Poor Man's Son
First Appeared at The Music Box, October 2003, Volume 10, #10
Written by John Metzger
The trouble with trends is that what follows the innovator is generally weaker fare. Witness the dilution of roots rock, once raised to new heights by Counting Crows, only to be turned into increasingly generic mush by the likes of Matchbox Twenty, Pete Yorn, and the adolescent musings of John Mayer. Sales are still strong, however, so don’t expect the product to stop flowing until the market has returned to the god-awful state in which it found itself during the very late ’70s and much of the ’80s. That was an era that dismantled the terrific music of Bruce Springsteen and Tom Petty, an era that produced songs like John Cougar’s I Need a Lover, Bryan Adams’ Cuts Like a Knife, and, worse, Corey Hart’s Sunglasses at Night. There’s no question these three tunes were popular, but that doesn’t make them good, and of these artists, only Mellencamp managed to survive, largely by adding substance and character to his work.
Indeed, a decade after Counting Crows began its career as a reconfiguration of Springsteen comes Franky Perez with Poor Man’s Son, an album that is akin to the early outings from Cougar, Adams, and Hart. The Las Vegas native has filled his debut with songs that not only are moderately infectious but also are fairly innocuous. For all the yearning desire to escape his hometown, for all the tales of love gone wrong, and for all the soft-peddled socio-political implications, the emotion of the lyrics is stripped away by the generic, inoffensive music that too often surrounds them.
Weighing in at an inordinate length of 18 songs — 19 if one includes the bonus track — and a ridiculously unwieldy 72 minutes, Poor Man’s Son is essentially a double album, a bold move from an unproven talent. With that much material, there are bound to be hits as well as misses. In fact, the first third of the disc flops about aimlessly without any sense of direction, so much so that one wonders why it was even included — especially since the remainder, while not groundbreaking, would have fared far better on its own. Not that there aren’t duds in the later portion too; both American Classic and Love & Hate are a tad cheesy, but with a touch of Stax soul on the former and a splash of the Rolling Stones on the latter, the lesser tunes, at least, become tolerable. Nevertheless, it’s on Southwest Side, the seventh track on Poor Man’s Son, that Perez seems to find his groove, reveling in the song’s airy strains. The subsequent Cry Freedom embraces gospel-fused anthemic pop, while Class Act corrects Life on the Edge’s poorly conceived stab at copping The Wallflowers’ sound by folding in crunchy guitars straight from both the Black Crowes and AC/DC. Elsewhere, Bella Maria is a modernized take on the early R&B pioneered and popularized by Sam Cooke and The Drifters; Love Soul Rock ’n‘ Roll glimmers with its Beatle-esque drums and Travis-infused flights; and Cold Hard Rain delves into the blues-oriented pop of The Guess Who. Regardless, Poor Man’s Son doesn’t come close to being one of the better albums to be released this year, but there’s enough promise shown in Perez’s work to hints that his life might fall closer to the career path of John (Cougar) Mellencamp than that of Corey Hart. ˝
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2003 The Music Box