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MUSIC REVIEW

Far Side of the World

Jimmy Buffett and the Coral Reefer Band

By Amy L Meadows

Staff Writer

Far Side of the World

March 17, 2002

Mailboat Records

Jimmy Buffett may just be the world’s most popular free spirit. His concerts attract thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of otherwise normal human beings who convert into Parrot Heads for a night. They dress up in hula skirts and coconut bras, aim beach balls at the stage, drink Coronas until the world gets fuzzy around the edges, and dance the “land shark” in a sea of people.

Buffett’s new album, Far Side of the World, gives a glimpse into the personal magnetism that draws people to his concerts. Many of the songs on this new album are every bit as catchy as the ones that made him famous (“Cheeseburger in Paradise” and “Margaritaville”). “Blue Guitar,” for instance, has Buffett singing, “You are what you are/You dream what you dream/Play on your blue guitar for me” to a rollicking Caribbean melody.

While the songs are catchy, they are also musically complex, involving a thirteen-piece band with horns, a mandolin, a steel drum, and percussion. For instance, “Last Man Standing” combines numerous instruments and very diverse musical styles. The song blends rock and roll with country and Buffett’s own unique melody and style. Other songs span the spectrum between rock and country.

One of the most compelling aspects of Far Side of the World is the raw emotion that Buffett invests in the ballads of his album. In “Mademoiselle (Voulez-Vous Danser),” he comforts his lover, promising that the dawn will soon clear away the night: “You’ve been sitting there all night long/I know that something must be wrong.”

Buffett’s songs even recall specific, painful events in his life. In one, he remembers a failed venture: a hotel on St. Barts. “Autour du Rocher” memorializes the constant party before the hotel burned down: “Every night at midnight/Seems the devil took control/And the hill became a parking lot/Fueled by rock ’n roll.”

More than anything, however, the music is fun and free, like Buffett himself. The video on the CD shows Buffett surfing and sailing, sharing a beer with the natives, dancing with African tribesmen, and traveling all across the globe. His mobile spirit draws his audience to his work.

In “Altered Boy (Beware Paraguay),” Buffett alludes to his reputation as a free spirit: “Why does he never stop smiling?/Fun surrounds him like a deep moat/...But Peter Pan would understand/His schemes and dreams and ploys.” He plays off this theme with other songs like “Last Man Standing,” in which he sings, “If they gave Olympic Medals/For rockin’ all night long/I would have won ‘em all till I turned pro.” He’s even bold enough to philosophize in song, “What If The Hokey Pokey Is All It Really Is About?”

Far Side of the World takes the catchy tunes for which Buffett is well-known and brings them to a new level of emotional vulnerability. Yet he will hang onto his old fans with songs that exemplify his uninhibited attitude.