Thursday, July 26, 2007

“Ready Right Now” / Marshall Crenshaw

If life was fair, Marshall Crenshaw would be a bigger star than Elton John or Rod Stewart or Michael Jackson. Nobody I know likes any of those acts, and yet somehow they’re rich and famous, while Marshall – after 25 years in the business – still slogs away in small clubs. It ain’t right.

But if there's a silver lining here, it may be that Crenshaw's limited commercial success has left him free to develop in fascination new directions. If all you know about Marshall Crenshaw is those infectious early tunes like “Someday Someway” and “There She Goes, check out some of his later albums -- like #447, which came out in 1999. Marshall hasn’t lost his ear for catchy melodies, but he's added darkness and texture that’s deeply satisfying.

“Ready Right Now” starts out with a prowling, feral fuzz-toned guitar and a gut-punching backbeat drum line -- nerve-wracking and ominous right from the get-go. When the vocal slides in, it’s minor-key and edgy: “I’m standing on the sidewalk in the sunshine / Not all the time, but sometimes the world looks fine.” I love that cautious description; that’s just how a worse-for-wear adult looks at the world. Plunging into a new romance, he’s plenty skittish: “When you smile at me that’s all there is / Once I could only dream of days like this / No matter where we’re going from here / I know this much anyhow / I’m ready right now.” His voice lifts so urgently on that last line, fierce and determined against all odds. Later on, he describes his past -- “You shook me out of my sleep / I was trapped inside a bad bad dream / In the bottom of the bottom, / Headed all the way down, or so it seemed.” It’s clear this narrator is scarred by life -- and STILL he stakes everything on love. I find that intoxicating.

“This is not a rehearsal, this is the one,” Marshall declares in the second verse. “And I swear it won’t be something casually done.” (Ladies, is that a sexy line or what?) “Calling all my energy, every bit of life that’s left in me / I’m gonna give you all that I have, all that time will allow / I’m ready right now.” I love how this teeters between weakness and strength, half-bragging, half-begging. We’re on the knife-edge between desire and despair, and he’s NOT letting us off.

Just feel the tension built up by that repetitious guitar line and those smackdown drums. I’m in a rush; I want to slow down; my attention is riveted; my pulse is racing. By the time the guitar solo bursts out, I’m completely under his spell. (And you know me, I usually have a very high resistance to blistering guitar solos – but I’m so primed for this one, I love it.)

A guy who can turn out a song this mesmerizing deserves to be on everybody’s playlist. Yeah, I know, that’s not gonna happen – but you guys have good taste; put him on your playlist.

Ready Right Now sample


Anonymous said...

Glad you like the song..I co-wrote this one with Marshall!

Holly A Hughes said...

Oooh -- is that Bill Lloyd, then? I'm honored you stopped in to read this blog! Check my post on April 30, 2008, to see what I wrote about your song "She Won't Be Back."