Mr. Hollywood, Jr. 1947

Mr. Hollywood, Jr. 1947

by Michael Penn
     
 

Concept albums are only as good as the concepts that drive them, and the unifying factor in this latest album by veteran songsmith Michael Penn -- the changes affecting America in one post–World War II year -- is certainly an intriguing one. And even though he's exploring a universe that he never inhabited himself, Penn does a mighty fine job of setting the… See more details below

Overview

Concept albums are only as good as the concepts that drive them, and the unifying factor in this latest album by veteran songsmith Michael Penn -- the changes affecting America in one post–World War II year -- is certainly an intriguing one. And even though he's exploring a universe that he never inhabited himself, Penn does a mighty fine job of setting the way-back machine for 1947 and re-creating the period in all its rich detail. Kicking off with the returning soldier's lament "Walter Reed" -- which finds the protagonist detailing his bewilderment at being back in the "real world" over a shuffling, elegiac backing -- Mister Hollywood, Jr. 1947 introduces a series of uniformly compelling characters and tells their tales succinctly before letting them take their bows. Most are wistful and a little unsure of themselves, as on the piano-driven ballad "Denton Road," but others have a surfeit of spunk, like the Raymond Chandler–styled character Penn channels on the punchy "Room 715, The Apache." Penn's always had a knack for crafting melodies that cry out for a sing-along, and he puts that to good use on tracks like "On Automatic," which resonates with a blithe jangle reminiscent of vintage Jimmy Webb. With the exception of a few instrumental interludes -- like the crackly "Television Waltz" -- Mister Hollywood, Jr. 1947 isn't an attempt to render a note-for-note soundtrack of the era it explores. That helps make it all the more accessible for those with minds intrigued by the mid-20th century and ears attuned to the 21st.

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Editorial Reviews

All Music Guide - James Christopher Monger
It's been five years since Michael Penn delivered MP4: Days Since a Lost Time Accident, a complex yet radio-ready ode to the passing millennium that put the nail in the coffin of his tempestuous relationship with major labels. Epic's support for the record was mediocre at best, so Penn took the logical next step and started his own imprint, Mimeograph. The resulting Mr. Hollywood Jr. 1947, released via spinART, is a loosely constructed song cycle concerning post-World War II Los Angeles. Like fellow singer/songwriter (and Penn's wife) Aimee Mann, who released her own conceptual record earlier in the year (The Forgotten Arm), Penn forgoes the traditional narrative and sticks to what he does best, writing biting and beautiful songs about relationships that are failing, have failed, or are suspiciously working. He lets the year's historical events (the invention of the portable radio, the establishment of the national Department of Defense, a plague of UFO sightings, etc.) wrap his characters in the kind of sepia-tone strokes of nostalgic Hollywood gossamer that would make both Frank Capra and Tom Waits proud. In fact, Penn's slick Tin Pan Alley mini-orchestra (due largely in part to frequent collaborator Patrick Warren's orchestral samples) resembles Rain Dogs-era Waits had he brought Jon Brion on board to produce. When it works, like on the rousing, sentimental opener "Walter Reed," "On Automatic," and "Mary Lynn," Penn knocks the ball into the bleachers, but there's an overflow of midtempo pieces about halfway through that brings the record to a standstill. While songs like "A Bad Sign" and "You Know How" are textbook Penn, they suck the air out of the room, leaving the listener feeling like a winded old police chief who let the bad guys get away. Penn's lyrical spirit of adventure is mirrored by the album's production rather than the songs themselves, a disappointment for fans of past works like "Cover Up," "Drained," "Footdown," and "Battle Room." Mr. Hollywood Jr. 1947 is by no means a bad record; in fact, half of it is better than previous offerings altogether. That Penn is better than some of these songs only reflects the high standards he continues to set for both himself and his very patient fans. Let's hope that another five years doesn't go by before he raises the bar again. [Mr. Hollywood Jr. 1947 was reissued in 2007 with a bonus disc that featured six tracks recorded live at KCRW, as well as the video for the album's single "Walter Reed."].

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Product Details

Release Date:
08/02/2005
Label:
Spin Art
UPC:
0750078016327
catalogNumber:
163

Tracks

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Album Credits

Performance Credits

Michael Penn   Primary Artist,Dulcimer,Bass,Guitar,Percussion,Piano,Keyboards,Hammond Organ,Vocals,Brass,Mellotron,chamberlain,Hand Clapping,Wurlitzer,Foot Stomping
Aimee Mann   Bass,Vocals,Hand Clapping,Foot Stomping
Michael Bland   Drums
Julian Coryell   Guitar,Slide Guitar
Danny Frankel   Drums
Buddy Judge   Vocals,Hand Clapping,Foot Stomping,Vocal Harmony
Gary Louris   Vocal Harmony
Patrick Warren   Piano,Brass,fender rhodes,Pianette
Jebin Bruni   Piano,Pianette
Dave Palmer   Piano
Sheldon Gomberg   Upright Bass
Justin Rocherolle   Drums

Technical Credits

Michael Penn   Composer,Sound Effects,Producer
John Fields   Engineer
Bruce MacFarlane   Engineer

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