R. Stevie Moore bills himself as an improvisor, composer, arranger, producer, comedy writer, and vocal stylist. He's also a songwriter of great character, having honed his style since 1975, during a long period releasing monthly cassettes of his songs and music to a network of devotees. This release accumulates songs from 1975 to 2003, a good representation of Moore's music with a few well known cameos such as Dave Gregory (formerly of XTC) and Kramer. Moore is no hit maker; his songs tend to be low-key and quirky, lacking bombastic highs and instead hitting comfortable grooves with catchy melodies, consistent in their ability to so.
The album presents 23 pieces, mostly songs with some instrumentals. Starting with the very silly "Hug Me," Moore equates himself to a teddy bear, a song you'd almost love to hate, except that it's so damn catchy. Itís followed by follow a song that sounds like it's about to break into XTC's "Making Plans for Nigel," as aided by the aforementioned Gregory, but is instead a strange and complex song about dating. Other song titles give a hint at the breadth of topics that Moore takes on, such as "Holocaust Parade," "Irony" or "Funny Child". Personal favorites include "The Man with the Cigar" about workplace angst and "I'm Looking Over a 4 Leaf Clover," which takes a sort of Fred Lane approach to its somewhat wacky music. Annoyingly clever songs like "Wayne Wayne" (go away) tend to stick in the head well beyond this listener's desire, while "Back in Time" employs well-crafted lyrics and has a great snakey guitar solo. "Pedestrian Hop" shifts in unexpected ways, working its way into a narrative list over guitar comping.
It must be pointed out that many of the songs use really cheesy orchestration, with bland organ parts and banal drum loops. That's a part of the charm, and the focus is on the songs themselves. At that Moore employs a wide variety of approaches to his music making, and ultimately he's a very adaptable musician who clearly loves to write and sing songs. It must also be mentioned that, while most of the tracks are good quality home recordings, they lack big production values or studio punch. If that's what you're looking for then look past this release, but you'll be missing an unusual set of songs from an accomplished songwriter.
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