After a less-than-satisfying engagement with his last record label, Marshall Crenshaw’s taking his music straight to the people. Funded through a Kickstarter campaign, Crenshaw’s developed a subscription project that will turn out a series of six three-song 10” vinyl EPs, each featuring a new song, a cover and a remake from the singer-songwriter’s rich catalog. The EPs also include a code with which the analog-deprived can download digital versions of the recordings. The first EP was delivered earlier this year, and this second entry features a new A-side, “Stranger and Stranger,” filled with lyric uncertainty and underlined by Bryan Carrott’s vibraphone. The B-sides include a superb acoustic remake of Crenshaw’s “Mary Anne,” that was originally recorded for the 2008 film God is Dead, and a fully orchestrated cover of the Carpenters’ “(They Long to Be) Close to You.” The latter is played straight, with smooth choral backing vocals and a trumpet solo by Steven Bernstein. The EP with digital download, as well as a one-year three-EP subscription, is available through Crenshaw’s on-line store. [©2013 Hyperbolium]
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After a less-than-satisfying engagement with his last record label, Marshall Crenshaw’s taking his music straight to the people. Funded through a Kickstarter campaign, Crenshaw’s kicked off a subscription project that will deliver a series of six three-song 10” vinyl EPs, each featuring a new song, a cover and a remake from the singer-songwriter’s rich catalog. The EPs also include a code with which the analog-deprived can download digital versions of the recordings. The first EP was delivered in November 2012 as a brick-and-mortar exclusive for Record Store Day Black Friday, and it’s now being more widely issued through additional retailers. The record’s A-side is a new song recorded with Andy York and Graham Maby that chronicles Crenshaw’s reaction to the amoral sharks of Wall Street. Given the financial misdeeds of the past decade, it could just as easily have been written about Enron’s greedy traders or deceptive practitioners of imaginary investment funds. The B-sides are a cover of Jeff Lynne’s “No Time,” sung in harmonies that suggest CS&N more than the Move’s original, and a remake of “There She Goes Again” recorded live with the Bottle Rockets. The EP with digital download, as well as a one-year three-EP subscription, is available through Crenshaw’s on-line store. [©2013 Hyperbolium]
Originally issued in 1969 on the obscure Condor label out of Burnaby, B.C., this album is quite an enigma. Is there really a Johnny Cole (as he was listed on the original record’s label) or maybe a Jimmy Cole (as he was listed on the original album cover), and what’s with the mélange of spy jazz, pop, blues-rock and Sonny & Cher-styled garage-folk? The dribs-and-drabs of information that can be found suggest this was the product of the Los Angeles-based Johnny Kitchen (nee Jack Millman), and includes vocals from the Millman’s Russian-born then-wife Ludmilla. Most likely this album was assembled from a variety of sessions that Millman leased to Condor, which would account for the lack of musical continuity. The audio quality of this reproduction is all over the place, including a few tracks that sound like they passed through a few generations of cassette copies and others that are surprisingly full fidelity. This has long been a hard-to-find and expensive vinyl-only collectible, but it’s now available to all for digital download. [©2013 Hyperbolium]
A better title might have been “I Swear I Heard it on the Radio,” given that the obscurities gathered here are the province of local scenes, in-the-know college radio DJ’s, late-night MTV viewers (or those clued in to HBO’s Video Jukebox) and crate diggers. They constitute the maddeningly ephemeral song fragments in a million memories of low-charting singles, turntable hits that failed to crack the charts, and locally distributed singles that hadn’t the promotional muscle to gain national consensus. Most of the charting hits here only made the middle of the Top 100, and others, like the brilliant “Prettiest Girl” from the Boston-based power-pop/punk Neighborhoods, are rarely anthologized collectors’ items whose musical brilliance far outstripped their labels’ reach.
The selections mix synth-pop, prog-pop and power-rock. The set includes two Hollies covers (“On a Carousel” from Raleigh, NC’s Glass Moon, and “Pay You Back with Interest” from Canada’s Gary O), a take on the Spinners “I’ll Be Around” from the Los Angeles-based What Is This, and a pop-rock cover of the Supremes’ “Stop! In the Name of Love” by former Stories front man, Ian Lloyd. Several of the collection’s hit makers, including Walter Egan, Jim Capaldi (of Traffic) and Greg Lake (of Emerson, Lake & Palmer) are represented by minor singles that only brushed the bottom half of the Top 20, and Lloyd delivers a pre-Bryan-Adams-hit version of Adams’ “Lonely Nights,” with Adams and his songwriting partner Jim Vallance providing the backing.
This is a wonderfully idiosyncratic collection that seems to tour the darkest reaches of its anthologizer’s musical memory. In addition to the early ‘80s synth- and prog-rock, the set list stretches back to Fanny’s 1974 glam rock “I’ve Had It” and Alvin Lee and Myron LeFevre’s 1973 country-folk version of George Harrison’s “So Sad (No Love of His Own).” Listeners are bound to find at least one long-lost favorite among the rarities collected here, with the indie-released Neighborhoods single (previously available digitally only on the out-of-print 12 Classic 45s) being the freshest fish-out-of-water amongst the ‘80s pop tunes. [©2012 hyperbolium dot com]
To say that Jason Serious’ solo debut is accomplished would be to sell it short. Not only is it full of incredibly memorable original songs, but its evocation of American musical vernacular is all the more extraordinary for his ex-pat status and the talented band of Europeans with which he recorded. To write and record something so immersed in American folk, country and early jazz while living in the states would be difficult enough, but to do so in Munich is nearly unimaginable. If this was a homesick love letter trying to bridge the distance, its rootedness would be more easily explained, but these are songs from a rural Marylander whose roots seem unaffected by the change in firmament, and whose sentiments seem to have nourished his talented, widely-listened band mates.
The brassy shuffle “Met Jack Kerouac” and drunken melody of “Buckets of Gin” recall the goodtime music of the Lovin’ Spoonful, and the steel-lined “ESB” mixes hand-clapping upbeat country-folk, colorful imagery and a chorus (“everybody’s somebody’s beautiful”) that would make Mr. Rogers smile. Serious is a surprisingly polished artist, given that much of his woodshedding took place on the couch; it’s only in the past few years that he began sharing his solo work with others, and only in the past year that he began recording. The sessions themselves choreographed a dozen local musicians, adding deft splashes of banjo, violin, mandolin, steel, horns and harmony vocals across the nine tracks. Ausgezeichnet! [©2012 hyperbolium dot com]
The vintage picks on this fourteen-track set nicely conjure the ring-a-ding-ding jet-age culture of television’s Pan Am. Unfortunately, the inclusion of two contemporary cover versions reeks of marketing opportunism, and interrupts the vintage vibe of an otherwise finely programmed collection. Grace Potter and Nikki Jean’s fans may enjoy their renditions of, respectively, “Fly Me to the Moon” and “Do You Want to Know a Secret,” but the modernity of their vocal styles sticks out among the company they’re keeping here.
The set opens with the underappreciated Buddy Greco swinging “Around the World” as if he’s got Rat Pack-era Las Vegas on a string. He sports the energy of Louis Prima and the cool of a young Bobby Darin. Darin himself brings the program back on track with a terrific version of “Call Me Irresponsible.” The collection includes international space-age bachelor pad chestnuts “The Girl From Ipanema,” “Mais Que Nada,” and “Quando Quando Quando” and serves up several lesser-known, but no less superb items. Ella Fitzgerald scats brilliantly through Rodgers & Hart’s “Blue Skies” and Peggy Lee opens “New York City Blues” as a smoky ballad before bursting into joyous celebration of all things Big Apple.
Shirley Horn provides a master class in jazz vocals with “The Best is Yet to Come,” a tune famously recorded by Sinatra and Basie in ‘64. Basie’s band adds its own notes of sophistication with the horn chart for Hank Williams’ “I Can’t Stop Loving You,” and Brenda Lee’s “Break it to Me Gently” will break listeners’ hearts with its gut-wrenching vocal. Nikki Jean has the bad fortune to follow Lee’s tour de force, sounding cute, but inconsequential in comparison. The set ends with Dinah Washington’s superb “Destination Moon,” closing a fine set of jet-age artifacts from and inspired by the television show. [©2012 hyperbolium dot com]
If you’ve been itching to take a toaster into the ocean, this French band’s electrosurf music is for you. It melds the repetitive electronic buzz, drum machines, low bass and processed vocal riffs of dance music with the spring reverb sounds of surf guitar. This rambles between banal dance tunes, kitschy Perry & Kingsley-styled synthpop, ‘50s and ‘60s space-age bachelor pad pastiche, and Raybeats-styled post-punk surf. Surf fans should check out “Cowabungiga,” “Chemical Beach,” and “Made in China,” among other tracks. Ennio Morricone fans, give a listen to “Lonely Space Surfer,” and those still freaking out from ‘60s acid flashbacks might like “Speed Spirals.” [©2012 hyperbolium dot com]
In 2008 this South Carolina band’s Freedom Wind so thoroughly evoked the Beach Boys golden age, that you’d wonder if their East Coast beach town of Charleston had somehow connected via a time and space portal to Los Angeles in 1965. More than just recreating the harmonies, instrumentation and arrangements, the band evoked Brian Wilson’s ethos in music, words and emotional tone. It remains a jaw-dropping achievement from start to finish. Four years later, in February of 2012, the band will return with their second album, expanding their exploration of 1960s sounds to the broad sweep of mid-decade AM radio hits, encompassing everything from the sophisticated writing of Burt Bacharach to the Latin-tinged schmaltz of Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass.
In anticipation of the forthcoming album, which will be mixed by Beach Boys associate Mark Linett, the band is releasing a trio of free EPs, each featuring a non-LP cover song and two pre-Linett mixes of album tracks. The California and Carolinian Suites, released in October and November, included covers of Burt Bacharach’s “Walk on By” and the Classic IV’s “Stormy,” alongside two pre-release album tracks each. This third and last suite includes a cover of Vanity Faire’s “Hitchin’ a Ride,” with a bit of gas added to the original’s chugging rhythm and the signature recorder hook moved to keyboard. The EP’s original tunes include the bubblegum soul “Anticipatin’” and the breezy, Bacharach-ian “Run, Run, Run.” You can stream the tracks below, or download the EP for free from Amazon! [©2012 hyperbolium dot com]
Hitchin’ a Ride
Run, Run, Run
The Move are barely known in the U.S., but their impact on the late-60s British rock scene, and all that tumbled from it, reverberates through to today. By the end of their run, they’d evolved an artier sound that would find full-flower as founders Roy Wood and Bev Bevan, and latter-day member Jeff Lynne, decamped to form the Electric Light Orchestra. But in their prime, they were a rock powerhouse that matched up to the Who’s incendiary music and daring social antics. The group is captured in full-flower of their most famous incarnation on these soundboard tapes, recorded at San Francisco’s Fillmore West in October 1969 on their first and only tour of the U.S. These tapes have floated around bootleg circles, but this is the first complete and official release, endorsed by Sue Wayne, the widow of the band’s vocalist, Carl Wayne.
Wayne had saved the tapes for over thirty years, but it was only in 2003 that digital restoration became sufficiently sophisticated to bring this archive back to life. Sadly, with Wayne’s passing in 2004, the project was once again sidelined. Now fully restored, the song list, plus a ten-minute interview with drummer Bevan, clock in at nearly two hours. The selections include their early single “I Can Hear the Grass Grow,” and fan favorites “Cherry Blossom Clinic Revisited” and “Hello Susie.” Also included are covers of Nazz’s “Open My Eyes” and “Under the Ice,” Mann & Weil’s “Don’t Make My Baby Blue” (which the Move likely picked up from the Shadows), Tom Paxton’s “The Last Thing on My Mind” and Ars Nova’s “Fields of People.” The set is surprisingly light on Roy Wood songs, given his position as the band’s main songwriter, but bits of stage patter help sew everything together.
The band’s combination of pop and rock – memorable melodies and tight harmonies played against heavy drums and bass – is a perfect fit for the stage, and particularly for the late-60s Fillmore. The band stretches out on long jams, but their focus contrasts with the meandering discovery of San Francisco’s original ballroom rock. Even Bev Bevan’s drum solo and the melodic salutes woven into “I Can Hear the Grass Grow” sound more like performance than on-the-spot experiment. The set is filled with energy from start to finish, and though the vocals are occasionally often mixed forward, the tapes are solid and reasonably balanced. It’s a shame the Move didn’t tour the U.S. again, as they surely would have been major stateside stars. [©2011 hyperbolium dot com]
Singer-songwriter Jaymie Jones is known as part of the sister harmony pop act Mulberry Lane. Signed to Refuge/MCA, they released a trio of albums and charted with the original song “Harmless.” Jones’ latest project is another family affair, but this time as a duo with her 14-year-old daughter Kelli. Produced by Don Gehman, and backed by top Los Angeles session players (including the rock solid drumming of Kenny Aronoff), the songs range from the twangy “River/White Christmas” to the bubblegum pop-rock “All I Need.” What ties them together are the elder Jones’ way with an ear-catching melody and the tight family harmony. Instead of sounding preternaturally mature, the younger Jones retains the tone of a teenager delighted to be singing, and her spiritedness blends perfectly with her mother’s voice and songs. The production is likely too mainstream-modern for the roots crowd, but this is worth a spin for anyone who favors sharply crafted radio pop that range from the Everly Brothers’ tight harmonies to Tom Petty’s AOR rock to Taylor Swift’s ‘tween anthems to Sarah Jarosz’s recent pop inflections. [©2011 hyperbolium dot com]