Richard Berman/Western Mass. Music (BMI)
555 Bay Road
Amherst, MA 01002
This review is written by Kevin McCarthy, 9/98
"Kevin and Maxine’s Celtic & Folk Music CD Reviews"
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Richard Berman is back with a new CD and another collection of stories, admonitions, slices of life, and an urban legend thrown in for good measure.
He begins beautifully with an intimate paean to a wonderful relationship, appropriately titled "A Love Song." Combining nice touches of violin, cello, and viola with his guitar and vocals, he sings:
"I like to watch you sleeping
So still and unaware
You smile, I wonder what you dream
So little you don't tell me
So few things I don't share
So close to having nothing in between"
Then in an abrupt juxtaposition, Berman ends the dreaminess by barreling into "The Fortune Told," what I am classifying as his urban legend-type tune. Utilizing percussion, piano, synthesizer, guitar, and bass to create the needed mood for the lyrics, he rolls through the story and then smacks the listener across the face with a jarring revelation in the very last line of the song.
"Marco" takes a hard look at the conundrum of being forcibly "drafted" from a peasant environment into army life. After serving a term, then being discharged, the peasant draftees find it impossible to either sustain a decent way of life in the city or to return home to the grim, hand-to-mouth existence of village life. Berman sings:
"They could not speak the language, had never seen a town
Never wore a pair of shoes, or slept up off the ground
Never turned a faucet, never heard the sound of closing doors
Given time they would adjust, there were rewards
Three meals a day, a joy unknown before...
My army days are long gone now, but those boys are still with me
I see them and countless others with bent backs on Cuzco's streets
Weighted down with goods they haul for meager fees each day
For the years they served they have no skills that pay
Just fading dreams of a life they can't attain"
Displaying good use of the violin, piano, and percussion, "Brooklyn, Summer, 1966" offers an effective slice of middle class life in the mid-60s:
"Dad's got the paper, reading about the war
He fought in the good one many years before
He looks up and says, "We gotta make a stand
Who knows where they'll go after Vietnam...
Me, I'm thinking home feels small
Like someone pushed in all the walls
I stare out on the avenue
But I'm not taking in the view"
Mom feels the narrator (the son), having just returned from college, should take some time off but Dad says it's time to find a summer job. The son is dreamily flashing on memories of the young woman in his life back at school and, at song's end, realizes this is the last summer he will return home.
"Jacob Weintraub" is a powerful song involving the choices we are sometimes forced into in life in order to not only survive but facilitate an easier life for our children. After losing out on a room rental once he provided his name:
"Jacob Weintraub sat out on a bench
Watching children hard at play
He was thinking about the future
'Bout the kids he'd have someday...
How much would you give up
To try and keep the world at bay
To shield from pain both you and yours
What price would you pay?"
Again, similar to the "The Fortune Told," the last four lines, sung matter-of-factly, carry a strong emotional impact.
A discerning take on the flowering and then ebbing of a relationship, "The Bridge," offers a window into the thoughts of one of the protagonists.
Berman wraps up this release with "Here And Now," a collection of truths involving the insight gained upon being given a second chance after foolishly walking away from a relationship because something better might be out there. The chorus goes:
"I had looked to the horizon
With my back to all that counts
I had dreams about tomorrow
And was lost to here and now
Here and now is where you are
It's for those of little fear
And what I'm wanting most
Is to be with you now and here"
With an easily recognizable voice, Berman has continued his musical growth on this CD. He employs excellent and appropriate musical touches with his songs and his lyrical insights have continued to flower with each release. It's interesting to a listener because, due to his presentation, even his most jolting tunes have an air of subtlety.
All songs by Richard Berman.
Copyright © 1998-2015 Kevin & Maxine’s Celtic & Folk Music CD Reviews. All rights reserved.
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