Easily in my top three list of modern dead musical geniuses, Kevin Gilbert had the amazing ability to make you cringe and laugh while moving your body to an infectious power pop groove. His estate continues to release lost audio gems in the effort to let more people realize the immense talent that was lost to the world a few years back. Live At The Troubadour is the first live album to be released to the ignorant masses.
It is perhaps fitting that the first track is “Joy Town,” a metaphor for a Xanadu-like afterlife. With a relaxed swagger, Gilbert pines for paradise with such great lyrics as “Senator McCarthy enjoys a book by Marx” and “Lennon never has to sing a Paul McCartney song.” “Goodness Gracious” is the ultimate angry diatribe, a venomous missive from GenXers to the Baby Boomers with memorable lines like “Now recess is almost over/ And they won’t get off the swing.” And if the visceral lyrics aren’t enough, there’s the killer bass rhythm, wild guitars and an impulsive melody destined to ruminate in your skull for days. More lovely cynicism is to be found in the paranoid “Waiting,” a laundry list of things Gilbert is waiting for, such as “for the mafia to make this song a hit.” Jungle drums, menacing organs and an evil bass line propel the song through vocals that swing wildly between ennui and anger.
And speaking of vitriol, there’s “Miss Broadway,” a scathing damnation of ex-girlfriend Sheryl Crow who took his songs to greatness on her first album, leaving him behind. Of special note is the chorus when he sings “Leaving Miss Broadway” in a melody eerily similar to Crow’s “Leaving Las Vegas.”
Lest you think all his music is angry, there’s the resigned ballad “Shrug,” where he bemoans “You are the desert/ And I am the rain / Am I just wasting my time?” “Tea For One” is the sad tale of Duncan, a lonely man who finds the woman who, “If beauty has a name / Then hers must be the same,” but due to his reticence, she moves on before he is able to overcome his fear of being hurt, leaving him again in his empty solitude. On the other side is “The Ballad of Jenny Ledge,” a song that even after hundreds of listens rarely fails to move me in some way. The pathos in this tale of a woman who abandons love for security is carried through with every part essential to the final song. If there is a perfect non-Beatles song, this may be it.
The show ends with a double kicker, the first being Gilbert’s sizzling version of the Zeppelin classic “Kashmir,” an energetic tribute where he somehow straightens out the twisted rhythm into a solid rock groove designed to make you move. The final song is a quiet, somber remembrance, “Song For A Dead Friend,” a sparse conclusion stripped to vocal and a lone acoustic guitar.
At 52 minutes, this live recording is not nearly long enough for my salivary glands. Throughout, the band plays impeccably, impressively plowing through a broad variety of styles, playing each one to perfection. If you’ve yet to experience the amazing melodic prowess and astounding songwriting abilities of Kevin Gilbert, be sure to swing by www.kevingilbert.com and make your ears smile.
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