Boats Beaches Bars & Ballads

Before he became the smartass captain of a sophomoric, Margarita-soaked beach cult in the ’80s, Jimmy Buffett sang thoughtful, tender, and literate songs, both his own and those of such writers as Keith Sykes, Steve Goodman, and Jesse Winchester. On Boats Beaches Bars & Ballads, a 4-CD, 72-song, 41 2-hour boxed set, Buffett mixes in a few reflective tunes like Rodney Crowell’s poetic postcard, ”Stars on the Water,” and his own ”Incommunicado” to balance the hedonism of ”Cheeseburger in Paradise,” the crassness of ”Why Don’t We Get Drunk,” and the sentimentality of ”The Captain and the Kid.” Listening to this dark and fascinating chronicle of Buffett’s work from 1973 to the present allows us to watch him get caught in the undertow of pleasing the masses; his music evolves from intelligent, countryish folk-rock to Top 40 pop and, finally, vapid, manufactured island rhythms. It’s surprising how thin his catalog really is, even with the inclusion of a number of previously unreleased tracks. This set clearly demonstrates that as his professional rogue persona shifted from art to commerce, Buffett became more successful at marketing his empire than creating enduring music. C+

Boats Beaches Bars & Ballads
  • Music