Jonathan Richman has been writing songs, making records and performing live for most of his life, winning fans and making friends around the world with his guileless honesty and playfully catchy compositions. He's revered by countless fellow artists, and has built a remarkably loyal international audience through his tireless touring. His deceptively straightforward songs embody timeless qualities of humanity, optimism, emotional insight and a boundless sense of humor, untainted by cynicism or transient notions of hipness.
Those qualities are all prominent on Not So Much to Be Loved as to Love, Jonathan Richman's 21st album and his first collection of new material in three years. The album features thirteen openhearted, lovingly crafted songs (fifteen if you count the two unlisted bonus tracks), delivered in spare but often imaginative arrangements built around Jonathan's distinctive voice and guitar and the sensitive drumming of longtime sideman Tommy Larkins. The resulting album captures much of the warmth of Jonathan's exuberant, spontaneous and often hilarious live performances.
Not So Much to Be Loved as to Love—the follow up to Jonathan's 2003 live DVD Take Me to the Plaza—features a typically winsome set of tunes. "Sunday Afternoon," "He Gave Us the Wine to Taste It," "Behold the Lilies of the Field" and the title track exemplify his life-affirming attitude, while "Vincent Van Gogh" and "Salvador Dali" continue his longstanding tradition of paying poignant tribute to his heroes. Elsewhere, Jonathan ventures into uncharacteristically topical territory on the moving plea "Abu Jamal," and his longstanding interest in international culture manifests itself in songs sung in Italian ("Cosi Veloce," "In Che Mondo Viviamo") and French ("Les Etoiles" and "On a du Soleil").
The album also features a guest appearance from bassist Greg "Curly" Keranen, a former member of Richman's fabled '70s band the Modern Lovers, on standup bass; noted multi-instrumentalist Ralph Carney on flute and trumpet; and bassist Miles Montalbano, who also designed the album's cover art.
Not So Much to Be Loved as to Love is also Jonathan Richman's first completely self-produced album. "I'm the most satisfied with the sound of this record," he reports. "I feel like we're just starting to get the hang of getting the sound right. I think I've always been mainly a stage performer kind of guy, so it took me a while to feel comfortable in the studio, but now I'm getting there. In this case it was actually easier to produce my own stuff, because this time I knew what I wanted, and it was easier for me to do it myself than to try to explain to another guy."
While he may feel that he's just coming to grips with the recording medium, the records that Jonathan Richman has made over the past 30 years have long held a special place in the hearts of his fans. He began playing guitar at the age of 15, and in the early 1970s formed the Modern Lovers, whose raw, minimalist sound and emotionally forthright songs helped to lay the groundwork for punk rock. But by the time the group's landmark debut album (including the much-covered "Road Runner," a Top Five single in Europe) was released in 1976, Jonathan had already moved on to a quieter sound and a gentler lyrical focus. Since then, he's continued to record and tour prolifically, first with a series of Modern Lovers lineups, later on his own, and eventually as a duo with drummer Larkins. Over the years, Jonathan's music has absorbed a multitude of influences, from doo-wop to country to a variety of international styles, without sacrificing the artist's effervescent personality.
Jonathan's fans have remained fiercely devoted over the years, and his audience expanded substantially in the 1990s, thanks to his frequent guest spots on TV's Late Night with Conan O'Brien, his prominent appearance in the 1998 film comedy smash There's Something About Mary, and the inclusions of his Modern Lovers classics "Ice Cream Man" and "I'm A Little Airplane" on Sesame Street.
For much of his career, Jonathan has toured almost almost nonstop around the world. "Traveling and playing for new people in new places is one of my favorite things," he notes. "It's great playing places that are off the beaten track. You can learn a lot when you play in a little town in Holland or Western Australia, and you learn different things than you would learn playing a big city. This year we're going to try to play in Extremadura, which is the southwest of Spain—we might become the first American entertainers ever to play there. I'm hoping that we can able to play the Canary Islands soon.
"Playing shows and making records keeps been getting easier and more fun," Jonathan states, adding, "Me and Tommy play totally different than we played two years ago. We already play a different style than we played on that live DVD, and the way we played then was totally different from the way we played three years before that. I still feel like we're just starting out, and I still learn new stuff every night."
(Please note that Jonathan Richman does not have any direct involvement with the Vapor Records website and does not participate in the internet on any level.)
JONATHAN RICHMAN DISCOGRAPHY
1976 - Modern Lovers - Get Back
1977 - Jonathan Richman & the Modern Lovers - Get Back
1977 - Rock 'N' Roll with the Modern Lovers... - Beserkley
1977 - Live - Wooded Hill
1979 - Back in Your Life - Wooded Hill
1983 - Jonathan Sings - Warner
1985 - Rockin' & Romance - Twin/Tone
1986 - It's Time for Jonathan Richman - Upside
1988 - Modern Lovers 88 - Rounder
1989 - Jonathan Richman - Rounder
1990 - Jonathan Goes Country - Rounder
1991 - Having a Party with Jonathan Richman - Rounder
1992 - I, Jonathan - Rounder
1994 - Jonathan, Te Vas a Emocionar! - Rounder
1995 - You Must Ask the Heart - Rounder
1996 - Surrender to Jonathan - Vapor
1998 - Live at the Long Branch & More - Last Call
1998 - I'm So Confused - Vapor
2001 - Her Mystery Not of High Heels and Eye Shadow - Vapor
2004 - Not So Much to Be Loved as to Love - Vapor/Sanctuary