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Album Review

JACK TEMPCHIN
Songs

Everyone over the age of 25 knows that Jack Tempchin has been around for a thousand years (okay, a hundred--- who's counting? Sheesh!) and is a multi-millionaire just off of his songwriting credits for The Eagles, but not many know that he is an actual person and (gasp!) a musician to boot. Sure, he wrote or co-wrote a string of songs you might remember--- Slow Dancing, Peaceful Easy Feeling, Already Gone--- but after striking it big with royalties from those songs and a short stint with his own band (The Funky Kings) and playing solo, he faded from the scene and retired amongst the gentry in La Jolla. Right?

Ahem, that would be “Wrong!” Tempchin didn't fade, just switched gears, and has been part of the scene from those glory days to the present. When not playing, he writes. When not writing, he... well, he is a bit private, but that may be because he doesn't think his life worthy of scrutiny. Regardless, his music is and when Songs slipped by us all, you have to think maybe we should scrutinize a little more.

The copyright date is 2007, but it was not until this year that I heard of it. While doing some research on the group Timber, I fluked upon Warner Davis, that group's drummer, and Tempchin's name came up--- a number of times. Turns out Warner was playing in Tempchin's band which schedules weekly gigs in or around San Diego. “Boy,” Warner said, “you should check him out”, a sentiment echoed by his girlfriend, and neither would let it go until I listened to the album, the copy before me supplied (I assume) by them. I thought, okay, I liked the guy and I did have a couple of beers at The Stingaree once back in the mid-70s when Tempchin supposedly owned it. So I listened. And I listened. And, surprisingly enough, I am still listening.

Tempchin the Songwriter shows up with bells on here, reaching into his past but not limiting himself to it. The opening track (Out In the Desert), for instance, marries the sound and style of The Eagles (expected) and Marshall Tucker (unexpected), light shuffle reminiscent of MT's Fire On the Mountain and background vocals straight off the first Eagles' album. East of Eden borrows from The Eagles as well, but with Reprise-era Gordon Lightfoot singing lead. Speaking of Reprise, Tempchin reprises Smuggler's Blues, a song from the Miami Vice era and one co-written with Glenn Frey, crunchy slide guitar laying out a harder edge. That edge continues on Waiting, a straight-out rocker, slashing electric guitar chords pointing the direction helped along by some impressive keyboard work (you gotta love that Hammond Organ sound). Waylon Jennings could have placed Box of Memories on any one of his albums and Tempchin alters the vocal chords in that direction to good effect.

The rest fit in a larger range of styles. The soft ballad All the Love relies on electric piano and while the voice wavers, it works. Couch Rider is shades of Ghost Riders In the Sky with a talking verse straight out of a great Jim Stafford song titled Jasper (it should have been a hit), and Ghost In the Night (Dancing In the Moonlight) is a big step across the Mexican border, a nod to the Latin side of music and a notable nod at that. Tempchin visits the lounge with the jazzy It Could Have Been You and Me, the arrangement a thing of beauty thanks to perfecto accordion and a great female talking-bridge in French.

And then there is Something In the Image, an extremely pleasant but disturbingly true look at what the Internet seems to be doing to society. We've all heard the stories of love affairs through the ether, emotional attachments which change reality because of some sort of emotional override created by a system which should promote a disconnect but which does, for many, precisely the opposite. Of course, while most everyone will agree that it is much easier to “fall in love” that way than face-to-face, no one seems to be able to explain why (at least, to my satisfaction). Regardless, it is a good subject for a song and the song itself is very well produced, each a recommendation in itself.

Jack Tempchin has probably written a few hundred songs between Peaceful Easy Feeling and the present and one can only wonder how many bathtubs or cassette tapes full of those songs exist. The guy may be a good musician, but he is a great songwriter. For that reason alone, you should check out Songs. It is impressive in its understatement, if nothing else.

Frank O. Gutch Jr.

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