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Palms & Runes, Tarot and Tea: A Michael Penn Collection

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Album Review

Palms & Runes, Tarrots & Tea: A Michael Penn Collection forgoes the traditional "best-of" compilation route by including demos, alternate takes, and newly recorded versions of past classics. This is both a triumph and a shame, as the meticulous Penn has spent the last 20 years earning himself a bust in the esteemed hall of "smart, sepia-tone underground pop songwriters," and a straight-up collection would have been a nice entry point for the uninitiated. Palms & Runes, Tarrots & Tea does succeed in rounding up some of the singer/songwriter/producer's better moments — album versions of "Coal," "Out of My Hands," "Brave New World," "Walter Reed," and "No Myth" sound as good as they did the first time around — but this is an anthology for Penn completists. Alternate versions of "Lucky One" from 2000's MP4: Days Since a Lost Time Accident and "Try" from 1997's Resigned are stripped of some their gloss, a style that Penn applies to all of the re-recordings as well. For the most part, they sound as good or better that the originals, though a chamberlain- and accordion-accompanied version of Free-for-All's "Long Way Down (Look What the Cat Drug In)" has lost all of its desperation and bite. The rest is a little hit-or-miss (a languid, folkie take on "Bunker Hill" is surprisingly poignant, while a demo version of "Me Around" sounds like just that: a demo version), and it's hard not to mourn the fact that some of Penn's best tunes, like "Half Harvest," "Strange Season," "Small Black Box," "Cover Up," "Perfect Candidate," and "On Automatic," are missing out on all of the fun. That said, two records from the notoriously busy but low-yield artist in question in just over a year is worth the occasional oversight.

Customer Reviews

Great Selection of Songs From A Truly Great Artist

I own all of Mr. Penn's albums and was amazed to see what an excellent selection is represented in this collection - you will not regret this purchase, it is a steal - buy the WHOLE album, you will not be disappointed, many of these songs will grow on you because Penn's lyrics and melodies are so complex you will notice/feel something new everytime you hear the song. I can not stress enough how great this music is - there is nothing else like it in "pop" music today.

A MUST HAVE for fans of intelligent music!

Wow. What a collection. The alternate versions are just as good, and sometimes better, than the original album tracks. You almost wish Michael Penn would release several versions of ALL his songs with each album. You'd have twice as much music and twice as much ear-candy. A staggering collection that MUST BE in heavy rotation on your Ipod. Buy it, love it, live it.

Overlooked Gems

Michael Penn is a song-writing genius If you get a chance to see him with just a guitar and his mouth you are lucky if you get a chance to hear his between song banter you are lucky Be cool in school and buy this cause every song is a hit Once you listen you will hum your gut sore


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...
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