The last of the highly underrated Murphy's output for us to feature herein(chronologically the first), this one is the best in my opinion. It was put out by a very young man and has an incredible variety of songs and styles. It's very common in the fields of music and mathematics to see someone's best output in his twenties, in the case of records there is another factor which is that the first often contains years of songwriting material distilled and perfected from repeat practice.
There are three big 'radio hits': Sad September, which is an incredibly beautiful acoustic song (we know it from the live Murphy and Salt album), the Pawnbroker song with its erratic almost progressive chord changes (you'll never hear those chords on a BS and T album!), and the second last song, Hey Artie, from the Laura Nyro school of composition. As in Nyro's work you hear sudden stops, tempo changes, modulations to related keys, a conversational style to the lyrics. The song has a similar motif to "first born" -- the friends know more about god than the church (catholic) they are forced to go to... Notice near the end the song basically in C major alternating with F major, finishes a phrase with a high sung G sharp (the 9 on an F sharp minor chord)-- wow! Again this to me demonstrates what a skilled and original songwriter he was. What about the lyrics? Well we're talking 1970 here:
"We'll have a smoke and save the world...
Take me up, bring me down, burn my verses to the ground,
Artie and me know better 'bout where it's at...
Hey Artie, ain't that right?"
Charming in its sixties naivete, right?
And because this is a young man's work, it is full of inventiveness and creativity. What I love about Sad Sept. is that starting as an ordinary song in B major, he quite abruptly modulates to F sharp major with the chromatic descending bass, then equally abruptly goes to A flat major, moving into various chords before returning to the tonic B. Still the melody flows through it all seamlessly... Any songwriter would say to themselves, how does he do it?
Notice as another ex. in track 3, Buy my Morning features a really odd phrase: the stanzas start with a double-time sung sentence, the flute adding a beautiful other layer to the melodies above, the end of the first stanza has an odd down-one-chromatic-note ending. Totally against the tin pan alley or FM AOR radio rules.
So what about the man himself? Nick Drake was rehabilitated from complete obscurity some 10 years back thanks to a VW commercial and features in Rolling Stone-- can we bring back Murphy to the prominence he deserves as a really creative songwriter? I really hope so -- I love this guy!
Arranged By – J. F. Murphy, Vinny Vesta
Bass – Gene Perla, J. F. Murphy
Drums – John Dzubek, Mickey Earle, Ralph Jones (2)
Engineer – Don Casale, John Bradley (3)
Flute – Joe Parrino
Guitar – J. F. Murphy, Joe Parrino, Sam Brown (2)
Harmonica – George Christ
Percussion – George Christ, J. F. Murphy
Piano – J. F. Murphy
Producer – Vinny Vesta
Vocals – J. F. Murphy
A1 It Don't Work That Way
A2 Sunny Goodtime, It's A Rainy Day
A3 If You Buy My Morning
A4 The Pawnbroker
B2 Soft September
B3 Standing At The Crossroads
B4 Hey, Artey
(All written by J F Murphy)
B5 Nobody Loves You (When You're Down And Out)
(Written-By – Cecil Grant)
Now stay tuned because we have a lot of excellent material coming down the pipeline, not just from myself, but from (of course) master shige, the mighty osurec, and the beautiful princess of progressive Isabel, and with the help of friends we just might get to the bottom of the big bag o' rare gems.... someday