Have you heard of this guy? My friend Brian Banho handed me a CD titled, Elliot Murphy – Ground Zero. I had never heard of the guy before. After hearing the first few songs, I laughed out loud. They sounded like they were written and sung by an amateur Bruce Springsteen imitator. Later on, however, I found out that he pre-dates Bruce. But I listened to the entire CD a few times, and found a few things I liked. According to Brian quite a few people like his stuff.
For one, Elliot Murphy is an good lyricist. Most of his imagery is very original, with only rare slips into hackneyed phrasing. Interestingly, in many of his songs, sections will sound very different from other sections—so much so that when you recall them, you think they were two different songs. Those of us that mostly listen to pop songs on the radio are not used to this kind of sophistication.
My initial negative reaction was due to his voice: He can be very nasal, as in Long Island nasal. And his voice tends to vary wildly in timbre. He’s a croaking frog. The music could have been improved dramatically by a good producer. The non-vocal portion of the music sounds like something from a bad hotel-lounge band. Who knows if a producer could have done something with his voice? He is also in serious need of an acting coach for delivering lines with the proper dramatic tone. Often, the expression and mood of his voice are completely at odds with what the lyrics want to convey. His voice and songs do sound similar to Bruce Springsteen. In fact, they sound so similar; I’d swear that Bruce sings some of the lines in one of the songs. Although Elliot Murphy does not have a great voice, on his love songs he does manage to get control over his voice, and these are his best performances.
I would still like to sample some more of this guy however. I find myself replaying the CD in my car, and I often have one of his songs playing in my head.
The song list, with my comments:
1. The Last of the Rock Stars - I don’t care for it.
2. Isadora’s Dancers - I don’t care for it.
3. Drive All Night - It’s O.K. .
4. Just a Story from America – I don’t care for it.
5. Rock Ballad – I can’t stand to listen to this one.
6. Anastasia – This is a very nice song except the girl’s name sounds like a hit man for the mob.
7. Everything I do – Not bad.
8. Is Fellini Really Dead? - I’m still trying to find out what this song is about!
9. Last Star of the Night
10. The Red Lights / Ground Zero - Ground Zero is an excellent song but very sad. I can’t dwell on it too long though. I don’t understand the concatenation of The Red Lights and Ground Zero either.
11. Navy Blue -Pretty good. But I was distracted by the fact that “Navy Blue,” sounds too much like Bob Dylan’s, “Baby Blue,” and has a similar rhythm as well.
12. On Elvis Presley’s Birthday - This is a very interesting piece with very original subject matter. I appreciate the lyrics about his father. But there is a line about driving through the black neighborhoods of the North Shore of Long Island with his father from Brooklyn—I have no idea what that has to do with the price of tea in China. It stands out like a hole in the head.
13. Diamonds By the Yard –excellent, my favorite song of the CD. I especially like the ending lines and music.