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Red Cab to Manhattan

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Album Review

Originally issued in 1980, Red Cab to Manhattan was singer/songwriter Stephen Bishop's fascinating follow-up to the smash debut Careless (1977) and his uneven sophomore release, Bish (1978). Bishop wrote and recorded Red Cab during his bicoastal romantic involvement with actress Karen Allen and not long before their reportedly crushing split. Listening to the album, you can hear both sides of the equation: it alternates between playful pop tunes that sound like they were authored during the relationship's happy times, characterized by a prankish, occasionally raunchy sense of humor (as in the opener, "The Big House," and the bizarre, irreverent "Sex Kittens Go to College"), and poignant selections such as "The Story of a Boy in Love," about a distraught young man who leaps off a building to his death after a breakup. At one point — a refrain on the track "Little Moon" — Bishop even works Allen's name into the lyrics, bleating out "Karen" repeatedly. The emotionally schizoid nature of the recording is its Achilles' heel. However, if taken on a case-by-case basis, the individual songs do demonstrate much greater compositional maturity than the selections on Bish. From the beginning of his career, Bishop always demonstrated a tendency to add oddball musical flourishes to conventional pop songs, but on Bish, the attempts at innovation often sounded klutzy and tacky — as when he opened "What Love Can Do" with a nutty Wizard of Oz sound-alike chorus. The artist sustains an offbeat vibe on Red Cab as well, but here, the frequent eccentricities feel fluidly integrated into the overall song structures. This is particularly true of the outstanding title track — which begins as a wistful, dreamlike ballad with a couple of Brian Wilson-esque bridges, and then segues effortlessly into a mellifluous trombone solo by Bishop. Also memorable is the album's closer, "My Clarinet," a kind of tragicomic ode to a dead-end life, performed on solo guitar. It's tinged with melancholic irony and some of Bishop's most clever lyrics ("I feel like the Z in xylophone, tonight"). Unfortunately, despite Red Cab's many assets, it marked the beginning of a lengthy dry spell for the musician. Because his next effort, 1986's Sleeping with Girls, never received North American distribution, fans had to wait until 1989's Bowling in Paris to enjoy another new Bishop release.

Customer Reviews

A songwriter at his peak

Stephen Bishop seems to write best when he is miserable. I hate to hope for misery, but if this the result I'll take it. The best songs on this album-My Clarinet, Little Moon and Red Cab to Manhattan-are simply beautiful. Few albums end with the sense of remorse that My Clarinet expresses. Red Cab to Manhattan invokes cinematic images like Jimmy Stewart (buy some postcards for his wife) and again seems to live in a world of melancholy. Little Moon is his song for long lost love Karen Allen. It's not all somber, though. Sex Kittens Go to College features wonderful guitar playing by Eric Clapton and one of the most clever uses of the Ode to Joy that you will ever hear. This album was out of print for a long time. I am so pleased to see it again. Bishop is a master. This is the evidence.


My roommate in college introduced me to this album. I'm no audiophile so don't look forany depth to my review. The album reminds me of a grand time in my life. I only wish iTunes could have included the album jacket from the LP.


Born: November 14, 1951 in San Diego, CA

Genre: Pop

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

Stephen Bishop's light pop style garnered him a small amount of success as a solo artist in the late '70s and a greater reputation as a quality songwriter. After his first group, the Weeds, disbanded following high school, Bishop spent the next seven years looking for a recording contract and was finally discovered by Art Garfunkel in 1976. Bishop had worked in a publishing house, where he wrote songs for Chaka Khan, the Four Tops, and Barbra Streisand. His debut album, Careless, was nominated for...
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Red Cab to Manhattan, Stephen Bishop
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