Far Side of the World – Jimmy Buffett
One of the perks of creating your own genre is not having to change too
much. You have no competition. Jimmy Buffett – the pied piper to thousands
of middle-aged Hawaiian-shirt-wearing Parrotheads – has had his own thing
going for decades, and Far Side of The World deviates only very
slightly from his formula. The record doesn't do much to break any new
ground, but if you were expecting Buffett to push the envelope, that's more
your fault than his.
The music and its accompanying liner notes and photos of exotic locales have
a loosely connected lyrical theme of world travel. What better topic to mesh
with Buffett's unique tropical folk-rock sound? It's also worth noting that
the album's production is pristine, tight and warm.
The opening track, "Blue Guitar", is old-school mid-tempo happy Buffett. It
sounds like a leftover from his Songs You Know By Heart greatest hits
album. On the third track, "Autour Du Rocher", Buffett tries to change his
stripes. There's drum programming, jazzy guitar and a muted trumpet creating
a lounge feel. There's a spoken-word section by Buffett – a consistently
annoying feature on the album – and the rest of the track is mostly
delivered in a talk/sing style. This is probably the low point of the album,
although it has its share of competition.
Interestingly, and maybe tellingly, the following track finds Buffett going
back to his roots, and it results in, by far, the finest moment on the disc.
"Savannah Fare Thee Well", by Hugh Prestwood, is nearly perfect. Strong,
introspective lyrics, melancholy guitar, a pretty violin solo and tasteful,
understated background vocals make this another song you should know
by heart. Even the lyrics – again, not written by Buffett —are eerily
vintage Buffett. When he rushes and chops the word "magic" in the chorus,
you feel like you're listening to Songs You Know By Heart, or better
yet, enjoying the breeze and the booze at one of his famed live
The rest of the album is more like "Autour Du Rocher" than "Savannah", and
at its most even points, falls somewhere in between. "All The Ways I Want
You" is another strong ballad in the "A Pirate Looks At Forty" tradition.
The only cool thing about "Altered Boy" is its title; the spoken-word intro
is certainly not entertaining. "What If The Hokey Pokey Is All It Really Is
About?" features some punchy yet smooth horn arrangements, more annoying
sing/talking in the verses and catchy choruses.
The high points of Far Side Of The World unfortunately do not seem to
override the lack of quality, or occasionally blandness, on the record. That
being said, it's almost worth buying the record for "Savannah Fare You Well"
and some other buried treasures scattered throughout.