Bob Norman,
Romantic Nights on the Upper West Side
(Night Owl, 2002)

We all think we know New York City from the zillions of TV shows and movies, and to some extent we do. This becomes obvious when the people and places referred to on a CD like this sound so familiar to this resident of the southeast corner of Ireland, although I have paid a short visit to the Big Apple.

The title track is filled with these familiar images: "if you dropped an egg on the street it would've fried." The title itself just brings a smile to the lips.

Bob Norman likes to play with us on this CD. We start to listen to a track like "La Rosita de Broadway" and we think of love and romance and dates. Then we realise he is singing about a restaurant. I hope he gets free meals for life from the owners. "Airshaft Blues" is another track that transports me back in time and space to a New York of the movies with that feeling of heat and excitement that only one city can exude so well.

I felt that we had taken a night train to Georgia when the track "Loft Bed Woman" began. This is real down-south blues with a sassy line in patter. For those who may not be aware the loft bed is that one raised high up in order to maximise floor space in the big city. "She sleeps 10 feet off the floor," he sings, and then "she can rock me with grace but when we rolled over a little too far I went sailing into space." Such is the joy of urban loving.

Then he brings us back to the serious side of life. "Sanctuary" is a folk song with social awareness. He looks on Miss Liberty and remembers the less fortunate and recalls a U.S. government persecuting those who gave sanctuary to the "huddled masses" in Central America, "If it wasn't for the church that defends us from the law, the agents would send us back to die in El Salvador." We need songs like these to know the way.

"Superman of the Morning" is a personal song that he wrote about the downside of New York living when a building owner switched off the heat on weekends but the new "super" saved them and his dedication in getting the heating going each dawn. "As this bitter city dawn, it drags you from your sleep, were you dreaming of the sun in Santo Domingo?"

In case you never get to visit New York, buy this album and listen to it in sweltering heat and in searing cold to try to experience that unique place on Earth.

[ by Nicky Rossiter ]
Rambles: 28 April 2002