May 2007

Richard X. Heyman - Actual Sighs
Turn-Up Records  TU-4
Format: CD
Released: 2007

by Joseph Taylor

Musical Performance ****
Recording Quality ***1/2
Overall Enjoyment ****

Richard X. Heyman is a pop classicist in the manner of Dwight Twilley, Marshall Crenshaw, and Tom Petty. The multi-instrumentalist has toured with Brian Wilson and Peter Noone, among others, and since 1980 has released eight collections of well-crafted, memorable songs. Heyman plays all the instruments on this newest one, except for strings and a few bass lines, which are provided by his wife, Nancy Leigh. Actual Sighs comprises a complete re-recording of Heyman's 1986 EP Actual Size along with 14 added tracks. Heyman wrote all of the songs during the mid-to-late 1980s, and "rediscovered" them when he and his wife moved to a new apartment.

Heyman builds his songs around chiming guitars, vintage-sounding keyboards, and beautifully complex harmony vocals. He is also a solid, hard-hitting rock drummer. The songs on Actual Sighs show an affinity for '60s British pop, especially the Zombies and the Kinks, but Heyman’s songs stand on their own without reference to his influences. The best songs, such as "Kenyon Walls," "All in the Way You Found Me," and "In a Boxcar" are effortlessly melodic and brilliantly arranged. Heyman also rocks with conviction on "Twelve Bars and I Still Have the Blues" and "RHX’s Love in the First Person Blues."

Actual Sighs is filled with wonderful sonic moments that make it an enjoyable repeat listen, although Ed Stasium’s mix pushes the instruments and backup vocals a little too far forward. More space and depth in the soundstage would have allowed some of Heyman’s wittier touches to come through, but I didn’t give that problem much thought as one pop gem after another poured from my speakers.