A few weeks back I wrote a blog entry about my decades-long fascination with Tony Powers’ great song and video ”Don’t’ Nobody Move (This is a Heist).” I should note that Tony’s latest album is a welcome return for this “mystery” figure whom I had thought of as a “character actor who occasionally makes music,” but is really a one-time million-selling pop tunesmith who has been doubling as both an actor and a singer-songwriter who’s equal parts bright and literate, and streetsmart wiseass.
The album, called Who Could Imagine, finds Powers working in a number of pop genres, from old-fashioned ballad (“Lorraine”) to proto-Calypso (“Goin’ into Space”). As such, the album functions almost like an actor’s “demo reel,” showing how Tony the songwriter can channel his talent to fit a number of different moods. In reading about Tony online, I found that some of the songs were in fact written a few years back (and, yes, the classic “Don’t Nobody Move” gets an ever-so-slight update here), but they fit right in with these ever-so-fucked-up times. In line with the current era, Powers aims for the jugular with a few socially-conscious songs, including “Sadly.” (lyrics here)
Powers is working in the same vein as Carole King, Leonard Cohen and (especially) Tom Waits throughout, but I have to aim my focus squarely one more time on his ability as an urban sketch artist. His “Cartoon” offers a very nice and quite accurate review of livin’ in this very burg (although I hear that now TP inhabits the car-choked climes of L.A.): “The train is late 'n the/air-conditioning’s broke./And I’m wedged between/these two fat fucks whose/clothes are soaked./Is this the life?/All the people in Commercials/have so much fun,/a bunch of happy baboons/Is this the life?/Or are we just in rehearsal?/Excuse me — is this the feature/or is this the cartoon?”
Powers is a cult figure and, from what I’ve been reading, a “musician’s musician.” As such, I guess Who Could Imagine confirms that he is indeed a very cool tree falling in a very hip forest. Yez all should give a listen — the lyrics are on Tony’s site, and you can hear the first 2 minutes or so of each song on via the CD Baby site.
And just because this is a visually-oriented blog, I’m happy to report that the other two music-vids that Powers made back in the Eighties are up on YouTube. The first is a whole ’nother slice of NYC location shooting: Tony in a romantic mood with actress Lois Chiles on the Staten Island Ferry for the song “Odyssey” — which was later covered by KISS!
“Midnite Trampoline” is a two-part gem (at least on YouTube) that finds Powers playing a gigolo who isn’t quite… up to the demands of his profession (check out his ginzo buds, one of whom is played by a very young and svelte John Goodman). The video may not be as much of a shock to the system as “Don’t Nobody Move,” but it’s a nice piece’a lightly comic filmmaking that harkens back to the time when videos could be unpredictable in wonderful ways: