Music Review of SONGS
by David Bowling
"While this is Jack Tempchin’s sixth studio album, he is best remembered as a songwriter. “Peaceful Easy Feeling” and “Already Gone” by the Eagles; “You Belong To The City,” “Smuggler’s Blues” and “I Found Somebody” by Glenn Frey; “Slow Dancing” by Johnny Rivers; and many other quality songs have all sprung from the fertile mind of Jack Tempchin...
SONGS is his latest studio album and consists of new tunes plus a 'cover' of his own “Smuggler’s Blues.” Tempchin has a unique lower register voice that serves him well. Here he brings it to a new series of catchy, well structured songs which are lyrically excellent.
“Out In The Desert” is a superb song in the country/rock tradition. It features a harmonica, thumping bass, and some up-tempo guitar playing which all bring life to its catchy song structure. This is a song that was made for adult contemporary airplay as the melody stays with you.
“Something In The Image” is a love song of yearning that communicates through lyrical imagery. Tempchin wisely adds some background vocals which fills out the sound and pushes this song over the top.
“Waiting” is full throttle rock ‘n’ roll with crashing guitars and pounding drums. At times he pushes his voice toward a higher octave which allows him to sail above the instrumental track.
“It Could Have Been You and Me” is almost a saloon type song. A nice piano sound pushes the song along with some accordion in the background. It is a mid-tempo creation that just smoothly rolls along.
“Box Of Memories” is a poignant country/folk ballad with a viola as a support instrument. It features sensitive lyrics of someone watching another person looking through a box of love letters.
“East Of Eden” is a tune that almost begs for the harmonies of the Eagles. It contains beautiful lyrics with a simple structure that reminds me of “Peaceful Easy Feeling,” which is a good thing. (Also recently recorded by folk legend Tom Rush)
“Couch Rider” is a funny song with ominous country/cowboy music. It talks about living vicariously through your television set. It is certainly meaningful to all the couch potatoes out there.
SONGS is an album of well crafted compositions presented by a talented songwriter who hopefully will receive some personal exposure as an artist. No doubt many of these songs will end up being covered by other artists. All in all, a very listenable album but it always comes back to the quality of the songs themselves."
SAN DIEGO TROUBADOUR
Music review of SONGS
Written by Mike Alvarez
When an artist simply titles his album Songs, one can infer that he is either a) unimaginative or b) so comfortable with his own work that he feels it to be sufficiently descriptive. In the case of Jack Tempchin, the latter is probably the case. He is best known for his collaborations with the Eagles, having written two of their biggest hits ("Already Gone" and "Peaceful, Easy Feeling"). He shifts between styles easily, giving his songs an identifiable sound and feel that is uniquely his.
"Out in the Desert" opens the album with a relentless Johnny Cash-like rhythm that chugs along like a runaway train. The lyrics, which paint pictures of life in an American desert, are delivered with an appropriately dry and dusty vocal. The rhythms and chords vary little throughout, but the song remains interesting due to an evolving arrangement that has harmonica and backup singers appearing at various points. He continues to explore the beauty of simplicity with "Something in the Image," a song that features a haunting minor key melody over a repetitive two-chord motif, driven by steady drums and percussion.
Things take an exciting turn with "Waiting," a heavy rocking number with a drum intro similar to Led Zeppelin's "Rock and Roll." The song itself is Neil Young-like in its intensity and rawness. In fact, there are times when Tempchin's voice takes on a little of Young's unique delivery and nasal whine. A very abrupt change of pace occurs with "It Could Have Been You and Me," an old time jazz/pop song, complete with fiddle, accordion, and harmonica. A bit of French dialogue puts the listener squarely at a sidewalk cafe in Paris. "Ghost in the Night" makes interesting use of a vocalist as a part of the rhythm section. However, in all honesty, I found this to be a by-the-numbers Latin tune with a rather predictable chord progression and melody. I would consider it a small misstep in a very strong collection of songs.
"Box of Memories" is a melancholy story-song in the tradition of Harry Chapin that is noteworthy for the appearance of legendary viola virtuoso Novi Novog. Her clean and warm lines perfectly punctuate the bittersweet mood. Dusted off from the "Miami Vice" soundtrack, the '80s Glenn Frey hit "Smugglers Blues" is included as well. This time it's given a less polished interpretation. Its rawer and heavier sound more effectively conveys the menace in the words.
The next two songs return to the Americana style for which Tempchin is probably best known. "East of Eden" could have been an Eagles' song, as its feel is similar to that of "Peaceful, Easy Feeling." Its lightly strummed chords, soft country rhythms, and smooth harmony vocals unabashedly create that same tone. "All the Love" is a soft acoustic ballad that Eric Clapton might have written in one of his mellower, reflective periods. The arrangement is delicate and subtle, lulling the listener into a contemplative state in time for...
...The Grand Finale! "Couch Rider" is a tough-sounding cowboy rocker with a semi-spoken verse. It tells a tongue-in-cheek tale of justice through the ages, from a dusty western town to mean city streets, and, finally, to the space lanes of the galaxy. All delivered by a remote-control toting gunslinger in front of his television set. It's a very strong and humorous note to end on. I might venture to say that it's my favorite of them all. This album is an engaging romp through many musical styles that are unified by a singular voice.
QUOTES ABOUT JACK TEMPCHIN
"He's a great songwriter. He paints pictures with simple words. He's just really good at it." -Don Henley
"Jack is a guy who doesn't get enough credit. What a great songwriter he is!" - Joe Walsh
“The first real songwriter I really saw and really got enthused about." -Tom Waits
“Jack is one of the greats.” - Steve Poltz, San Diego Union Tribune
“Nobody can match Tempchin, the greatest songwriter ever to call San Diego home.” -S.D. News
"He’s a true American master.” -Dave Mason PD 105.7 Walrus-FM
"Great songs seem to fly to some songwriters like moths to a porchlight... Jack's a searchlight!" -Madison Keith, KPRI-FM
"Jack is an amazing songwriter. An interviewer's dream." -Roz Larman, FOLKSCENE Syndicated Radio KPFK 90.7 FM
"Jack's body of work is iconic. His contribution as a world class 'muzoid' is undeniable and I remain a lifelong fan."
-ASCAP CEO Paul Williams
"Sure-footed songwriting craft. Through and through, he's a big deal." -Van Dyke Parks
“Jack is officially the nicest guy in show business.” –J.D. Souther