“Following the surprise success, and sudden collapse, of David and David [who released one album – 1986’s Boomtown], David Baerwald released Bedtime Stories in 1990 to critical acclaim” (Demalon). “Bedtime Stories “contains some of his best work” (jefitoblog.com) and “remains thematically faithful to Baerwald’s favorite themes” (jefitoblog.com) with “dark tales populated by often seedy characters struggling through daily life” (Demalon). These “characters [are] more sympathetically and subtly shaded” (jefitoblog.com) than on the less consistent Boomtown (jefitoblog.com).
“A&M, seeing great potential, dumped a bunch of money into grooming him for singer/songwriter stardom” (jefitoblog.com). The result is what “sounds like an expensive KFOG listening party” (jefitoblog.com).
The merits of Baerwald’s solo debut “have been debated ad nauseum by the faithful, and Baerwald himself seems to regard it with lukewarm affection. The prevailing sentiment seems to be that he ‘sold out’ when he made this one” (jefitoblog.com).
“Is the production slick? Sure. But it’s organic…and…a lot of it was done with…a group of really phenomenal late-’80s Los Angeles studio players” (jefitoblog.com). In addition, “portions of the album were written and produced in union with Joni Mitchell mainstay Larry Klein, who also plays on many of the tracks” (Demalon). “As a result, the arrangements are engagingly complex without ever being showy” (jefitoblog.com).
The album “suffers from its roots in L.A.-style rock radio material” (Currie) and “sags a bit in the middle, when Baerwald sacrifices memorable pop hooks for sheer stridency, but on the whole it hangs together extremely well” (jefitoblog.com).
“It’s to DB’s credit as an artist that the album is as good as it is” (Currie). Baerwald “has a more distinctive voice than most in the L.A. circuit, but not by much. The actual material [is also] a bit better” (Currie). “Rather than writing a line like ‘it’s been years but I still love you,’ DB is more given to ‘I just called to see if my memory's correct and you mean a thing to me’” (Currie).
“There’s a lot to take in here” (Demalon), starting with “the kinetic energy of All for You” (Demalon). This “tight, U2-esque rock number…wouldn’t have been too out of place on Rattle and Hum (not that this is entirely a good thing...)” (Currie). This “tale of infidelity” (Demalon) “tell[s] the story of a young couple moving from England to Los Angeles, with the the ill-fated Lucas Riley eventually turning to a life of crime to support himself. The music is fairly good rock, which is to say that it’s not anything really special (some might detect a "Closer To The Heart" refrain at times). For a song that wouldn't have been too out of place on rock radio (especially for its chorus), this isn't so bad of a start” (Currie).
“The artist's perspective on Good Times (particularly the memory recall section of the second half) makes up somewhat for the fairly tame music that weaves throughout the track…this, too, is essentially just a radio rock number if regarded from a purely musical perspective” (Currie).
Dance, which is “inspired by a Paul Bowles short story” (Demalon), “is probably the best song on the album. Combining a "Start Me Up"-esque intro with voodoo/end-of-the-world lyrics (and a stronger drum presence than before), this number suggests something much more akin to a fire ritual than a casual social encounter” (Currie). The “bracing funk” (Demalon) of “the Tower of Power horn insertions in the chorus add to both the musical and ironic worth of the track” (Currie).
Baerwald’s “rough-hewn voice adds to the world-weariness of the material, but also conveys a warmth and vulnerability as exhibited on Hello Mary, a phone call to a former lover” (Demalon). This has the “‘see if my memory's correct’ line (mentioned above), but is otherwise one of the less interesting things here. Despite the narrative and chorus hook, there’s just not that much happening here musically; for prog fans, the idea of a ‘Rabin-ballad’ might not be too far removed from this track” (Currie).
“The Best Inside You is a bit better, making it to the level of a decent pop song. The lyrics focus on the wearing down of one’s personality within the corporate world, and are somewhat articulate as such -- it wouldn’t be too strange to see Graham Parker cover this track at some point. Not bad for a rock number, but pretty much at its maximum potential as it is” (Currie).
“This is followed by Young Anymore, a rockish ballad in which the two lead characters realize their own maturity by watching their nine-year old daughter take ballet lessons – not much really happens here musically, and the lyrics aren’t that clever” (Currie).
Sirens in the City is one of two songs co-written with former Boomtown partner David Ricketts. It “has a darker mood, due both of the lyrical theme and Bill Dillon’s guitar appearance. The subject matter isn’t too original (crime in the streets of NYC, poverty homelessness, etc) but the Davids manage to put a decent spin on their perspective. The keyboards seem more prominent here than before” (Currie).
“Liberty Lies is similar to the previous track, in that the themes explored are somewhat less original than the specific lyrical approach” (Currie). This takes on “some of the usual targets such as televangelists and self-righteous censors” (Demalon) and “the role of television in dumbing-down political and social life in America is the target” (Currie). “The snideness of the commentary generally works better when DB is able to integrate his own position into the song. Joni Mitchell appears in the chorus, though one might wonder if this is really necessary – she’s mixed so as to be barely recognizeable” (Currie).
“Baerwald can get preachy at times. However, he is an articulate writer and his ability to create empathy toward his characters tempers things, as on the plaintive ballad Walk Through Fire” (Currie). This is the album’s second song co-written by David Ricketts and “dates from the period shortly after Boomtown” (Currie). This “is a strongly U2-inspired number” (Currie) “with its insistent chorus that builds into a pledge” (Demalon). The song showcases a “compelling bass line and vocal arrangement in the chorus” (Currie), but “the fairly prosaic nature of the rest of the track and its derivative nature…[make it] a good-but-not-great track” (Currie).
“Colette easily counts as one of the more musically distinctive tracks on the album…mainly due to Elders’ violin performance throughout the number (including a brief solo in mid-track). Urbano’s slightly off-kilter drumming at the beginning of the track is fairly impressive too. As regards Baerwald’s own role ... well, sadly the lyrics are mostly ordinary endeavours of the ‘love song’ variety” (Currie).
“In the Morning is one of the lesser tracks here, never really going anywhere in terms of music or lyrics – the opening setting is rather commercial, and a slight improvement by the end doesn't really help” (Currie).
“The final track, Stranger, is something rather different entirely – a folkish, acoustic guitar driven track focusing on homelessness and poverty (with specific reference to Vietnam veterans)…This one manages to be fairly poignant without overdoing the subject matter themes” (Currie).
Regardless of its low points, “Bedtime Stories is a bracing collection that shines a light on desperate situations and characters with great dignity and musicianship” (Demalon). Still, for “those interested in exploring this artist’s work, moreover, either Boomtown or [Baerwald’s next solo album] Triage would make for much better choices” (Currie).