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The Naked Dutch Painter...And Other Songs is the second 'real' (as opposed to 'official bootleg') solo album by Stew (aka Mark Stewart of The Negro Problem. Unlike most of his albums, this was recorded basically live, including between song chatter ("I was thinking... don't you wish there was another photo of Che Guevara, like maybe one where he was at a birthday party with nine year olds and snorting milk out of his nose because someone just told a joke?").

A lot of the album has the feeling of a tribute to Jacques Brel musically, and is very of a piece. Much of the album is also very lyrically oriented, which is a problem when writing a node about it because music is far easier to write about.

Like all Stew's albums, both with the Negro Problem and otherwise, this is actually more of a duo album, with the instrumental and vocal contributions of Stew's partner, Negro Problem bass player Heidi Rodewald, being very much to the fore.

Single Woman Sitting is a simple portrait of a woman's apartment, based on just piano and vocal parts, with bass on the chorus. Not one of the best songs on the album, the best moment is probably the line 'a giant cat sits on the bed, he pissed once on my head/What was he fed?/I think cats are stupid'

Giselle is another vignette describing a woman, this time more a sort of caricature of the 'la belle dame sans merci' archetype that so many rock songs have been about - a story of an impossibly cool sophisticated woman, 'terribly rude to waiters/overtips like Sinatra/quite fond of Stiv Bators/she drops acid and goes to the opera'

Reeling is one of the less interesting songs on the album, pretty much a standard love song, with a mid-tempo, rather dull MOR arrangement. Nice vocals though.

The Drug Suite is, as its name suggests, a suite made up of three other songs:
I Must Have Been High is a standard 'psychedelic' description of an acid trip, like a thousand other songs in the same vein, but with a beautiful vocal melody, backed by simple organ parts, with one quite lovely line in the lyric - 'slipping through my fingers just like angel dust'
I'm Not On A Drug is an almost Tom Lehrer like piano based song, although with European sounding string parts, that describes a feeling that I for one know all too well - being the only person at a party who is not high on one substance or other. This is one of two songs co-written by Art Terry of The Fairies (all other songs being Stew solo compositions).
The third song, not given a title in Stew's introduction but which may well be titled Arlington Hill is a description of taking acid before choir practice, and is simply lovely, with a gorgeous vocal melody in falsetto and a simple harmonium background.

Love Is Coming Through The Door , the last song on side one (Stew structures his albums like vinyl albums, and sometimes includes vinyl-only bonus tracks) is a fairly generic-sounding indie-pop song, the kind of thing The Pixies might have done at their most commercial, with Beach Boys influenced harmonies. Just a fun jangle-pop thing.

Cold Parade starts out with a needle coming down on a record groove The song is another little character vignette, talking about a man who walks around cities at night, this time in the first person. This is the kind of song that Tom Waits writes a lot - some of the phrasing is almost like Ray Charles, and the lyrics portray a character rather than telling a story as such (which is what makes some of these lyrics so hard to write well about).

North Bronx French Marie is based on a piano part that could almost come from a 1970s Rod Stewart song, another description of an impossible lover. It's also the first appearance in this album of the recurring theme in Stew's work, the patronising person who 'asks if all the negroes are like me'.

The Smile is another gentle, melodic pop song. This song is a very commercial love song that could easily be a hit, unlike anything Stew has done under the Negro Problem name. 'I just lost my mind today/it was starting to drive me crazy anyway'. This is one of several songs on this album about which it is really impossible to make any intelligent comment, but which is utterly excellent.

The Naked Dutch Painter, the title track, seems to have a distant relationship to the part of Catch-22 where Yossarian meets a woman who says 'you can buy me a drink but I won't fuck you', 'you can dance with me but I won't fuck you' and so on. A story song, it tells of a relationship from start to end, with a woman who first doesn't want to want you, then is in love with you, then moves on. However, being a Stew song the story is told with far more wit than most songwriters could ever muster - "The naked Dutch painter in your bed does not want to sleep with you... she said Gandhi used to sleep between two naked women/but you're not the Mahatma that's a whole 'nother religion". The definite highlight of the album.

There are two bonus tracks on the album, unmentioned on the sleeve. The first is merely a few seconds long, just a short fun instrumental. The second, Happy is the other Art Terry cowrite, not one of the better songs on the album (although still excellent), just a standard love song with a vaguely soul feel.

As a whole this album is far more mainstream than Stew's other work, with quite a few love songs, and more radio-friendly arrangements. However while this makes it harder to point out more unusual features of the music, it also shows that even without songs about cross-dressing, covers of Macarthur Park with the lyrics changed, and songs about the joys of having your girlfriend anally penetrate you, Stew is still one of the best and most interesting songwriters working today, as well as being a great vocalist.

This has been an AfroBaroque Production, mind you.

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