Kevin Coyne's death, just as this album was being readied for release, has painted it somewhat unfairly as his musical swan song, when it could more accurately be described as the beginning of his comeback. After too many years in the musical wilderness, Coyne arrived in Chicago with little idea of what he intended recording -- and wound up with an 11-song album's worth of country-blues-folk, recorded more or less live in one 15-hour burst, with Coyne apparently pulling the lyrics off the top of his head as they went. Sometimes those unrehearsed roots show, but never in a bad way -- rather One Day in Chicago has an uncluttered freshness that simultaneously conjures up the greatest of his '70s work and looks forward to a future in which the true best was yet to come. "Over Land and Sea," all Velvet Underground organ and psychedelic embellishments, is a genuine, and beautifully ingenuous, highlight, while "A Million Kisses" and the clattering country romp "Money Like Water" are just unrepentant fun and games from start to finish -- especially when Coyne kicks into demented radio announcer mode to argue the meaning of "pennilessness." Of course One Day in Chicago is not a new Marjory Razorblade, Sanity Stomp or Millionaires & Teddy Bears. But the brilliant mind that made those records is as sharp here as it ever was, and as wry, as poignant and as double-edged hilarious as you could hope.
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