Such Things Are Finely Done: Live at Tales from the Tavern
(Reviewed by Rich Warren, Sing Out! (www.singout.org), Winter 2004)
A truth in advertising CD title blesses the life of a reviewer. This CD is finely done. Michael Smith is the most under-recorded genius among great singer-songwriters. As a genius he reserves the right to veer wildly from one style to another from CD to CD. His preceding work was heavily produced avant rock.
Such Things Are Finely Done is solo acoustic recorded in concert with little editing. It includes a dozen songs and four funny jokes. Of the songs that were previously recorded, Smith gives them completely new interpretations, such as "The Ballad of Elizabeth Dark." Of course, he includes "The Dutchman," in hopes listeners will realize he is the composer of this touching song that has been recorded by scores of others.
While Smith has recorded the occasional humorous song in the past, this CD contains a reprise of "Move Over Mr. Gauguin" and three riotously hilarious recent compositions. His word play is second to none. He has the wit and edge of Noel Coward and Sondheim's melodic catchiness. "The Princess and the Frog" twists the traditional fairy tale into an absurdly sidesplitting outcome. "Famous in France" is mirthful socio-political commentary and masterful putdown. You'll have to hear "Zippy" for yourself. In a serious vein he includes epic-length "There" and "Honey to the Hive." The philosophical title song that closes the CD sums it up on a very positive note: life is finely done. (Actually, there's an extra uncredited track, a brief putdown of cell phones.)
The good technical quality and mix of this CD showcase Smith's extraordinary guitar playing, often overshadowed by the lyrics of his songs. This milestone recording finally captures an outstanding performance by Smith performing some of his best material. If you are not familiar with Michael Smith you must buy this recording. If you already are a fan, that goes without saying.
(A Rich Warren favorite (www.midnightspecial.org) of 2003! )