Picks and Pans Review: The Ballads of Madison County
It used to be that a megaselling book could be counted on to become a movie. Now, in a bad idea whose time has apparently come, a best-selling book has become a record. This vanity production stars the Bridges of Madison County author Robert James Waller singing his own highly derivative cowboy and country-flavored songs and covering the works of his betters, among them Johnny Mercer and Bob Dylan.
The professor of economics/author/composer/performer, who also supplies the acoustic guitar accompaniment, has a thin, reedy voice not unlike those of pop singer Julio Iglesias and Kenyan balladeer Roger Whittaker. But under no circumstances should such comparisons be taken as compliments.
The title cut, written by Waller, the Andrew Lloyd Webber of the wide-open spaces, is a faux cowboy ballad best appreciated by ardent fans and tolerant friends: "She was a dancer with dreams of her own/ And he was a dreamer who danced all alone/ They might have been wood smoke/ They might have been wind/ Or they might have been magic/ That won't come again."
For sheer brio it would be hard to beat Waller's aping of Dylan in "Girl from the North Country." For sheer pretentiousness it would be hard to beat Waller's "Golden Apples of the Sun," which was inspired by the poetry of William Butler Yeats and which he recites over one of his aimless homemade themes. One wonders where all this will lead. Perhaps Tom Clancy, author of techno-thrillers, wall release "Ballads from the Big One." But let's not give him any ideas. (Atlantic)