vocal bombast of Freddie Mercury to the raw country blues of Son House.
That's what D.C. singer/songwriter Benjy Ferree does on his sophomore
album Come Back to the Five and Dime, Bobby Dee, Bobby Dee. Naturally, no one will know what to do with this hopelessly convoluted mash-up. Naturally, it's a pretty great album.
Bobby Dee, in this case, is Bobby Driscoll, who starred in Disney's Peter Pan
(among others), hit puberty, suffered a bad case of acne, was dropped
by the studio, developed a nasty habit of sticking needles in his arm,
and died destitute and unknown at the ripe old age of 31. Ferree tells
his story in some detail, dropping obscure references to Driscoll roles
and Disney plots, but he abandons the biographical ephemera long enough
to get metaphysical, and that's when he's great. "Fear," the single
that no one will hear, is terrific in its evocation of surrealistic
existential dread, whipped up into a '50s doo-wop froth and capped by
some fine Bowie glam histrionics. It's a brilliant song, the kind of
thing Franz Kafka and the Dung Beetles might have sung around the
oil-drum fire on some street corner in Philly. If "Fear" is the
unmistakeable highlight, Ferree does himself proud on the more
straightforward glam tunes, and his Marc Bolan impersonation is one of
the best I've heard. It's all a little too insular and minutely focused
to connect universally, but there are moments of real transcendence and
beauty here. Bobby Dee is strange, quirky, and musically bracing. It's got no chance, but prove me wrong and check it out anyway.