Marshall Crenshaw’s #447 Album From 1999 Gets A New Lease On Life With An Expanded Reissue

Marshall Crenshaw
#447 (Expanded reissue)
4 out of 5 stars

Videos by American Songwriter

Those who weren’t diehard Marshall Crenshaw fans probably thought he stopped making albums after his final 1989 Warner Brothers’ release.

But, after a one-off deal with MCA, Crenshaw bounded back. He signed with scrappy indie Razor and Tie for 1996’s impressive Miracle of Science, an album equal to, and arguably better than, some earlier titles. Two more discs followed on that label. The oddly named #447 (a takeoff on Chicago’s numbered titles) from 1999, found him at a creative peak, doing what he does best; creating hooky, catchy pop-rock with the ease and authority of the master craftsman he is.

While Crenshaw remains active on the road—lately fronting the similarly styled Smithereens—his output of new material has slowed to a trickle. Jaggedland from 2009 is his most recent full-blown studio recording, along with some later EPs.

He has circled back to those under-the-radar Razor & Tie recordings by reissuing them on his own Shiny-Tone imprint, cleaning up the audio, adding extra tracks, and generally infusing the collections with a new lease on life after R&T’s limited budget hobbled their initial appearance.

There are plenty of examples on #447 to remind listeners that Crenshaw’s songs had not only maintained his effortless easy-going melodies but were some of the finest entries into his already impressive catalog. Anyone hearing the shimmering guitars of “T.M.D.” (an abbreviation of truly-madly-deeply) or the chiming “Right There In Front of Me,” will think they came from older albums. Tracks like “Dime a Dozen Guy,” which reflects the frustration and disappointment when seeing his ex hooking up with the titular character, are classic Crenshaw.

The wonderful, surging “Television Light” with its instantly memorable strings in the chorus and the singer’s aching vocals would make anyone’s list for top 10 Crenshaw creations. Just to prove he’s not a one-trick-pop-pony, he hits harder with the thumping blues rocking “Ready Right Now.” Three short but sweet jazzy instrumentals balance the flow yet verge on better than average filler.

Crenshaw adds two new, pandemic recorded songs for this reissue; the sweet mid-tempo “Will of the Wind” and a cover of Gregg Turner’s “Santa Fe.” Both are delightful, logical additions and prove his skills remain sharp, especially since he plays nearly every instrument on them.  

The lack of additional documentation though in the form of enhanced liner notes, essays about the music, extra pictures, improved graphics (which look even drabber than the original), or lyrics (there is no booklet) is a frustrating omission for a repackage of this quality.

Still, the music holds up, sounding as fresh and vibrant as it did the day it was released over two decades ago. It also leaves us wanting to hear more from Crenshaw who clearly has plenty of gas left in his talent tank.              

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