Richard X. Heyman
Adam Schmitt

Who needs a band when you can do it all yourself? These two '90s popsters came to the same conclusion, and fortunately had the instrumental expertise to pull it off. Though they're not exactly in the same league as Prince, both have released some worthwhile records that generally rise above the one-man presentation. Not much else to say - Beatlesque, well-crafted, fall easily into the genre known as power-pop, so let's just get to the records.

Richard X. Heyman: Living Room!! (1990) ****

This is actually a rerelease on Cypress Records of a 1988 recording Heyman distributed himself. The title comes from the recording location - Brontasaurus Recording Studios, a converted living room in which Heyman laid down the basic tracks. This Maryland native demonstrates an amazing musical versitality and a sharp songwriting talent, usually driven home by tart melodies and inventive hooks. The songs range from the anthemic ("Call Out the Military") to the bittersweet (gorgeously minor-key "Oh No Elaine") to shuffling country ("Night Ride Rail") to the latin-tinged ("Catalina") to fervent down-home gospel ("Deep Down In My Heart"). The demo-like presentation is less of a big deal than you'd expect, but it's easy to see why Heyman isn't a success: his raspy, limited voice. Like a Keauna Reeves, he shouts to show intensity when there are better ways to go about it. Nevertheless, his songwriting carries the day, particularly when he gets melancholy on haunted numbers like "Union County Line", and he shows a sense of humor ("Local Paper"). The liner notes of him explaining the songs are an added bonus.

Richard X. Heyman: Hey Man! (1991) ***1/2

Signed to a major now (Sire), Heyman entered a real studio and comes out sounding exactly the same as before. The songwriting's a tad bit weaker this time, but only a fraction; otherwise, this is a carbon copy of the debut (minus a bit of the stylistic variety, the other reason I gave this one a slightly lower grade). "To Whiskey Flats," is Heyman's best haunting bittersweet ballad yet, and an excellent recreation of the Left Banke circa '67; most of the rest demonstrates a low-budget mid-Beatles influence. "In the Scheme of Things," uncannily recreates a Tom Petty-ish ballad. He explains his peculiar reliance on military metaphors in "Civil War Buff,", "Thought I'd Seen Everything," should've been a hit single, and given the current political climate, it would be way to obvious for me to make a cheap joke in regards to "Monica," now wouldn't it?

Richard X. Heyman: Cornerstone (1998)

After a long period spent in search of a record contract, Heyman has finally been allowed to release a new album.

Adam Schmitt: World So Bright (1991) ***

Nice Midwestern boy (aren't they all?) gets assistance from members of John Mellencamp's band on the drums and violin, but otherwise does it all by himself. The first time I heard the Top-40 smash in an alternate universe "Can't Get You On My Mind," I had to hear it again - and again. It's textbook catchy, and the rest is similarly solid, particularly "My Killer," the title track, and "River Black," in which he kills a pretty girl. The presentation is too radio-ready and commercial, but it's accomplished, and generally the problem with the songs isn't that they are formulaic or uninspired but that there's nothing exceptional going on; it's not enough for three-minute pop songs to be melodic and hooky these days, you have to add that extra, indefinable something to reel a listener like myself in. For some reason there are three copies of this CD in every pawnshop in Springdale, AR.

Adam Schmitt: Illiterature (1993)

His second album.

"Virginia Perkins",

I have both of Adam Schmitt's CD's. I agree with your take on World So Bright for the regular world. I do, however, think it is an awesome CD with catchy lick's, great lyrics, and great production.

Saying for Illiterature, that it was his "Second Album" sells it way short I think. My roots are in Neil Diamond and Billy Joel as a kid so Hard Rock wasn't my first passion. But when I listened to that CD it became my absolute favorite and, honestly, I listen to it about 200X a year. Since they took it out of print I made 3 regular copies of it in case I cracked one and made 2 MP3 copies (it's the only CD I did that for). I think it is a Hard edged, Lyrically honest, Vocally honest, full out, guitar crunching, drum pounding, hard rock experience. Three Faces West has an awesome build and it has been my all time favorite song out of 600 full length CDs and over 500MP3 songs I own.

The great part of this is I can't explain completely why I like this CD so much as to listen to it almost daily from beginning to end but I can't be the only one that feels his CD was really good on a regular level against other hard rock CD's. It's the only CD I can honestly say I can hear 5X a day from beginning to end and still say "Play it again". Never gets old to me. That's my take.

Thanks for writing about his work which I also think is well written,

John Perkins

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