#392: The EP Collection
Marshall Crenshaw is one of the more underrated singer-songwriter types from the 1980s. Though he had one undeniable smash hit, the 1982 single “Someday, Someway,” his career has been relatively low-key, though not for wont of quality songs; he’s quietly released some excellent albums, while developing a respectable profession as a studio man for artists as diverse as Bette Midler to Kirsty MacColl and The Gin Blossoms. In 2012, he launched a rather unique project: a series of three-song ten-inch records. The formula was simple; a new song, a cover song, and a remake of a classic Marshall Crenshaw number. It’s an interesting manner of operating, offering three aspects of a songwriter’s being: who inspired them, what they’ve accomplished in the past, and what they’re doing now.
Three years and six EP’s later, Crenshaw has collected the majority of the songs onto #392: The EP Collection, and it’s a delightful pairing from a master songwriter. Eschewing the remakes of his old songs, this collection presents his new originals and his cover versions. Though one might like to hear updated versions of his classic numbers, ultimately the decision to leave them off was wise; they would have bogged down the set with a little too much nostalgia. Besides, it would be unfair to make Crenshaw’s new material compete with songs that have been loved for decades.
For the most part, the six new songs offered here are strong, singer-songwriter fare. Crenshaw’s a master storyteller, and his tales of heartbreak, romance, and all points in between ring true in only the way a veteran troubadour can make them. Sonically, they’re relatively mid-tempo rockers; “Move On” and “Red Wine” are reminiscent of New Miserable Experience-era Gin Blossoms. The only number to fall a bit flat is “I Don’t See You Laughing Now,” a good song, to be sure, but it meanders about two minutes too long.
As his music has always been inspired by the 1960s, it isn’t surprising that most of the covers hail from that decade. Covers of The Easybeats’ “Made My Bed, Gonna Lie In It” and Bobby Fuller’s “Never To Be Forgotten” are rockers that definitely hearken back to Crenshaw’s power-pop style, while his take on The Lovin’ Spoonful’s “Didn’t Want To Have To Do It” and The Move’s “No Time” are gentle ballads. The biggest delight, though, is his take on Burt Bacharach’s “(They Long To Be) Close To You.” His arrangement is true to the well-known version by The Carpenters, but adds a horn section, and their jazzy take extends the song and makes it even more dream-like. Additionally, a bonus song has been added to the collection, a live take on The Everly Brothers’ “Man With Money,” recorded shortly after the death of brother Phil.
#392: The EP Collection is an enjoyable selections from an old master, and considering the low-key nature of the original EP series, this collection serves its creator quite well, as it highlights the talent of a superb singer-songwriter.