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Mr. Hollywood Jr. (Double Disc Version)

Michael Penn

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Album Review

It's been five years since Michael Penn delivered MP4: Days Since a Lost Time Accident, a complex yet radio-ready ode to the passing millennium that put the nail in the coffin of his tempestuous relationship with major labels. Epic's support for the record was mediocre at best, so Penn took the logical next step and started his own imprint, Mimeograph. The resulting Mr. Hollywood Jr. 1947, released via spinART, is a loosely constructed song cycle concerning post-World War II Los Angeles. Like fellow singer/songwriter (and Penn's wife) Aimee Mann, who released her own conceptual record earlier in the year (The Forgotten Arm), Penn forgoes the traditional narrative and sticks to what he does best, writing biting and beautiful songs about relationships that are failing, have failed, or are suspiciously working. He lets the year's historical events (the invention of the portable radio, the establishment of the national Department of Defense, a plague of UFO sightings, etc.) wrap his characters in the kind of sepia-tone strokes of nostalgic Hollywood gossamer that would make both Frank Capra and Tom Waits proud. In fact, Penn's slick Tin Pan Alley mini-orchestra (due largely in part to frequent collaborator Patrick Warren's orchestral samples) resembles Rain Dogs-era Waits had he brought Jon Brion on board to produce. When it works, like on the rousing, sentimental opener "Walter Reed," "On Automatic," and "Mary Lynn," Penn knocks the ball into the bleachers, but there's an overflow of midtempo pieces about halfway through that brings the record to a standstill. While songs like "A Bad Sign" and "You Know How" are textbook Penn, they suck the air out of the room, leaving the listener feeling like a winded old police chief who let the bad guys get away. Penn's lyrical spirit of adventure is mirrored by the album's production rather than the songs themselves, a disappointment for fans of past works like "Cover Up," "Drained," "Footdown," and "Battle Room." Mr. Hollywood Jr. 1947 is by no means a bad record; in fact, half of it is better than previous offerings altogether. That Penn is better than some of these songs only reflects the high standards he continues to set for both himself and his very patient fans. Let's hope that another five years doesn't go by before he raises the bar again. [Mr. Hollywood Jr. 1947 was reissued in 2007 with a bonus disc that featured six tracks recorded live at KCRW, as well as the video for the album's single "Walter Reed."].

Customer Reviews

Another Masterpiece

Once again Michael Penn delivers a sensational disc. The extras on this re-release sound phenomenal, and MP proves once again that he is one of the great songwriters working today. If there were any justice in the world, THIS album would be flooding the airwaves.

Wow!

I cannot say enough about this effort by Michael Penn. "Walter Reed" the single is immense, with wonderful lyrics and big sound. I hung my hat on this song at first. But like every great album, each song takes its turn as your favorite, as time goes by. One of the favorites of my catalog.

Biography

Born: August 1, 1958 in New York, NY

Genre: Rock

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

One of the most acclaimed singer/songwriters to emerge during the late 1980s, Michael Penn was seemingly destined for a career in show business. The oldest son of director Leo Penn and actress Eileen Ryan, he was born August 1, 1958 in New York City's Greenwich Village area; within a year, the family relocated to Los Angeles, and there Penn's younger siblings Sean (later recognized among the finest actors of his generation) and Chris (a noted character actor acclaimed for his work in features like...
Full Bio
Mr. Hollywood Jr. (Double Disc Version), Michael Penn
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