The Last Single Guy

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After years spent in the wilderness of the Big Apple's financial sector, the siren call of "Show Business" could no longer be ignored, and anti-folk hero Block was finally tempted back into the studio, resulting in the enthralling The Last Single Guy album. And let's begin with "Show Business," the Irving Berlin classic that Ethel Merman definitively made her own. Block totally revamps it, vamp being the operative word, for he transforms it into a slinky, smoky, '40s-styled jazz number, you can almost see the tall blonde in stiletto heels and a too-tight red dress swiveling her hips at his side. Traditional Dublin lass "Molly Malone" gets an equally startling make-over that sweeps her off her tired feet and off to Hollywood, streaking through rock and psychedelia along the way. But that's the beauty of this set, no song is quite what it seems. "Do You Know the Way" asks directions at a fork in the road between psychedelic San Francisco and British Invasion blues, while the clubby programmed beats push the piece into the baggy scene. And that sprightly rhythm shows up in all the strangest places, like on "Easy," which has the feel of a Southern-fried clap-along, but conversely features wah-wah and Spanish guitar, and sumptuous jazzy piano. In contrast, "Sweet Potato Pie" utilizes old-school beats, and conjures up a surreal hip-hop hoedown. A pulsing bassline powers "Swing Set," which stylistically swings from Delta blues to spacy synth effects. However, there are simpler arrangements, like "Christine's Loft," where Block is accompanied only by piano and a smattering of other subtle instrumentation. As always, though, as fascinating as the music is, it's Block's vocals and lyrics that take center-stage. The bright and upbeat "Color of Heaven" is a song of hope, "Avenue A" is autobiographic, with the artist wryly commenting on the changes that both he and the Lower East Side have undergone over the years. Some themes are almost surreal, other's reflections of daily life. Like a bedside book, this album can be played in one sitting, but so much better to dip in and out of it over time, letting one's mood determine one's favorites for the day.

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