Review: ‘John Gorka’

One of the great hopes of Windham Hill's pop-oriented High Street label, Gorka is a critic's favorite still seeking his big sales break.

One of the great hopes of Windham Hill’s pop-oriented High Street label, Gorka is a critic’s favorite still seeking his big sales break.

While the date here basically preached to the choir, Gorka’s clever song-stories, twinkling eyes and self-proclaimed big New Jersey hair could eventually win him a larger audience.

A veteran of the Greenwich Village folk circuit who now resides in the faded industrial glory of Bethlehem, Pa., Gorka was performing in support of his new High Street album “Temporary Road,” with occasional accompaniment by bassist Michael Manring, a fellow labelite.

Displaying a subtle charisma, Gorka charmed the crowd by conducting several humorous question-and-answer sessions during the set.

Although it’s tempting to view Gorka as a happy-go-lucky artist, his works mix heartache with the humor, as in the poignant, “Where the Bottles Break,” a rumination about steel-town life that resolves, “I just want to make enough to buy this town and keep it rough.”

“Temporary Road” marks a bit of a departure for Gorka, taking him more into political musings than his previous work.

New album cut “Can You Understand My Joy?” underlines that commitment, one of a few songs previewed on this night that were inspired by the conflicts in Panama and the Persian Gulf.

John Gorka

(Troubadour; 200 capacity: $ 15 top) Band: John Gorka; bass, Michael Manring. Reviewed Nov. 10, 1992.

Production

New Jersey native John Gorka commanded an oddly eclectic, somewhat reverent audience at the Troubadour, singing his thoughtful, tragically funny songs with restrained pomp.
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