Album Review

Bill Mumy's Song Cycle on Life in the Moment

Bill Mumy - Velour

Album Cover Photo Credit: Angela Cartwright

 Songwriters, poets and writers who keep up with their craft often develop a sense of the rhythm of life. Listening to their work over time brings a sense of the joys, the hurdles, the rewards and the struggles and ultimately, the redemptive power of the creative act.

Singer-songwriter, producer, and actor, Bill Mumy, has captured this in his own unique musical sphere on this cycle of songs he called, Velour, his latest release of homemade recordings.  With an acting career that reaches back to early childhood, as a young boy he became a familiar face on on the baby-boom television of the 1960s, appearing in memorable roles on shows like Bewitched, Alfred Hitchcock Presents and The Twilight Zone-remember the terrifyingly innocent yet menacing Anthony in  the episode "It's A Good Life?"   He also made movies with icons like James Stewart and Stanley Kramer. 

 But over the decades, he has kept his feet firmly in the world of music, following his own visionary muse without conditions or compromises from the business of music. He records from his home-studio playing all instruments and providing the vocal duties. Mumy has forged his own way, taking a path-less-traveled on several solo albums over the last 20 years that have ranged between refelctions, comments on the world at large and just plain rock & roll.   

 His new album, Velour, continues his series of impressions that takes a fond glance back at times past while he gives the present a cleared-eyed and honest look. The album is a meditation on the passing of years, impermance and mortality, even as he raises questions about immortality. It is all accomplished through music that will stand the test of time.

The opening song, "I'm Gonna Miss My Banja Bean", is a beautifully rendered lark of an instrumental with a simple guitar, bells, banjo and a subtle electric guitar that weaves expertly into the groove of the song.

  "The Infrastructure of the Soul," open up life in the here and now, the trials, challenges and burdens that are lived through even as life-lessons are learned. Built on a solid blues riff, it builds hauntingly and moves with lyrics that look life as-it-is both personal and collective.  As the central line says, "I pray for restoration for the infrastructure of the soul." It's clearly for life today in the age of national leaders who seem to be unable to navigate the truth from a lie or delusion from vision. 

"When Roger was Jim," is one of the strongest songs on the album. Mumy pays lyrical, melodic and stylistic tribute to the folk-rock of The Byrds as they were in 1965, before McGuinn's name change-from Jim to Roger. He supports the song with the familar jangely guitar of the band's signature sound.  

Then, he leaps head first into a raunchy and raw rocker, "It's Always Something," that speaks to the challenges we face each day and our common determination to pull through the bumps and grinds of life.  Linked directly to "It's Always," "Hills and Valleys," gives a philosophical look at the ups and downs of life in search of the inner strength and gratitude for the moment-by-moment life nature of life.  

"Whose Gonna Put the Fire Out" is a singular apocalyptic vision. "She Came to Hollywood," is a lyrical portrait of a would-be-star who symbolizes many who struggle with the success and failure of so many who come to Hollywood for the glitz and the glamour.  "Intimate" is melodically embraced with a piano as he sings of a lost love. The vocal harmonies are simple as they pay tribute to The Beach Boys. "If I Ever Make It Back To Laurel Canyon," is an autobiographical sketch of the burn-out of being on the road away from home.

The inspirational "We Are One," is a homage to hope and unity. "I Couldn't Love You Anymore than I do," is a simple and straight forward love song delivered with acoustic guitar and vocal at the center. 

The final "When It's Over", is a contemplative reflection on approaching the end of life. The refrain, "will you miss me when its over," asks a thoughtful and vulnerable rhetorical question. No thoughts on afterlife, just life in the now of things with a simple guitar, banjo, bells and a subtle lead guitar accompany the music as he takes us through these final thoughts of this fine album.

Velour continues the singer-songwriting legacy of Bill Mumy.    What is most impressive about his musical autonomy is with each instrumental nuance-everything from guitars, banjo, drums, lead vocals, vocal harmonies and keyboards-there is never a hint that this is all done an artist on his own. It sounds like a fully produced album with a collective of skilled musicians. It is a turn of the key into the musical life of an artist who is as independent as he is gifted. Velour shows the work of an exceptional even as he points us in the right direction, to a place of love, understanding, restoration and redemption. 

 

 Nice review Terry...I remember when I was a kid Bill was doing Will Robinson on Lost In Space and he was on the Mike Douglas show for a couple of shows...he did a version of the Byrds' "Mr. Spaceman" on acoustic guitar...it never occurred to me you could be an actor and an musician both, and there it was, and it was someone maybe 2-3 years older than me to boot...I thought he was too cool at the time, and I'm sure I still have his signed Lost In Space publicity photo somewhere in the archives...I know he played with America some and that he kept doing both over the years...visited his website a couple of times but never bought anything...guess maybe I will remedy that and pick this one up...thanks for the blast from the past and present...

Thanks for reading Jim. Yes...that Mike Douglas show oughta be around somewhere on YouTube. Bill takes great pleasure in his 60s TV legacy. If you pick up one of his solo efforts, this is the one, I'd say. If you get a chance check out Barnes & Barnes, his musical comedy duo. Such satiric absurdities as the lyrics to Green Acres theme song ot the tune-arrangement and all-of A Day in a Life.