|REVIEW: Jimmy Buffett
Jimmy Buffett is the world's most popular beach bum.
Buffett is also the unimpeachable mayor of Margaritaville, that fantasy village where
the frozen concoctions flow freely, a day's labor is hunting for a missing salt shaker, and
the tourists smell forever like suntan oil.
He invented the place, and he lives there still. The subject of one of, by his own
recollection, his two and half hits, "Margaritaville" planted its flag on the Island of
Lost Weekends, a haven however mythical for Buffet's legion of Parrot Heads. It's a
steady state of loud Hawaiian shirts, tequila and an endless beach party. It's not so
much a place, as you may have gathered, as it is a sun-drenched state of mind.
Buffett has steadfastly held to the tenet that nothing says party like a beach and a
cold blended adult beverage since his early days and early hits. He's recorded 33
albums, >14 of them gold or platinum . His newest, "Far Side of the World,"
was recorded in a mere six weeks and released in March of this year on his own Mailboat
label. It debuted at no. 5 on the Billboard magazine Top 200.
In real life, Buffett is of course nothing approaching a bum. At 55, he's done anything
but take life easy. He pilots his own Grumman Albatross seaplane. He writes best-selling
novels and short stories ("Tales From Margaritaville," "Where Is Joe Merchant?"
and "A Pirate Looks at Fifty"). He founded the Singing For Change charitable
foundations, which funds groups that address the root causes of social and environmental
problems. He owns Margaritaville restaurants from Key West to New Orleans to Jamaica
and elsewhere, and sells nouveau-Parrott merchandise by the boatload. He is an industry
Buffett in concert, though, is where the mayor does his real politickin'. He averages
around 30 shows a year, most of them sellouts, despite little in the way of radio airplay.
According to the Billboard Boxscore reports, Buffett grossed $25.6 million last
year playing those 30 shows.
Not bad for guy who grew up wanting to be a pirate. He was raised in Mississippi,
bounced around colleges until he graduated from the University of Southern Mississippi
in 1969, and moved to Nashville to be a songwriter, recording two projects for a small
label there. He relocated to Key West, Fla., shortly thereafter, however, to write briny
little tunes of wayward sailors, sun-stroked love affairs and other pop postcards with
beach ZIP codes.
With hits like "Margaritaville" and "Come Monday," Buffett's music is like drinking
one of those fancy mai tais from a pineapple - sweet and inviting going down, but
unsuspectingly inebriating. He captures the carefree life of Key West, the Caribbean
and other salty playgrounds, but also has a penchant for moody introspection. Like the
Grateful Dead, Buffett is a troubadour for a way of life that's become part ritual and
part haven for a middle-class desperate for escape from a dreary world.
Buffett tapped producer Russ Titelman for this project. Titelman, known for work
with James Taylor, Randy Newman, Michael McDonald and legions of other
pop stars, is a notoriously fastidious taskmaster when it comes to production. Buffet
changed all that.
Says Titelman in an interview in Billboard magazine, "Jimmy said to me, 'It
goes really fast, and it's lots of fun. And I looked at him at the end of the record and s
aid, 'Sir, you did not deceive me.'"
The CD is essentially what he's always done. But he may be banking on the fact this
audience is maturing along with him, especially in tunes like "Last Man Standing,"
where he admits to thoughts of retirement, the soft and gentle "Mademoiselle
Voulez-Vous Danser , and Bruce Cockburn's sweet "All the Ways I Want You."
But he's never one to stray too far from the frolic, as with the ditty "What If the
Hokey-Pokey Is All It Really Is About?" and the Cajun romp "USS Zydecoldsmobile."
It's never too late to become a Parrott Head because the party rages on. According
to the Parrot Headquarters Web site (www.parrotheadquarters.com/), the golden rule is
simple: When you're a Parrot Head, there is always Maņana. Life's a breeze when Buffett's
Jimmy Buffett and the Coral Reefer Band
Sept. 24, 2002
Rose Garden, 8 p.m.
$29.50 - $59.50 ($1 goes to the Singing For Change Charitable Foundation)