Mark Eitzel released his first post-American Music Club album in 1996. It was quite jarring upon first listen with a smooth, jazzy sound involving copious brass. Typically, despite being one of the foremost songwriters of his generation, he chose to open with his version of Goffin & King's torch-song No Easy Way Down. He pulls it off, but then follows up with some pleasant but unremarkable tracks, the smooth shuffle of Sacred Heart, and the soulful Always Turn Away. Later, Aspirin transcends these arrangements via the steel guitar of Bruce Kaphan.
A handful of torch-jazz songs make the cut. Utilising Mark Isham on horns, Saved and Mission Rock Resort work quite well as vehicles for Eitzel's passionate vocals. Some Bartenders Have The Gift of Pardon is a kind of weary, "last orders" version of this, featuring a fine turn on piano from Kaphan.
Cleopatra Jones and Southend On Sea are funky jazz experiments that don't work at all. But for those looking for classic Eitzel, he does deliver. When My Plane Finally Goes Down is a shimmering, drawn out ballad with goose-bump inducing chilly keyboards blowing through it. Wild Sea is a largely acoustic track that functions like an update of Johnny Mathis' Feet, bearing a fine, desperate vocal. Bleakness closes in on final track Everything Is Beautiful as Eitzel sings "the thinnest rope won't hang you" over descending piano and a sensitive accompaniment from the rest of the band.
So a departure for Eitzel, the introduction of Eitzel as doomed torch singer. And, though uneven, it works.