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Michael Nesmith ". . . Tropical Campfire's . . ." Pacific Arts Audio

June 24, 1993|RANDY LEWIS

If Michael Nesmith's first studio album in 14 years were to set off a pop fad, no doubt it'd be dubbed the "Urbane Cowboy" phenomenon.

Although Nesmith the entrepreneur spent most of the '80s building his Pacific Arts Corp. into a multimedia giant, Nesmith the musician demonstrates that he never lost his love of the wide open spaces of his native Texas. Also intact is his skill at crafting lyrics that are always literate without sounding forced.

As the title suggests, a mood of sophisticated Latin romance imbues the album, from the Western rumba beat of his own "Laugh Kills Lonesome" to wonderfully elegant covers of Cole Porter's "Begin the Beguine," with its "rapture serene," and Ary Barroso's sensual "Brazil."

The ex-Monkee can still rock, too. He flexes his power-chord muscles, not to mention his fondness for whimsical existentialist wordplay, in "I Am Not That."

Mostly, though, it's the down-to-earth cultivation he forges in such tunes as "Moon Over the Rio Grande" and "Twilight on the Trail" that creates a sense of what music might have sounded like if Cole Porter had been drafted by the Sons of the Pioneers.

Extending the stylistic link to his string of often-inspired country-rock solo albums of the '70s is the return of his longtime sidekick, steel guitarist Red Rhodes. Ex-Desert Rose Band guitarist John Jorgenson, furthering his reputation as the string-man of choice in the '90s, brings his instrumental wizardry and unerring tastefulness to the mix as well.

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