It would be very difficult to begin a review of Dean Friedman’s seventh studio album, “Submarine Races” without considering his previous output and the songs that have made him a name synonymous with the perfectly crafted pop tune.
In 1977 he entered the consciousness with the infectious ‘Ariel’ and singles over the years such as ‘Lydia’, ‘Rocking Chair’ and ‘Lucky Stars’ have cemented Dean Friedman into the singer/songwriter hall of fame, whether or not the listener likes it or not. His foray into the soundtrack composing arena has been no less distinguishing with his contribution to the underground “I Bought a Vampire Motorcycle”. His prior recorded releases aside, it may be considered sensible to consider the content of “Submarine Races” in isolation.
The title track ‘Submarine Races’ is a lilting jamboree of gently floating guitar and careful narrative vocal that sets the bar particularly high. The country flavoured ‘I’m a Luck Guy’ and ‘Under the Weather’ excrete class and song writing finesse, under heartening and comforting vocals which could not fail to bring cheer to the face of the most wretchedly cynical old detractor.
‘You’re a Criminal Darling’ reminds the listener of how perfectly right on target Friedman is when composing and performing heartfelt love songs. In some sense, the naive vocal style lends these tunes a passion and an innocence which is unusually disarming, and utterly charming. ‘Luddite’s Lament’ uses tender jazz phrases as the basis to deliver a sharp appraisal of technology, Facebook, Twitter, Kindle and Google.
‘You’re Invisible’ continues the smoke filled room jazz theme, and would not appear out of place on a vintage release from Tom Waits. Fans of the band Half Man Half Biscuit, and Nigel Blackwell, will be intrigued with his response to their parody ‘Bastard Son of Dean Friedman’ on ‘A Baker’s Tale’. There are many styles of playing and vocal style on “Submarine Races”, including the idiosyncratic ‘Crazy as a Loon’ which, again, should bring a smirk to the face of the most cynical of purists.
Even though this release contains any number of song writing techniques, styles and deliveries, at no time would one regard the flow as fractured or unnatural. The material plainly comes from the mind of a gifted songwriter and social commentator, who is sure to be writing the soundtrack to a number of peoples’ lives. Whether that is the touching ‘Let the Boys Come Home’ or the eccentric, and mischievous ‘Oddballs and Misfits’, there should be something for everyone on this release. The lyrical content of these tracks are paramount to understanding their essence, and this commentator would implore the casual listener to sit quietly, consider their position in humanity, and pay attention carefully to “Submarine Races”.