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Rounder Heritage: Action Packed - The Best of Jonathan Richman

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Album Review

Following the dissolution of the Modern Lovers, Jonathan Richman ended up recording seven albums for the folk label Rounder Records. The not-so-unusual alliance resulted in a new/old sound for Richman and the results are readily evident on the collection Action Packed: The Best of Jonathan Richman. Unlike the noise and sneer barrage the Lovers were loved for, his solo recordings demonstrate Richman's emotive, stream-of-consciousness spazz rock with a stripped-down honesty. The songs revolve around such mundane things as neighborhoods, Fender Stratocasters, the bus, and cappuccino, almost as if he's sitting on his porch singing songs about whatever pops into his head. This casual feel could be annoying at the local coffeehouse, but Richman's almost child-like wonder at his ordinary subject matter and his straightforward '50s-style rock & roll guitar capture an innocence that seems remarkable coming from someone who could justifiably act a lot more jaded. The songs on Action Packed may seem a little light and off the cuff to listeners only familiar with his proto-punk recordings, but Richman's gentle delight in making music is infectious and endearing, as this collection excellently proves.

Customer Reviews

Just Plain Great

If you want great music that will pick you up from the depths of despair, look no further. No one that I know of produces music half so sincerely happy and fun. This boy can get excited by just about anything. Listening to this is like being in love with no worries on your mind. Besides the fact that you can get 22 songs without a single dud for a mere ten bucks, it's a no-brainer.

Great Mix of Jo Jo's best sweet songs

This is a great mix of Jonathan Richman songs - a great intro to his work in the 90s, and as far as compilations go - this goes great with his Bezerkley Years CD... but do yourself a favor and pick up 'Having a Party w/ Jonathan Richman' ... even though this contains some of the songs from it - you need to experience that whole album on its own. But for $10, this is a real treasure and a perfect overview.

Desert Island Pick

This is a cheerful, sophisticated album. It is 80's new wave, mediated by a lot of funny jokes and some folkish aspects like story interwoven into the "Monologue about Bermuda." I rank this album up there with the best by The Pixies, Talking Heads, Violent Femmes, Lucinda Williams, John Prine, Dan Reeder, Todd Snider, and Tom Waits. It would make my top 10 to bring onto a desert island.


Born: May 15, 1951 in Boston, MA

Genre: Rock

Years Active: '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

Jonathan Richman was one of rock's most eccentric and unpredictable cult figures, a performer whose eternally childlike public persona and seeming naiveté -- typified by songs like "Ice Cream Man," "Hey There Little Insect" and "I'm a Little Aeroplane" -- tended to obscure the dexterity and craft of his music, which skirted from garage rock to country to Latin stylings and back. Born May 15, 1951 in Boston, Massachusetts, Richman began playing guitar at the age of 15, and within a year was making...
Full Bio