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Jimmy Buffett (from the album Equal Strain on All Parts available on Mailboat Records/Sun Label Group) (by Lee Zimmerman)
Up ‘til the end, Jimmy Buffett always managed to maintain a persona as ever-persistent partier, an image consistent with his tanned, tropical lifestyle, ever-present grin and, presumably, the amply quantities of that frozen concoction he sung about with such enthusiasm, courtesy of his initial mega-hit “Margaritaville”. That happy-go-lucky approach pervades practically every track on this, his first posthumous offering, Equal Strain on All Parts, a summation of sorts of a life that was always well lived.
Whether or not Buffett knew he was playing an end game due to his Merkel cell carcinoma, the skin cancer that eventually killed him, wasn’t clear to anyone other than those near and dear, but given the typically upbeat attitude shared here and the boundless broad grin on every photo that adorns the cover and the inner sleeve, his zest for life was obviously undiminished. So too, several of the songs are quite specific when it comes to parlaying that personal perspective. “University of Bourbon Street”, with special guests Preservation Hall Jazz Band, offers a rousing salute to the early influence New Orleans had on his life and career. A Buffett ballad, “Bubbles Up”, is relaxed and reflective, just as the tender and touching “Audience of One” similarly speaks to the joy of coming home and entertaining no one in particular… except perhaps for his pooch. ‘Back at home I’m never alone…No trepidation, my motivation, is a standing ovation from a waggin’ tail’.
On the other hand, there’s further celebration due to inebriation, “My Gummie Just Kicked In”, a song inspired by a dinner he hosted for Paul McCartney and his wife Nancy, whose apparent outburst provided the tune with its title. An unabashed rocker, Macca repays Buffett’s hospitality by playing bass. There’s homage offered another icon as well — Johnny Hallyday, known as the ‘French Elvis’ — on “Johnny’s Rum,” a song that equally and especially inspired.
On the other hand, considering the fact that in many ways, Buffet’s seemingly idyllic life was sadly cut short, “Close Calls”, offers a particularly poignant perspective:
‘Close calls, close calls
I will survive
Close calls, close calls
Lucky…just to be…alive’
It, like the rest of the album, offers a requiem to a life filled with joy and jubilation, a theme echoed in the upbeat affirmation of the title track, “Ti Punch Cafe”, “Portugal or Pei”, “Nobody Works on Friday”, and “Fish Porn”. Of course, Buffett himself would likely the repudiate the notion that anyone should take him too seriously. And yet, he does maintain some messaging here — that is, that life’s too short and it’s imperative to glean all the happiness one can while they’re still able.
The final track on the album, a take on Bob Dylan’s wistful travelogue “Mozambique” and shared here with Emmylou Harris singing harmony, seems to sum up the sentiment succinctly.
‘And when it’s time to leave Mozambique
To say goodbye to sand and sea
You turn around to take a dine peek
And you see why it’s so lovely to be
Among the lovely people living free
Upon the beach of sunny Mozambique.’
If in fact, that was meant as Jimmy Buffett’s final farewell, at least from the Parrothead perspective, then the point is well made. Bon voyage, cheery traveler. All sheets to the wind. (by Lee Zimmerman)
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