Marshall Crenshaw Gives 1996’s ‘Miracle of Science’ An Expanded Reissue (ALBUM REVIEW)

If the unpredictable arc of Marshall Crenshaw’s career has proved anything, it is that he’s never been interested in just cranking it out. And he’s independent too which is why, now that he’s regained ownership of his five albums previously-released out on Razor & Tie between 1994 and 2004, he’s seen fit to judiciously add on to the original track-listings and remaster the lot under the auspices of the expert Greg Calbi (and the cover graphics in homage to Roulette Records suitably replace the initial holographic design that garnered a Grammy nomination).

1996’s Miracle of Science is a more full-bodied and deeper sound than the original album and benefits from the relatively earthy “Who Stole That Train” and “Only An Hour Ago” as much as the chiming, dense guitars and plush vocal harmonies of “What Do You Dream Of” and “Starless Summer Sky.” The former cast member of Beatlemania didn’t markedly alter his approach when he moved from the major labels to the independent realm, so the caliber of musicianship remained a priority for Marshall Crenshaw, whether he’s playing everything by himself, as on those latter two tracks, or when he’s got an expanded band in place. 

For instance, the arrangement of a vintage piece of pure pop here, “The in Crowd,” features Greg Leisz’ dobro weaving in, out and around the horns of saxophonist Crispin Cloe and trumpeter Larry Elkin. The performance allows the ensemble to evince a knowledge of roots comparable to its leader’s fondness for country, blues and R&B, a natural extension of previous albums like the T-Bone Burnett-produced Downtown. The frontman’s lead guitar is even more prominent on the virtual instrumental “Theme From Flaregun:” his seemingly effortless, melodic playing bespeaks an imagination equal to his natural aptitude.

The three bonus tracks appended to the original dozen further serve to remind of Marshall Crenshaw’s great affinity for mixing acoustic and electric instruments with layered voices, bass and drums to generate impact as hard-hitting as it is tuneful. Virtually everything resonates in this man’s music and that includes those emotions he expresses in songs like “A Wondrous Place” or the vivid story-line drawn in the Who-like “2541.” Marshall Crenshaw is as articulate with words as he is with the acoustic guitar he fingers so nimbly during “There And Back Again.” 

And then there’s the wit within “Rouh Na Selim Neves” the inclusion of which is a quirky gesture in keeping with the man’s iconoclasm and eccentricity. Nevertheless, it might be self-indulgent–not to mention too cute for its own good–if all these sounds in reverse did not ring out almost as harmoniously as the more conventional extra cuts, including its parent track. “What The Hell I Got” and “Misty Dreamer,” allow for re-sequencing this fifty-five minutes CD so that, perhaps sans novelties like the “Soundbite” intro cut, modified versions of Miracle of Science might well pass for definitive Crenshaw, perhaps even on par with his eponymous debut of 1982 or the Steve Lilly white- produced sophomore effort Field Day. 

High praise for a reissue to be sure, but just further evidence of why it’s been so rewarding to follow this man’s work for nigh on four decades and why it remains worth doing so now.

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