Train – ‘California 37’ – Album Review

With working at home during the Covid-19 lockdowns, I have pulled out a lot of my vinyl and gave it a spin.  This was one I hadn’t listened to in a couple years and when I did, I remembered that this was the last great album Train had done.  At this point, Train was down to only 3 members, Pat Monahan, Jimmy Stafford and Scott Underwood.  My wife and I had met them a couple years earlier on the ‘Save Me, San Francisco’ Tour and they were super nice and they are kind of “our” band.  They were anyway, now it is the Pat Monahan show as he is the only original member left, but that is another story for another day.

What we loved about the band is really the songs.  Lyrically, Pat is a master at slipping in pop culture references in to the lyrics and the band can write some hooks and pretty damn catchy choruses.  It is wonderful, pop music.  And this album, the band outdid themselves with all of the above.  They did bring in some outside writers, but Pat was still the driving force behind them as they are usually very personal songs to him.  He spent three years writing the album while on tour for the previous items and they all reflect pieces of his life in some way or fashion.

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The album is called “California 37” which is a State Highway in Northern San Francisco which the band seems to call home.  The road was often used to get to gigs and they even broke down on it and what band hasn’t done that on the way to a gig.  The album has this light, California vibe to it and it makes you feel good as you listen.  From the opening track, “This’ll Be My Year” you know you are in for a treat. The song travels through his years in life and is a bio of his life and completely filled with Pop Culture references so you can put the year’s in to perspective.  It is brilliant.  It has the classic line…”I stopped believing, although Journey told me don’t”.

“Drive By” has this driving beat (pun intended) and has an acoustic riff that gives you plenty of melody and makes you want to pull the top down on your car and crank the music up really loud.  Since I don’t have a convertible, I just roll down my windows.  Pat sings in his very typical singing/talking style that feels comfortable and natural.  On a side note, the video has some really beautiful cars in it, not that has anything to do with the song.

“Feels Good At First” is up next and is a slow ballady song done with acoustic guitars and has a quiet feel and highlights the greatness of Pat’s vocals.  The song seems to be talking about how love surely feels good at first, but doesn’t always end up that way.  The band then goes in to a rare duet on the song “Bruises” with help from the lovely vocal stylings of Ashley Monroe.  Ashley brings a little country flare to one of the highlights of the album.  “Bruises” is a conversation between two old friends who haven’t seen each other in awhile and they talk about the bruises in their life define who they are and make wonderful conversation.  It is one of my favorites on the album.

The last song on Side 1 is the most fun of the bunch.  It is called “50 Ways to Say Goodbye” and it gives you a way to save face when you have to talk about what happened to your last failed relationship.  It is very tongue-in-cheek and a total blast.  It is filled with fun mariachi guitar and horn stylings and will not allow you to look at a crappy car the same way again.  And what makes this song even better is the video which has David Hassellhoff and is worth the time to watch.

The next song, “You Can Finally Meet My Mom”, opens with whistling and then a quiet piano kicks in.  Pat joins in and spits out some cleverly placed lyrics in the style I love from him.  The song is full of pop culture references and yet is so touching. It is about a love so strong that even after death, they will be together in heaven and the good news even better is that the woman he loves can finally meet his mom who had died prior to them getting together I am guessing.  Nothing better than bringing the girl you love so much home to meet your mom.

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“Sings Together” brings us the mandolin which I am sure comes from the fact on the last album “Hey, Soul Sister” had one so prominently.  It is a light, happy song full of oohs, and more oohs.  It is an okay track which at least highlights that great Pat vocal ability.

Another fun track on the album is “Mermaid” and it brings a whole tropical island feel to the song that maybe would fit well with Jimmy Buffett singing along, but he doesn’t.  Pat sings/talks his way through the lyrics and brings a very catchy, fun-filled chorus that easily grabs hold and you sing if well after the song is over.

Now we get to the best song on the album, hands down!  “California 37” has an electronic drum beat, Pat’s vocals have an echo to them and it is almost a rap song (not quite).  It talks about how the band got a second chance at life and even gets even more personal with his attacks on his ex-wife and let me tell you, there is no love loss there.  It is a short song, but sounds so cool.  You can’t beat this one.

The next track is  “We Were Made For This” which is a very touching, beautiful song. It is a slow tempo ballad with a marching drum beat.  The song turns in to a power ballad with the best guitar work on the whole album and might be the only real guitar driven piece. It seems to be about a couple that hangs on as long as they can, but ultimately, the have to let go and go their separate ways with one of them saying that all will be fine, we will be okay.

The album ends with “When The Fog Rolls In” is the final song on the album and might be least favorite even though it is still a good song. There is a church vibe mixed with an irish feel to it at times.  I don’t know, I hear a lot of elements with it.  There is no catchy hook or chorus and it just seems like filler for me.  It is the one song that keeps this from being perfect.

The track score on this is 10 out of 11 songs or 91% as only one song I would delete and we just discussed it.  Overall, this album is very personal for me as it was an album that my whole family enjoyed and we have great memories of listening to this in the car and the kids singing along.  They liked it so much, we took both girls to see them in concert in support of this album, so yeah, I like this one. I will give it a 4.75 out 5.0 Stars as I don’t think you can not enjoy this album. If you want a good place to start with this band, try this one.

If you want to see how this one ranks amongst all their albums, check out the post Train – The Albums Ranked Worst to First.

9 thoughts on “Train – ‘California 37’ – Album Review

  1. Great writeup. Your right John now is a good time to crack open some vinyl and give it a spin and get caught up on some stuff that may have slid under the radar.
    Cool you met them and they were decent.
    I’m surprised they are down to one original guy left. Band member changes ugh.

    Liked by 1 person

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