Barometer Soup

Jimmy Buffett

Margaritaville Records, 1995

REVIEW BY: Jason Warburg


[Adapted from a review originally appearing in On The Town magazine on March 19, 1996]

William Faulkner would likely agree -- over F. Scott Fitzgerald's protestations -- that in terms of literary characters, poor and hungry makes for better entertainment than wealthy and wistful. Unfortunately, Jimmy Buffett has not followed the lead of one of his Southern icons in tripping toward middle age. A multimillionaire with a merchandising empire profitable enough to have attracted Disney's hungry attention (he said no), the more successful businessman-author-restauranteur-record-executive Jimmy has become, the less creative singer-songwriter Jimmy has gotten.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

I say this, I might add, as a Margarita-carrying Parrot Head. Jimmy ultimately sells lifestyle—boats, bars, beaches—and it's an easy sale. There's nothing quite like cranking "Cheeseburger in Paradise" or "Volcano" on one of those foggy winter mornings to blow out your blues, and I will go to my grave maintaining that his steel-drum version of Van Morrison's "Brown-Eyed Girl" is one of the best covers done by anyone, anywhere, anytime. But JB's magic muse, so prolific and entertaining through the ’70s and much of the ’80s, appears weary in the nasty old ’90s.

Part of the problem with Barometer Soup may be just how prolific Buffett has been (his 72-song four-CD box set—one the top-selling such sets of all time—barely manages to cover the highlights of the man's 21-album catalog). He's simply run out of material, growing more and more self-referential while appearing more and more nostalgic for his long-gone days as a starving songwriter carousing through Key West's bar scene. He as much as admits it in "Blue Heaven Rendezvous," a Tony Bennett tinkling-ivories swoon full of melancholy memories of "those crazy days and crazy ways" and "heroes long gone," and in "Don't Chu-Know," where he declares "You can sing every song that's been sung / conquer the moon and the sun / but if you asked me it's all both been said and been done... we're just recycled history machines."

That said, a languid, self-indulgent album from a guy with Buffett's playful wit and Caribbean-nomad wisdom is still a guilty treat. He romps through the likes of "Bank of Bad Habits" (just what it sounds like), "Lage Nom Ai," the aforementioned "Don't Chu-Know" and "The Ballad of Skip Wiley" with such unabashed joy you can't help liking the guy, whether for nostalgia's sake, or just because it's still kind of cool that a self-described Bubba made it so incredibly big.

Rating: C+

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



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