Originally published on AnalogPlanet.com by Michael Fremer
When I interviewed singer/songwriter Jack Tempchin recently I joked about why older songwriters often lose their creativity.
Imagine the song titles compared to when the writer was young, I quipped. “My wife got fat”, “She forgot the lube” (etc.).
We both laughed but it’s true that you write about what you know and for older guys writing love songs and relationship-based songs can become problematic if not downright “icky”.
Not for Jack Tempchin, who’s best known for writing for The Eagles classic songs like “Peaceful Easy Feeling” and for co-writing “Already Gone”, ” The Girl From Yesterday”, “Somebody” and “It’s Your World Now”.
Though he’s been active throughout his long career, in and out of music, his latest album is one he seems particularly proud of and keen to discuss, which is why I had the interview opportunity.
As is often the case, Tempchin’s creative flow increased when by chance he met Joel Piper, a young musician Tempchin describes as a “renaissance man”, who produced, recorded and mixed the record. Piper also plays all of the instruments other than guitar and piano, which Tempchin played and saxophone on the opening tune played by Jerry Peterson. Piper also took the cover and gatefold photographs.
He’s very good at all of these activities and proves here that sonically pleasurable results can be obtained recording at home on a computer. You might be surprised what good taste (plus good microphones) can achieve.
“Learning to Dance”, the opener, is an awakening (or re-awakening) song only an older person could effectively sell, not to mention write and though there’s a slight wiff of “Cialis commercial” in the images it may conjure up, that’s in the mind of the listener (this one) not in Tempchin’s!
He sings “And tonight, I”m learning to dance/I should have done it long ago/But I never took the chance”. You root for the singer (better late than never we can all relate to). Then he pushes the geriatric envelope a bit with “Now you’re standing in the halo/Of the street lamp’s mystic glow/Your body’s swaying to and fro/And It’s calling me to follow/Where those deeper rivers flow/I’m bound to go.”
Your imagination can take you as far as you wish to go there visually but when Tempchin sings “How did I ever find a lover like you/Under your spell I”m doing things/I never thought I could do” you root for the singer, who sells the song as only an experienced, professional storyteller can.
A song like “You Can Go Home” (but you can’t go back) and “What If We Should Fall in Love Again” will resonate with older listeners as can no love song written by and for a younger demographic, yet the universality of the sentiments should work well for listeners of any age.
Temp chin’s vocal tonality and inflection, and his melodic inventions exude Southern California in the ways that years ago attracted a nation and world to the area’s emotional center. There are hints of Eagles and Jackson Browne but what makes these songs so effective is that Tempchin is singing to his age not to what once was.
These are songs of satisfaction with life, with lovelife and with life well-led. There’s no resentment or regret here but neither is there unctuousness. Even in a song like “Big Sky Country”, which is about displacement and a relationship that didn’t work out, the singer wraps it in the satisfaction of returning home to “Big Sky Country”. The melodic thread and instrumentation will take your mind’s eye to sunset on the open road.
Simply but effectively and sensitively arranged, recorded and mixed with impressive skill and attention to both space and spectral completeness (strong bottom end, rich mids and just the right amount of sparkle on top), the older songwriter and the younger arranger/producer/musician combine to produce an album that takes you to what feels like a particular place in time and musical space, and keeps you there throughout the two relatively short sides. When its over you find yourself moved in mood and shifted in perspective. I felt that first and every play. The album flows freely like slow moving water
When I was asked if I’d like to interview Jack Tempchin I said I’d have to hear the record first. After the first play I insisted on it.
Gavin Lurssen mastered the files but not even Tempchin knew who cut lacquers or where. However, as he admits in the interview—and he didn’t say it for my benefit—he heard the vinyl and there’s “something about it” that made him want to listen. Perhaps its what he grew up listening to but I think it goes well beyond that.
Perhaps older listeners will be most moved by this record because this skilled songwriter/storyteller has a way of inducing a lifetime’s worth of personal memories into relatively short and deceptively simple but elegantly crafted lyrics, but I think the record’s appeal goes far beyond the gray haired set and it certainly won’t leave you thinking if your erection lasts more than four hours you should call your doctor!
Highly recommended. It makes you wish some of your other “old favorites” would just accept their age and write from that perspective instead of trying to “write young”.