Keeping in the seventies, we take a look at the king of the laid-back attitude Jimmy Buffett and his stellar 1974 release, A-1-A.
A-1-A marked a continuation of Buffett's "Key West Phase", moving more towards the sound that we all know and love him for nearly fifty years on, sometimes coined as 'gulf and western'. Despite this, there's some typical tropes of country music that can be found on A-1-A and it can be argued in reality that it's a record that bridges the gap between country and the island sound Buffett is synonymous with.
Makin' Music For Money is a fantastic rocking opener, featuring a steady beat, substantiated by some great backing vocals and distorted guitar riff. It's typical of Buffett's early work in reality, similar to songs found on 1973's A White Sport Coat and a Pink Crustacean. The harmonica coming courtesy of Greg 'Fingers' Taylor also gives the opening track a brilliant edge. Door Number Three is a little bit more of a country song, with its sudden piano inclusions and light acoustic guitar in the background; melodically, it's rather similar to one of Buffett's best-loved compositions Why Don't We Get Drunk (And Screw) and refers to popular American game show Let's Make A Deal. It's one of the best tracks on the record bar none, with a little bit of a novelty element giving something a little different.
Stories We Could Tell is a little slower than its predecessors and a song that Buffett still plays occasionally live these days. There's this brilliant air of sentimentality about it, with a conversational vocal echoing the times when you'd sit around with people that mean the most to you, discussing stories and all those little things together. It certainly brings a smile to my face. Life Is Just A Tire Swing seems a little autobiographical, talking about Buffett's childhood and growing up with cousins, aunts and uncles, enjoying his time with those around him. Despite its upbeat nature, there's this underlying sadness that is exemplified by the last line: "But I finally learned a lot about pain.". Regardless, it's a fantastic song that deserves a lot more attention.
As well as this, one of Buffett's more well-known songs, A Pirate Looks At Forty, can also be found on this 1974 release. It's four minutes of regret and discussion of the idea that someone middle-aged looks back on their life, reminiscing about all the times they've wasted and all the opportunities they've missed. There's an overriding aura of deep sadness that Buffett captures perfectly, especially performed live, with just him and an acoustic guitar. Migration is a lot more upbeat, returning to the Key West influences found at the start of A-1-A, sounding rather similar to Cuban Crime Of Passion in one respect. It's jaunty and joyful, with a brilliant swagger.
Nautical Wheelers is a particular highlight, referring to those people at sea who land in port and head to bars, only to end up coming back to this idea that they're happy to end up "livin' and dyin' in three-quarter time". This is an especially poignant reference, as Nautical Wheelers is written in 3/4 time and the name of Buffett's previous release to A-1-A was Living and Dying in 3/4 Time. Tin Cup Chalice is a brilliant closing track, discussing the idea of spending time at the beach possibly, spending time with some red wine, wasting away. It's brilliant live and can usually be found as a solo acoustic arrangement at the end of Buffett's set.
Overall, A-1-A is a great gateway into one of the last century's best singer-songwriters and a great pioneer of island escapism lifestyle. It captures Buffett on top form and if you want an amazing introduction to his music, look no further than this.
If you want to pick up a copy, I’ll leave an Amazon link here: https://amzn.to/3hKQixS
Or, if you’d prefer, here’s a Spotify link:
More musical magnificence to come next week!
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