Monday, May 18, 2015

Top 100 Songs From the 1990s (No. 50)

50. "Responsible"
Artist: Freedy Johnston
Year: 1992

This singer-songwriter extraordinaire, much like his pal Marshall Crenshaw, had a moment when he held the attention of critics and listeners, but the praise faded away even as he continued to craft consistently wonderful albums. The following is a statement steeped in generalities, but Freedy Johnston's fans seem to fall into two camps: The early adopter thinks 'Can You Fly,' the album from which today's selection is taken, is his best work. It's an indie, produced in part by the great Graham Maby, and the album has this larger than life back story of Johnston believing in the project so much that he was willing to sell the family farm to finance the thing. Quite a story and album. The success of 'Can You Fly' is what really created the second camp. The followup, 'This Perfect World,' came out on a major, was produced by a big name (Butch Vig) and, as such, brought in a bigger audience, even though the work, although still good, wasn't quite up to the standard of 'Can You Fly,' disappointing the first camp as the new listeners rejoiced, perhaps not realizing they had missed the real masterpiece. (Wow, is that last sentence a wreck or what?) Even though I really like both albums, I suppose it's clear in which camp I reside.

There would be other great moments for Johnston. In fact, I thought his comeback album from 2010, 'Rain on the City,' was probably his best album since 'This Perfect World,' and it was nice to see that Bar/None was the label that put it out after all those years. Of course, by then I'm guessing the only ones who heard it were die-hards from that first camp. Johnston's work in the '90s was so good that I came up with seven candidates for this countdown. This was a tough choice, and I went off the board a bit with what those in the business would call a deep cut. "Responsible" is a slow burner with some fantastic pedal steel. Like many of Johnston's songs, the story told is not a happy one, but it's still beautiful.

Earlier today I found this solo acoustic performance of "Responsible" from 2012, and I really took to it.


The Swede said...

A name I know, but music I don't. A shame, as it would've fitted right in with some of the other stuff I was listening to in the early to mid-90's, some of which I feel sure will feature later in this series, judging by what's already gone. A very nice tune and an excellent first paragraph that could equally apply to a couple of other artists I can think of.

McPop said...

Great choice. In addition to the great 'Can You Fly' and 'This Perfect World' albums, I also really like 'Never Home'. I agree that 'Rain on the City' was a fine return to form. He recently released the crowd-funded 'Neon Repairman' and it's definitely worth checking out.

I got to see Freedy live once when I lived in Indianapolis back in the mid to late 90's. He opened for Shawn Colvin (who's one of my wife's favorites). He played a memorable set and then graciously signed my T-shirt after the show.

1001Songs said...

Absolute fave!

Brian said...

Hi, Swede. You not knowing this very well makes me wonder whether Freedy had the same moment in the UK. I'm going to look into that.

McPop, I really like Never Home too. In fact, there were candidates from that album for this list. I didn't know about Neon Repairman at all. That's a pretty exciting discovery on this dreary Tuesday. I never had the pleasure of seeing him on stage. I envy you. Looks like the next Crenshaw 10" in the series is out. Did you get it? I'll be trying to track that down today.

Hello 1001 Songs. Happy to know you like Freedy. You have been on fire over at your place. Particularly enjoyed the Soap Opera and Phil Oakey pieces.

charity chic said...

Can You Fly has long been one of my favourite Americana albums.Tried a couple of his others with limited success
I have featured the album before but it was way back in July 2013. I went with The Morticians Daughter and We WillSHine