We’ll Talk About It Later In The Car
BMG Rights Management (US) LLC
It’s my doubt that Stephen Bishop was ever “cool” but I’ve always liked him. Great songwriter. Classy. Good singer and musician as well – his acoustic guitar playing is precise and has warmth. But he’s a songwriter, through and through – somewhere between Jimmy Webb and James Taylor, in both overall sound and in the building structure of the impressionistic tales that journey to the heart.
Bishop made his name off the back of a publishing deal in the 1970s that saw him contributing to Art Garfunkel’s debut solo record (and what collection didn’t have a copy of that hanging around in it for at least some period of time?) Then there were the solo hits in and around writing for hire. On And On, that sweet little end-credits theme for Tootsie (It Might Be You) and of course Separate Lives – which was a slam-dunk mega-hit for Phil Collins. But I’ve long preferred the Bishop version.
So here he is with a new album – his first since 2016. And it’s a great set of tunes – you can hear the ‘songwriter’ in Bishop instantly; Like Mother Like Daughter might have been a good song for James Taylor to cover (perhaps over and above the snoozefest tunes he served up most recently). A Million Little Pieces could be Jay Farrar – I can hear a dirtied-up Son Volt rendition even as I listen to Bishop adding just the slightest smear of grit to its axel rods. And In Love With A Violent Man has the heart – and even some of the sound – of Bill Fay.
“I’ll give you everything I have to give”, Bishop sings on The Day You Fall In Love With Me. He croons out what would ordinarily be hackneyed platitudes to follow it up, “but without your love there’s barely reason to live” – and talk too of love being as strong as the highest mountain. But fuck me I’m nearly weeping to hear this. I say, eat your heart out Jeff Tweedy. I say the difference between Stephen Bishop and just about anyone else you care to name is that this guy was about as sexy as a plumber, about as cool as your accountant, about as dependable as the family GP.
But he’s so much more than workmanlike. He’s a master-builder still plying his wares, still constructing these songs. He’s Marc Cohn. He’s Jeffrey Foskett. the music world is full of such stories. (JD Souther too if he hadn’t had Eagles-level success). If you needed a song and your deadline was tomorrow you’d call Stephen Bishop. He’d possibly hand you something like The Day You Fall In Love. If you were only so lucky.
We’ll Talk About It Later In The Car features brand new renditions of songs written all across Bish’s career – and contains a Jimmy Webb cover, and a slick, jazzy run-through of Peggy Lee’s I Don’t Know Enough About You.
It’s possibly about as uncool as music can get. And I fucking love it for that.
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