grandpappy had his 78's" and people claiming to see him perform in the 1960's. Sorry, everyone, but this album was recorded by John Lurie in the late 1990's. The music is still good.
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VINE VOICEon May 8, 2000
In case you're confused, don't worry about the genius of Marvin Pontiac, since he doesn't exist. This is not the music of an insane genius, but rather John Lurie, of Lounge Lizards fame. But what does that matter, since this is a good record. Gently absurd songs, most of them rather sweet in nature, with Lurie's deadpan delivery [you can't call it singing] bringing them a touch of irony. Spare, concise arrangments that generate a rather lovely sound. A record that is some nice music, not trying to salve a market or a fan base. A real pleasure, and a unique one.
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