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Actual Sighs

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Album Review

Any Average Joe rock dude could reissue an out-of-print EP they recorded in 1986, and the same sort of guy could easily add a few bonus tracks to boost the value of the package. Richard X. Heyman, however, is no Average Joe — he's perhaps America's greatest unsung hero of power pop, a songwriter of uncommon talent and intelligence, and a one-man rock band without peer. So when Heyman decided to resurrect his long-gone Actual Size EP twenty years after it first hit the racks, he went for the grand gesture — Actual Sighs features the six tunes from that aged 12" in their original sequence, preceded by fourteen (yes, fourteen) previously unavailable songs, turning a fleshed-out single into an epic. That Actual Sighs is a splendid album which belongs in the collection of anyone who cares about great pop music almost goes without saying, given Heyman's track record; the pleasant surprise is that what started as a look at Heyman's juvenilia became a surprisingly mature and ambitious work. There's a grace and elegance to the guitar textures on "Winter Blue," "Kenyon Walls" and "A Fine Line" that almost belies how hard they can hit, and while love (Heyman's favorite theme) dominates most of these songs, the rave-up ranting of "RXH's Love in the First Person Blues" and cool fury of "All in the Way You Found Me" show he has more to say about the subject than Moon and June. And for a record recorded in the man's living room, Actual Sighs sounds brilliant; Ed Stasium's mix allows the guitars and drums to appear as big and powerful as they deserve, and this rocks with as much force as anything Heyman has ever committed to disc. Casual fans who imagine this is just a rehash of some obscure collectors' item need to know that this is far more than that — it's a superb new album from a major talent, and if Richard X. Heyman's music has never crossed your path before, this wouldn't be a bad time and place to treat yourself to something special.


Genre: Rock

Years Active: '80s, '90s, '00s

Richard X. Heyman is one of the sadly overlooked pop craftsmen of the '90s, but his albums are widely regarded in power pop circles as instant classics. Heyman began recording in the late '80s in the tradition of the studio nerd/one-man band, playing all instruments himself in his upper west side Manhattan apartment living room, named Brontasaurus, presumably after the classic song by the Move. He released the independent Actual Size EP in 1987 and followed with the full-length Living Room!! in 1988....
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