Mary Jean & 9 Others

by: Marshall Crenshaw

Marshall Crenshaw's first three records, though each with their own distinct personality, were an irresistible combination of masterful pop and vibrant, timeless rock & roll. His fourth effort, Mary Jean & 9 Others, has many of these same ingredients, while at the same time lacking the impact of its predecessors. And though there isn't really a bad cut here, there isn't much that would make you think of Crenshaw as much more than a craftsman. Even the best of the originals, including the title track and "Somebody Crying," seem to lumber along, never really delivering on their promise. This may be partially due to Don Dixon's production that, though not out of place with Crenshaw's material, lacks the freshness of the first album, the allure and depth of Field Day, and the spirit of Downtown. Overall, it's the beautiful closer, "They Never Will Know," and Peter Case's "Steel Strings" that are most successful in this setting. Like the rest of Crenshaw's mid-'80s, early-'90s catalog, Mary Jean is difficult to find, but of this period, Downtown, which is also on Warner Bros., and Life's Too Short, his only release for MCA, are preferred. ~ Brett Hartenbach

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