Brian Woodbury

The Brian Woodbury Songbook

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Although Brian Woodbury is the billed artist on this CD, he's more the conceptualist than the performer. He wrote all the songs (with the exception of some of the lyrics on one number) and plays keyboards, but only sings one track, with a rotating cast of about 20 other singers handling the vocal duties on the rest of the material. A few of those singers have some name recognition (notably Jill Sobule and Terre Roche), but most of them are as little known as, well, Woodbury himself. It's hard to put your finger on exactly what Woodbury does, though in general he's a songsmith with feet in the pop, rock, and theatrical camps, somewhat in the spirit of Van Dyke Parks (with whom he's collaborated). He's a playful genre-hopper, sometimes going into orchestrated pop reminiscent of Brian Wilson's goofier excursions ("Have You Seen My Serene?"), at other times sounding like a more mainstream Elvis Costello, and at others sounding like a less mainstream take on late-20th century adult contemporary. Traces of country & western, folk, and various world musics get their time in, too. Although the words are sometimes quirky takes on hippies, Hawaii, and the quite weird pride anthem "My Africa," about as often they're more standard musings on romantic attraction and conflict. For all its eclectic ambition, though, it's kind of bland. The singers aren't exceptional, the words are frequently strained in their artful cleverness, and the melodies aren't that good, despite the composer's obvious affection for numerous popular music genres.

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