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Who says ads can't be art

Bruce Bendinger -
Can't Sing. Don't Care. Songs from the Hip

(Southport Lounge)
3 1/2 stars (out of 5 stars)
Reviewed: Dec. 31, 2006
Bruce Bendinger

Review by Brad Walseth

Creative communications consultant, author of the Copywork Copybook, publisher of advertising textbooks for colleges, teacher of the undergrad advertising program at DePaul University, former ad exec at major players like Foote, Cone and Belding, and Leo Burnett, Chicago advertising industry guru Bruce Bendinger shows off yet another aspect of his enormous creativity in this humorous collection of his songs, recorded 20 years ago (give or take), here and there in small studios and at the end of jingle sessions. Like you always suspected of persons employed in the ad industry, Bendinger lies to you right from the start - as he not only CAN sing, he can think and write intelligent, humorous and enjoyable songs. And like he says in "Ad Man," he may be an ad man, but that "don't make him no bad man."

These trippy, groovy lounge numbers come straight from the creative lounge that must have existed in Bendinger's head during those frantic 60's, 70's and early 80's, and it's a wild yet inviting place to chill in. Tasty, boogie-down numbers like "Just Trippin' With You" and "Another Nothin' Groove" capture perfectly the spirit of the times - when everything was unsettled yet exciting, and make you want to pull out your leaisure suit and platform shoes. Songs like "1955," "Everyday American Dreams," "Waltzin'," and "Wish I Were a Sophomore Again" (I know what you mean, Bruce!) recall the past in tongue-in-cheek, yet nostaligic manner, while "Julio de Studio," "Thoughtwaves" and "(Nothing as Soft as a)Woman in the Rain" are cool tunes. And "Everybody's Goin' Home" is just flat out a great pop song, done Ricky Nelson style. Throughout, the music is played by Bendinger with studio cats and other talented friends like trumpet great Bobby Lewis, and it is truly great fun indeed.

As good and fun as the music is, the priceless part of this project for me is the extremely clever lyrics (like rhyming "Strauss-ing" with "carousing" on "Waltzin'"). As sung by Bendinger in his "Michael Franks with gonads" voice, you can't keep from smiling (and cringing) as he recounts bitterly funny songs about Ronald Reagan ("Bonzo Boogie"), U.S. Nicaragua policies ("!Ciudad de Cuidado!"),Edward Kennedy's deadly vehicular mishap ("Chappaquiddick Duck"), and even the JFK assassination ("The Grassy Knoll - a dark disco number in 13/4 time!) - especially if like me, you lived through these same events. The lyrics are penetrating and internal rhymes a delight, but I doubt you have to know what a "Flossmoor floozy" is or who "Mayor Jane" (Byrne) was to enjoy the fabulous "Chi-Town Shuffle" - a tune that should be the official song of all Windy City lounge lizards.

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