Friday, November 6, 2009

CD Review: Jerry Morris - Snap Your Fingers

Among the detritus of WFUM’s once-flourishing existence is a cardboard box containing dozens of demo CDs by musicians once hoping for a spot on the station’s long-cancelled musical showcase: AfterHours.
These poor bastards actually labored under the impression that a demonstrated musical talent would land them a spot on the show.
In response to that, may I merely point out that Yours Truly was featured on that program not once but twice. I will leave it to those readers familiar with the dulcet tones of the Guilty Bystanders to determine whether that was due to our musical talent or to the fact that my desk happened to be located next to the desk of the AfterHours producer.

But alas, that’s all in the past now and that CD box now has to be moved to make way for the tenants who will be taking over the WFUM offices. While going through the CDs to see what – if anything – would be worth salvaging, my co-workers came across a CD they KNEW had to come into my possession. It’s a demo CD recorded in 2001 by some Nashville musician named Jerry Morris. My co-workers, you see, are familiar with my passion for all things bizarre and horrible. And this, my dear blog readers, certainly qualifies. A cursory glance at the CD cover proves the listener will be in for a treat. It’s a poorly-printed low-resolution mishmash combining two photos of the musician - apparently the product of Sears Portrait Studio on a bad day. One is a standard headshot though the poor printing quality makes Mr. Morris appear to be a blurry cousin of Howdy Doody. The second picture is more disturbing. It shows the musician peering over a pair of sunglasses with a leather jacket flung over his shoulder. It’s the classic “I’m trying-so-hard-to-get-chicks-to-dig-me-that-I-actually-scare-chicks-away” pose.

Although I must confess I know nothing about Jerry Morris save for the evidence available via this CD, strangely I feel that’s enough to “get” this guy. Based on this evidence, he seems to be the kind of guy who drags his ailing grandmother to Karaoke Night at the local burger & brew joint to hear him sing. Between wheezed inhalations from her portable oxygen tank, the grandmother proudly announces to anyone within earshot: “That’s my grandson up there! Isn’t he great?” The irritated patrons, between bites of greasy cheeseburgers and not wanting to be responsible for the death of the fragile granny, pause to give her a forced smile and a “thumbs up”. After an interminable number of horrible Karaoke Elvis ballads, Mr. Morris asks granny how he did. “They loved you!” she replies with a toothless grin. And sadly, he believes it. He believes it, in fact, enough to record a demo CD in Nashville on his way to the big time!

Which bring us to the actual CD. These vocals are… well… how DOES one adequately describe them? They seem to meander randomly between what sounds like a drunken Elvis and a severely brain-damaged Roy Orbison. It’s obvious there’s an Elvis influence in there somewhere- but not in a good way. Then I get it! This guy isn’t an Elvis impersonator… he’s an Elvis impersonator IMPERSONATOR! He’s not attempting to copy The King so much as he’s mimicking the myriad wretched Elvis clones who infest Holiday Inn lounges throughout the Southland.

And then there are the hopeless lyrics, penned by Mr. Morris himself. They’re the verbal equivalent of the creepy cover photo. He’s trying SO hard to be sexy that this stuff would just HAVE to backfire in real life. At least I sincerely want to believe that. If this stuff actually works on women, please don’t tell me. I don’t want to know.

And to that must be added the wonderfully bizarre disconnect between the naïve exuberance of Jerry’s vocals and the soulless zombielike playing of the Nashville session musicians. Granted, these guys are technically competent, but their playing has all the passion and sincerity of a used car salesman abusing Quaaludes. I can just picture these broken and desperate Nashville note-grinders whose only viable life options are laying down play-by-numbers demo tracks for the likes of Jerry Morris or the blissful release of suicide. If it is possible for technology to capture chronic despair in audio form the sound of the backing musicians on this CD has accomplished it.

So I suppose by now you have reached the conclusion that I hate this CD.

If so, that conclusion would be woefully wrong. I LOVE it! It is now among my prized audio possessions… along with my 45 rpm vinyl copy of “The Ballad of Evel Knievel” by John Cullington Mahoney and my White Wolf promo “with the triple-guitar attack!” flexi-disc.

“Snap Your Fingers” by Jerry Morris is a true gem. Certainly it’s for reasons unintended by the artist, but dammit, it’s great in its own twisted way. Its sincere attempt at mainstream appeal was SO far off the mark it became an unintentional masterpiece of “outsider art”.

So if there’s a silver lining to the immanent demise of my workplace, the rediscovery of this disc was it. Five stars and two thumbs WAAAAAAAY up!!!


  1. First, you have to post some pictures of that cover.

    Second, put up at least one MP3, please!

  2. Ask and ye shall receive. At least with the cover scan. As for the MP3, I have to keep listening so I can post just the right song!

  3. The album notes for Let Freedom Ring talk about Snap Your Fingers: