Not So Much finds Richman returning to a prior touchstone for inspiration, modern artists, for two new songs, though both are quite different than his iconic 1976 ode to cubist Pablo Picasso (who, by Richman's account, never got called an asshole). With "Vincent Van Gogh," Richman honors the troubled artist who "loved life so bad that his paintings had twice as much color as other paintings had," and he credits Salvador Dali (in a song that bears the artist's name) with having "opened doors for me to the dream world."
Richman puts his multilingual songwriting skills to work on a handful of tracks written and sung in a foreign tongue including "In Che Mondo Viviamo," "Cosi Veloce" and "Les Etoiles." "I'm still learning Italian," Richman said over a pasta dinner late last year, "but I've still been making up songs in it. On my last trip over there, I made up some songs in Italian and French. I thought I was going to make up some songs in Spanish, but I wasn't in Spain long enough. The songs I thought I'd do in Spanish, I ended up doing three of those in French and two in Italian."
Richman says that using other language affords him an expression he can't always put across in English. "Actually often times I can't translate them back into English," he said. "What I used to do was translate English stuff into Spanish, then I started making stuff up in Spanish directly with the help of a friend. Now sometimes I can do it by myself. Sometimes a thought will hit me in Italian and it won't work in English. For example in Italian, it's [sings] in che mondo viviamo. But in English it'd be, 'What a world we live in.' I make up these things and sometimes singing 'em in English just doesn't work."
Also included on Not So Much is "Abu Jamal," Richman's ode to writer Mumia Abu Jamal who has been on Pennsylvania's Death Row since 1982 for the murder of police officer Daniel Faulkner despite questionable circumstances surrounding the shooting and Jamal's subsequent arrest and trial. "The charges against him make no sense at all," Richman sings, "once you've heard the proud voice of Abu Jamal."
Several of the songs on Not So Much -- "Vincent Van Gogh," "My Baby Love Love Loves Me," "Abu Jamal" -- will be familiar to those who have seen Richman on his regular touring travels or watched the Take Me to the Plaza DVD. Richman and drummer Tommy Larkins are currently in the middle of a string of U.S. tour dates, traversing the country in a Mercedes Benz that has been converted to run on bio-diesel. "This is a cleaner-burning fuel that decreases our dependence on foreign oil," Richman said. "There are little ways that we can choose to make a difference; this is one of them."
Track list for Not So Much to Be Loved as to Love:
Not So Much to Be Loved as to Love
Vincent Van Gogh
He Gave Us the Wine to Taste It
My Baby Love Love Loves Me
In Che Mondo Viviamo
Behold the Lilies of the Field
The World Is Showing Its Hand
On a du Soleil