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One thing you can say about Jimmy Buffett: for a guy who spends half his time rock & rolling and the other half lounging around Caribbean beaches, he's not an arrogant son of a bitch. A bit complacent maybe, since he's content to slurp a "Dreamsicle" while rhyming "Lear jets" with "basinettes." And temperamental? You bet. Stick him in hockey country too long, and he starts shooting holes in refrigerators ("Boat Drinks"). But he knows he's got it made, and he's not about to complain or rub it in. In fact, to us suckers who aren't in a position to… Read More
"fly to Saint Somewhere" whenever we get cabin fever, Buffett admits that his seaside self-indulgence may leave him spiritually empty-handed in the long run. "Haven't found the answers like some that I know," he says in "Stranded on a Sandbar," Volcano's most introspective song. "I'm just stuck in a fairly nice maze."
As "Stranded on a Sandbar" ends, Buffett is lolling beneath a cashew tree and counting the stars. Next thing you know, he's zipping through space like Peter Pan. "Chanson pour les Petits Enfants," a sort of Maurice Sendak fantasy set to Cat Stevens-style instrumentation, portrays two extraterrestrial tykes who visit a beautiful island on Earth where they're greeted by a queen serving chocolates and tea, a princess bearing gifts of pearls, and an arkful of animals trilling a gorgeous little ditty in French. This strange fairy tale may seem ridiculous coming from Buffettshades of Mom and Pop McCartney! but it's not really out of character.
While never sickly sweet, Buffett's outlook has always been as sunny as a storybook's, and "Chanson pour les Petits Enfants" hints at why. The people-pleasing mission of the rock-star trip, along with the travel and luxury it affords, probably comes as close as anything to fulfilling a child's daydream of the "good life": after all, when musicians work, they call it playing. That Buffett manages to tap a child's sense of wonder and goodness without going smug, sentimental or religious might be the best thing about him.
"Chanson pour les Petits Enfants" is certainly the best thing about Volcano. On the rest of the record, the singer's usual balance of rowdy romps and maritime meditations is tipped too far to the mellow side, and the fact that he had a hand in writing all the songs results in a definite sameness. We've heard better comic kickers than "Fins," better eulogies for sailors than "Sending the Old Man Home," better love songs than "Lady I Can't Explain." And I doubt whether we need to hear Jimmy Buffett ape Barry Manilow, as he does in "Survive." Basically, that leaves the title tune (a delightful calypso complete with trendy references to Three Mile Island and the Ayatollah Khomeini) and "Treat Her like a Lady" (a splendid oceanic ode cowritten by Dave Loggins) to carry this "fairly nice" but unexceptional LP. Buffett's album, unlike the volcano on Montserrat where it was recorded, is never