Archive for the ‘CD Review’ Category

The Readymades: More Live Than Not – San Francisco 1978

Saturday, January 30th, 2021

Live and studio recordings of a San Francisco pop-punk legend

At the dawn of punk rock and the new wave, San Francisco’s Readymades sparked both fanship and controversy. Fanship for what New York Rocker described as a blend that leaned “towards the power and simplicity of punk and the accessibility of pop.” Controversy for much the same thing. Readymades lead singer Jonathan Postal had been the short-lived founding bassist of the Avengers, but after realizing his original songs weren’t going to get air time (and seemingly getting ghosted out of rehearsals), he formed a new band with more like-minded mates. As heard here, the Readymades certainly retained the energy of punk rock, but with melody, harmony and often a theatricality that was more rock ‘n’ roll than punk.

The band quickly shot to local fame, gaining a contract for a 3-song EP on Automatic Records after their first show at the Mabuhay Gardens, and quickly lining up opening slots for touring acts that included Patti Smith, Talking Heads, Blondie, Roxy Music, and the Police. They toured the west coast, playing dates as far north as Bellingham and Vancouver, and bringing the San Francisco scene to University of California campuses in Santa Cruz and Davis. They turned down an invitation to record for John Cale on his Spy label, and recorded demos with major label macher Sandy Pearlman. They garnered praise in local, national and international publications, and yet, in the end, failed to release anything on vinyl beyond two EPs and a few compilation tracks.

Why the band failed to gain a major label contract isn’t well documented, though it seems that internal artistic tensions split the group apart after only two years. Postal, who has a BFA in photography from the San Francisco Art Institute, built a career as both a commercial and fine arts photographer, and more recently as a guitar luthier. The band’s co-songwriter, keyboardist, saxophonist and musical director, Morey Goldstein, continued to make music with bands (including Big Bang Beat and the Zasu Pitts Memorial Orchestra), on-stage and for video games, before passing away in 2008. Guitarist Ricky Sludge (nee Eric Lenchner) continued to make music with the Dinos and Ultras, and teaches music through his Professor Sludge Academy.

In 2009 the Rave Up label gathered together many of the band’s recordings for the vinyl LP San Francisco – Mostly Alive, and Liberation Hall (which is reissuing several early titles from the 415 Records catalog) offers a playlist that adds three live cover songs. The collection opens with “415 Music” from the like-titled 1980 label compilation. Surprisingly,  the song and the label took “415” from the California penal code for disturbing the peace, rather than the local San Francisco area code. The song’s amped-up atmosphere disguises a cynical take on punk rock’s “white boys making white noise,” and highlights the in-betweenness of the Readymades highly-charged, but musically fluent music. Similarly, “Heretics” melds punk rock energy and harmony vocals in its tribute to 415 founders Howie Klein and Chris Knab’s late-70s radio show.

At the time, Postal characterized the band’s lyrics as being “things we think about… day to day stuff.” This included wondering about Supergirl’s indestructible hymen (perhaps a tip of the hat to Larry Niven’s science fiction story “Man of Steel, Woman of Kleenex”), the impact that technology has on children in the pure pop “Electric Toys,” the pacified escapism of the New York Dolls-styled “Edge City,” and the sterile post-disaster society of “After the Earthquake.” The kiss-off “Hurry Up and Go” trods more familiar lyrical ground, but includes the novel refrain “I’ll remember the good times when you’re gone,” and “Trying to Grow Up” finds itself between childhood and adulthood with the sentiment “I still act like a child, but I look like a man.” There’s Bond-meets-the-Stones reverb and sax in “Spy,” and the influence of Bowie and the Velvet Underground on “Terry is a Space Cadet.”

The three live covers (which, along with the other live tracks were recorded at Miramonte High School in Orinda, California) added to this collection include Del Shannon’s “Runaway” (which briefly gives way to the Ventures’ “Walk Don’t Run”), a committed run through the Animals’ “It’s My Life,” complete with the original’s call-and-response chorus vocals, and a boisterous take on the Rascals’ “Good Lovin’” to close the set. Missing in action are the four tracks from the band’s 1980 post-Postal EP, as well as the studio demo version of “Supergirl” featured on Rave Up’s LP. There are a few tape issues here and there, but everything’s quite listenable and demonstrates just how talented this band was live and in the studio. [©2021 Hyperbolium]

The Readymades’ Facebook Page
Jonathan Postal’s Home Page
Jonathan Postal Guitars’ Home Page

Richard Hell and the Voidoids: Destiny Street Complete

Thursday, January 28th, 2021

Forty years in the life of an album

After being in the thick of New York’s underground scene with the Neon Boys, Television and the Heartbreakers, Richard Hell founded the Voidoids with guitarists Robert Quine and Ivan Julian, and future Ramones drummer Marc Bell. The quartet’s 1977 debut was headlined by Hell’s anthem “Blank Generation,” and became a touchstone for the nihilistic themes, cynical attitudes and rejection of societal norms that would come to define the scene’s musical, intellectual and sartorial aesthetics. Hell’s disenchantment with touring, the music business, and a deepening drug addiction led to a four year gap before he and the reformed Voidoids (then consisting of guitarists Quine and Juan “Naux” Maciel, and drummer Fred Maher) recorded this second and final album.

By the time of the album’s 1982 release, Richard Hell was thirty-two, punk rock had been supplanted in public spaces by the more commercially digestible new wave, and the underground had morphed into indie and hardcore scenes. The reactionary societal repudiations of the debut had given way to more ruminative views, but Hell had become impaired by addiction, and his sporadic involvement in the sessions led to disappointment in arrangements and production that didn’t match his conception of the songs. Upon regaining rights to the album some years later, Hell removed it from print, with a wish to remix it more to his liking. But with the original multitracks having been lost, his wish was put on hold until he discovered a cassette of the album’s rhythm tracks. This opened the door to re-record the album with new vocals, and new guitar leads by Bill Frissell, Marc Ribot, and original Voidoid Ivan Julian.

The results of these sessions were released in 2009 as Destiny Street Repaired. “Repaired” is a figurative description, since the album’s breakage was in Hell’s artistic soul, and the repair was more of a reimagining. Think of Brian Wilson finishing the Beach Boys’ Smile,  rather than Paul McCartney stripping Phil Spector from the Beatles’ Let It Be. The urge to revise strikes artists of many media, and the twenty-seven year gap between the original album and the remake created interesting artistic resonances. The almost-sixty-year-old Hell revisited works from his thirties with new compadres and a guitarist who’d accompanied him in his twenties. Further twisting the timeline, the title track features a narrator visiting himself ten years earlier, a song that Hell himself was revisiting many years later.

A decade after repairing the album, three of the four original 24-track master reels were found, and together with the Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ Nick Zinner, Hell indulged his original desire to remix the original performances. With only three-fourths of the masters available, tracks from Repaired were used to fill in the holes. This Remixed version provides a halfway house between the Remastered original and Repaired revision. Fans of the original album get (mostly) the original performances they grew to love, while Hell gets closer to the sonics he’d originally envisioned. And if three different versions of the album isn’t enough, this set adds demos, the original Nick Lowe-produced single versions of “The Kid With the Replaceable Head” and “I’m Your Man,” the 1980 single of “Time” b/w “Don’t Die,” and a live recorsing of “Time.” When they say “complete,” then mean “complete.”

So how do they compare? The original album still stands strong, Hell’s dissatisfaction notwithstanding. Quine and Naux took Hell’s absence as an opportunity to cut loose, and despite the songwriter’s reservations, his writing was strong enough to withstand the guitar and sonic assaults. If Hell was impaired by despair and drugs at the time, it seems to have fueled passion in his vocals, both on the original songs and covers of the Kinks’ “I Gotta Move,” Dylan’s “Going Going Gone,” and Them’s (by way of the Little Boy Blues’) “I Can Only Give You Everything.” The Remixed edition widens the original’s near-mono soundstage, and unlike stereo renderings of powerhouse 1960s singles, the expansion offers more instrumental detail without dissipating the punch of the performances.

The Repaired edition offers the biggest changes, with guitar parts that are informed by the originals, timeboxed by the vintage rhythm tracks, and exciting in original ways. Hell’s vocals are born from the original writing and cover selection, but with decades more experience, and vocal chords that weren’t worn out by a lengthy music career. Hell’s singing is strong throughout, and while the original vocals often feel reflexive and instinctual, the new recordings seem to be informed by additional decades of perspective. More ego, less id, and in some ways like alternate takes made after a twenty-seven year smoke break. Perhaps the best test of the Repaired versions is how seamlessly these versions fill the holes in the Remixed edition – sonically, they’re a close match, and attitudinally they still seem to capture the earlier zeitgeist.

Hell’s most covered song, “Time,” provides the album’s most poignant moment, as the then thirty-something songwriter opined, “Only time can write a song that’s really really real / The most a man can do is say the way its playing feels / And know he only knows as much as time to him reveals.” Listening to him sing the lyrics nearly three decades later on Repaired is to hear a writer taking a note from his younger self, a reminder that every age is a way-station, informed by life to that point, but never fully realized. It’s a fascinating example of prophecy colliding head-on with memory.

The bonus tracks include the Nick Lowe-produced B-side “I’m Your Man,” the 1980 single version of “Time” and its flip “Don’t Die,” an unreleased album version of “Don’t Die,” demos of album tracks (“Going Going Gone” and “Ignore That Door”) and songs that didn’t make the album (including a cover of Fats Domino’s “I Lived My Life”), and a teary live take of “Time” performed by Hell and guitarist Ivan Julian at Robert Quine’s 2004 memorial. Altogether, this is a well-deserved accounting of an album that was well reviewed upon release, but overshadowed in public memory by its predecessor. The original retains its primal charm, Remixed refines the sound, Repaired layers the artist’s memories of his vision upon the foundation, the bonus tracks add color, and Hell’s liner notes tie it all together. This a must-have for Richard Hell fans, as well as those just discovering the original gem. [©2021 Hyperbolium]

Richard Hell’s Home Page

Mister Rogers: Bedtime / You’re Growing / You Are Special / Coming and Going

Thursday, December 31st, 2020

Reissues of four albums of acceptance and empowerment

In celebration of the documentary Won’t You Be My Neighbor?, and the film A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, Omnivore released the Mister Rogers best-of compilation It’s Such a Good Feeling, alongside the instrumental collection Johnny Costa Plays Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood Jazz. They now dig deeper into the catalog with reissues of four original albums, 1992’s Bedtime, You’re Growing, and You Are Special, and 1997’s Coming and Going. Each album is bookended with unique versions of the signature songs “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” and “It’s Such a Good Feeling,” collect songs that loosely fit around the album’s title theme, and are backed by Mister Rogers’ longtime jazz trio of Johnny Costa (piano), Carl McViker (bass) and Bobby Rawsthorne (percussion).

Bedtime features songs of comfort and reassurance that will help send a young child’s worried mind into dreaming wonder. Rogers addresses a common childhood concern on “Nighttime Sounds,” turns existential for “When the Day Turns Into Night,” and closes out the theme with “Peace and Quiet.” You’re Growing highlights the momentous physical and emotional growth that comes in a child’s early years – changes that are often confusing or frightening. You Are Special centers on acceptance, self confidence and individual empowerment, and Coming and Going is about new experiences and the comfort of the familiar. The latter visits the Neighborhood of Make Believe for several songs.

Rogers’ empathy for a young child’s concerns is demonstrated through his deeply considered validation of their feelings. His lyrical themes are universal and timeless, and in these performances, his caring has survived his corporeal form. The trio’s light jazz backings are equally empathetic to Rogers’ thoughts. Rogers’ was a unique television star, but more centrally, he was a unique friend and educator of young children, and his song catalog retains the caring that he poured into everything he did. [©2020 Hyperbolium]

Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood

The Reflectors: First Impression

Thursday, December 31st, 2020

Terrific ‘70s-styled teenage power pop

Although their U.S. label, Burger Records, collapsed in a heap of sexual abuse allegations, the joyous power pop of this four-piece Southern California band survives on CD, vinyl, cassette (!), and digital download. With their electric guitars leading the way, the Reflectors harmonize on lyrics of attraction, desire, longing, doubt, frustration, loss and heartache; all with the hormonal urgency of teenage years. The rhythm section pounds away as the guitars charge things up with just enough distortion to contrast with the hurt and anxiety of James Carman’s vocals. All that’s missing is a tear-stained ballad, as the band doesn’t really drop the tempo between the opening “Act a Fool,” and the closing “Caught Me Off Guard.” Perhaps their upbeat ways earned them the label “pop punk,” but their melodicism lands them squarely in the power pop camp. Fans of the Nerves, Beat, Wonders, 20/20, Shoes, Material Issue, Knack, Undertones, and other pop luminaries will find a lot to sing along with here. Also check out their recent live release! [©2020 Hyperbolium]

The Reflectors’ Bandcamp Site

KEYS: Home Schooling Album

Thursday, December 31st, 2020

The homemade pop sides of a Welsh indie-rock psych band

Although one might connect the pop sounds of KEYS latest album to their earlier incarnation as the indie band Murry the Hump, the bubblegum-styled opener “This Side of Luv” was no doubt transported through a tartan-patterned fissure in the space-time continuum; it’s worthy of segueing between Nick Lowe’s “Bay City Rollers We Love You” and “Rollers Show.” The psychedelia of the band’s previous album, Bring Me the Head of Jerry Garcia, can be heard in the moody organ of “Cargoes” and the Dukes of the Stratosphere-styled “Leave Your Mind Behind,” but glam is the touchstone for “Trick of the Light,” and the powerpop of Badfinger and Teenage Fanclub for “Phases” and “The Strain.”

All of these influences were perfectly compressed into the hissy four-track cassette deck the band used for this home-sheltered recording, giving the album an instant, unfussy feel. Nowhere is this more apparent than on the title track, with its mechanical rhythm and pandemic-inspired children’s voices tracking, interrupting, and finally derailing the session. The closing instrumental “Pressure Cooker” wigs out in the manner of Arthur Brown’s Kingdom Come and early Pink Floyd, offering a capstone to a wonderfully engaging album recorded in involuntary social captivity.  [©2020 Hyperbolium]

KEYS’ Facebook Page

Bonnie Hayes & The Wild Combo: Good Clean Fun

Monday, December 21st, 2020

Expanded 2020 reissue of 1982 pop classic

Originally released in 1982 amid the MTV/New Wave boom, this San Francisco band’s only full-length album shared some of the boom’s pop sensibilities, but with a craft that was more musically rich than its video-enhanced counterparts. Hayes’ roots in jazz might have informed some of the chords and harmonies, but her musical training never hindered the album’s pop joy, finding expression in a depth of songwriting that was often missing from the mainstream. The band’s indie label (Slash) and its corporate distributor (Warner Brothers) failed to turn any of the album’s tracks into hit singles (though “Girls Like Me” and “Shelly’s Boyfriend” both appeared on the soundtrack of Valley Girl), and Slash dropped the band after this album. A follow-up EP, Brave New Girl, was self-released in 1984, and marked the end of a surprisingly short run for a group whose debut was so brimming with life, and whose songwriter proved to have a great deal more to say (notably penning “Have A Heart” and “Love Letter” for Bonnie Raitt’s Nick of Time).

The original album was reissued in 2007 by Wounded Bird, but is augmented here by the follow-up EP, the pre-LP single version of “Shelly’s Boyfriend” (and its flip “Rochambeau,” released as The Punts), and a trio of demos that failed to make the album. The debut opens with the exuberant one-two punch of “Girls Like Me” and the cautionary sibling shout-out “Shelly’s Boyfriend.” Hayes’ slow piano intro doesn’t tip off the punchy rhythm of “Separating,” and her organ and coy vocal give “Dum Fun” a hint of new wave before her solo and Paul Davis’ scorching guitar give the throwaway-titled song some soulful musical heft. The original “Coverage” would find subsequent cover on David Crosby’s 1993 release Thousand Roads, giving Hayes’ songwriting the exposure its lyrics seemed to beg for.

The follow-up EP is highlighted by the wondrous impressions of “After Hours” and the closing “Night Baseball,” the latter of which Hayes characterizes as a “multi-meter modal extravaganza about my love affair with San Francisco.” The pre-LP Punts single is a treat whose lack of distribution made it a rarity. The earlier version of  “Shelly’s Boyfriend” is taken at a slower tempo that is less anxious with its advice than the album take. The B-side pairs a lovely vocal with an unusual rhythm and a dash of Hayes’ jazz background in the instrumental passage. The collection’s demos were recorded by the pre-Wild Combo Punts (including producer Steve Savage on drums), and though a bit more punk rock in attitude than what ended up on the album, it’s not hard to imagine how these songs might have fit. Altogether, this is a terrific upgrade to Wounded Bird’s straight-up album reissue, and the place to start if you missed the album in its previous incarnations. [©2020 Hyperbolium]

Bonnie Hayes’ Home Page

Pop-O-Pies: Get Outta My Way

Monday, December 21st, 2020

1982 debut EP of irreverent, pointed and catchy pop-punk

San Francisco’s Pop-O-Pies may have been one of punk rock’s most melodic bands. Punk in attitude more than sound, but punk nonetheless. They alienated and then enthralled early audiences by playing a set that consisted entirely of the Grateful Dead’s “Truckin’,” and wrote original songs that sarcastically appraised Catholics and cast cops as donut eating fascists. A 1983 opening slot for Iggy Pop in Seattle so agitated the crowd that by the time the headliner appeared the mood was incredibly dark; fittingly, Pop’s set ended in 30 minutes after some stage-dancing audience members toppled the speaker stack into the crowd.

The band’s debut, the six-song The White EP, was a college radio staple, with two versions of “Truckin’” (one pop-punk, the other styled like “Rapper’s Delight”), an ode to Timothy Leary (which the LSD guru apparently took to playing at his public appearances), the hard-driving rhythm guitar monotone “Fascists Eat Donuts,” sing-song reggae “The Catholics Are Attacking,” and punk-styled lament “Anna Ripped Me Off.” The Pop-O-Pies simultaneously take the piss out of both their subjects and their listeners with songs that are funny, ironic, serious, irreverent, pointed and catchy, all at the same time.

The 2020 reissue puts the complete debut EP in digital form for the first time, and adds seven bonuses, including the poison apple “I Love New York,” a sardonic, Minutemen-styled “A Political Song” (and its acoustic reprise), the grungy “Slow and Ignorant” and the hallucinogenic collage “Lenny in Wonderland.” The added tracks show off Joe Pop-O-Pie’s range (as did subsequent albums), but having the six songs of the original EP back in print is the real prize here. [©2020 Hyperbolium]

The Pop-O-Pies’ Home Page

Various: International Pop Overthrow, Volume 22

Saturday, November 28th, 2020

Triple-disc collection of catchy pop (power and otherwise)

Jangly guitars? Check. Catchy melodies? Check. Broken hearts and vocal harmonies? Check and check. Three discs filled to the brim with three hours and forty-five minutes of pop (power and otherwise) recorded in studios and bedrooms all around the world. After a couple of volumes on the Del Fi label, more than a decade on Not Lame, and another seven volumes on Bruce Bordeen’s purpose-built Pop Geek Heaven, IPO bestowed its annual compilation (which became a triple-disc affair with volume five) on Omnivore with volume twenty-one. The latest collection, featuring bands that have played the annual IPO festival, and some that have not, is a solid entry in the series. 69 tracks that include a few luminaries (Bird Streets, Peter Holsapple, Van Duren, Kimberly Rew, and others), and a load of bands you may not have heard of.

There are too many highlights to name them all, but standouts include the joyously wordy verses and harmony choruses of Pecker’s “They Painted With Their Fingers,” the Popdudes’ dance floor-filling cover of the Wonders’ “Dance With Me,” Wolf Circus’ compassionate indie pop “I Will Answer,” the Posers’ Beach Boys-tinged psych “The Time and Place,” the magical mix of Rain Parade’s drone and Simon & Garfunkel’s duet harmony on Harrison Clock’s “Divine,” the catchy rhythm guitar on the Brothers Steve’s delicious bubblegum “She,” the Knack tribute sounds of Japan’s The Sharona on their original “Oh My Girl,” the full-throated harmonies and drippy guitar of Three Hour Tour’s “Lonely Place,” the Pat Benetar power of Slyboots’ “The Fall,” the twin lead guitars and emotional rebirth of the Jeremy Band’s “Joy Comes in the Morning,” the grungy psych of the Anderson Council’s “Lord Cornelius Plum,” the aptly named Zombies of The Stratosphere’s groovy cover of Billy Nicholls‘ (and Dana Gillespie’s) “London Social Degree,” and the Last Hurrah’s set-ending “Saturday in the Sunshine.”

Most of the tracks are rabbit holes into band websites, Facebook and Bandcamp pages, YouTube videos, digital downloads, CDs, vinyl singles, scene reports and info on related bands. This set is both a sampler of each band’s wares and a link to their catalogs; it’s a great spin on its own, but even better as a guide to bands you’d like to get to know. IPO founder David Bash and with his wife, Rina Bardfield, distill hundreds of audition tapes to select acts for the festival, and distill the festival lineup even further to fill these three discs (which, incredibly, fit into a standard-sized jewel case). The four page booklet includes band lineups, production credits and website URLs, but no background info – this is left for the listener to discover. But the music is great, and will motivate you to find out more about your favorites, of which there will be many. [©2020 Hyperbolium]

International Pop Overthrow’s Home Page

Rod McKuen: Greatest Hits of Rod McKuen

Friday, November 13th, 2020

Expanded edition of McKuen’s popular 1969 hits album

San Francisco poet and singer Rod McKuen was as popular with the people as he was reviled by critics. The latter labeled his works schmaltzy and facile, while the former bought his books and records, and attended his readings and concerts in tremendous numbers. The gap between his lack of critical accolades and his surfeit of popular acclaim likely hinges on the resonance his plainspoken words of isolation and spirituality struck with an audience who might otherwise not read poetry. The raspy earnestness of his vocal performances was often parodied, but the loneliness that threaded through his songs struck a deep emotional chord with listeners, and his uplifting messages provided hope.

Despite the sales of his records, McKuen’s chart success as a musical artist was limited; more successful were his songs, which were recorded by Oliver (“Jean”), Terry Jacks (“Seasons in the Sun,” an English translation of Jacques Brel’s “Le Moribond”), Damita Jo (“If You Go Away,” a translation of Brel’s “Ne Me Quitte Pas”), Perry Como (“I Think of You,” co-written with Frances Lai), Frank Sinatra (“Love’s Been Good for Me”), Perry Como (“I Think of You”), the Kingston Trio (“Ally Ally, Oxen Free”), Waylon Jennings (“Doesn’t Anybody Know My Name”), and many more. Other writings – notably “Listen to the Warm” and “A Cat Named Sloopy” – remain fan favorites in both their original poetic form, and when subsequently set to song. The former is included here as a bonus track, the latter, unfortunately not.

This 1969 collection was unusual for its time, as rather than anthologizing existing recordings, McKuen re-recorded a hand-picked collection of his most popular songs with new arrangements by Arthur Greenslade. The album was among the most popular of his catalog, selling gold, but eventually falling out of print. A 1996 CD release by Laserlight also fell out of print, after which an anthology by Varese Sarabande filled the gap. But Real Gone has now reissued the 1969 album with original cover art and six added tracks, including McKuen’s bittersweet theme song for the movie The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, the late-night jazz love song “Rock Gently,” and a duet with Petula Clark on the oft-covered “The Importance of the Rose.” As when originally released in 1969, this collection is an excellent introduction to McKuen’s popular charms as a poet and singer. [©2020 Hyperbolium]

Carla Olson: Have Harmony Will Travel 2

Friday, November 13th, 2020

The dream duets of a singer, producer and music fan

The role of vintage Top 40 radio can’t be understated in its influence and impact on the generation of musicians who grew up in the ‘60s and ‘70s. In the years before consultants balkanized commercial radio into genre islands, AM radio offered a regionally-influenced mix of pop, rock, folk, country and soul that fueled the taste and imagination of both listeners and artists. Olson grew up in Austin, Texas listening to long-gone (and now surprisingly obscure) KNOW-AM, taking in the wide variety of influences reflected in this eclectic collection of covers. This follow-up to 2013’s Have Harmony Will Travel cherrypicks Olson’s deep musical memories of the Buffalo Springfield, Searchers, Governor Jimmy Davis, David Allan Coe, and adds songs, such as the previously unrecorded “Haunting Me,” that she picked up in her musical travels.

Olson pairs herself with compatriots and idols that include Gene Clark, Percy Sledge, Peter Noone, Terry Reid, Mick Taylor and Mare Winningham. The album opens with the Long Ryders’ Stephen McCarthy joining Olsen for a superb cover of Patty Loveless’ 1989 country hit “Timber, I’m Falling in Love.” Slowed to a deliberate tempo, the duet parlays the original’s ecstatic declaration into a mature, deep-gazing conversation of magnetic mutual attraction. For much of the album, Olson acts more as ringmaster than singing partner, drafting participants (including former Bee Gees’ guitarist Vince Melouney for a gallop through Governor Jimmy Davis’ “Shackles & Chains”), selecting song with the ears and heart of a music fan, singing harmonies and producing tracks.

As a producer, Olson fits the guests with songs, complimenting the pairings with nostalgia-tinged, guitar-based arrangements. Peter Noone rekindles the emotional throb of his early days with a cover of the Searchers’ “Goodbye My Love,” and Olson provokes appealing contrast in pairing the gravel of Terry Reid’s voice with the gentility of “Scarlet Ribbons.” She joins Eagle Timothy B. Schmit and steel player Rusty Young for the Buffalo Springfield B-side  “A Child’s Claim to Fame,” and adds harmony to actress Mare Winningham’s fetching cover of Gene Clark’s “After the Storm.” The latter track, along with Percy Sledge’s “Honest as Daylight,” I See Hawks in L.A.’s “Bossier City,” and Gene Clark’s “Del Gato,” were all previously released, but fit seamlessly among the newly recorded performances.

Olson pulled songwriter Jim Muske into the vocal booth to sing “Haunting Me,” a song he co-wrote with Pat Robinson for Phil Seymour, but left unrecorded with Seymour’s passing in 1993. This collection has been percolating in Olson’s musical soul for years, as she made mental notes of songs and colleagues she’d like to pair. The result is a roadmap of Olson’s journey from listener to diehard fan to working musician, fusing her childhood memories and influences with the professional experience and colleagues she gained over the decades. Her ear for combining songs, singers and arrangements pays remarkable dividends in the joy of these vocal and instrumental blends, and provides a fine complement to the earlier volume. [©2020 Hyperbolium]

Carla Olson’s Home Page