Posts Tagged ‘Pop’

The Searchers: Another Night – The Sire Recordings 1979-1981

Friday, December 8th, 2017

An unexpectedly rich and joyous revival

Sixteen years after they climbed to the top of the British chart with a 1963 remake of the Drifters “Sweets for My Sweet,” and more than a decade after they’d last cracked the Top 40 with a remake of the Rolling Stones’ “Take It or Leave It,” the second (or third, depending on how you feel about Gerry and the Pacemakers) most popular band out of Liverpool was back. Having continued to tour as an oldies act and cover band throughout the 1970s, it was a remarkably well-timed return to recording. The band’s two albums on Sire, 1979’s The Searchers and 1980’s Love’s Melodies, cannily conjured fresh music from the band’s classic harmonies and guitars, and the then-courant power-pop that had grown from ‘60s pop roots.

Pat Moran’s production of the first album, recorded at the same Rockfield Studios that served Dave Edmunds and the Flamin’ Groovies, has the clean sound of the era’s pop hits. The band’s two originals (“This Kind of Love Affair” and “Don’t Hang On”) are complemented by songs written by upcoming and established songwriters. The memorable “Hearts in Her Eyes” was written for the band by the Records’ Will Birch and John Wicks, and Mickey Jupp’s “Switchboard Susan” is given a low-key arrangement that suggests skiffle roots. Covers of Tom Petty’s Mudcrutch-era “Lost in Your Eyes” and Bob Dylan’s obscure “Coming From the Heart” highlight the band’s ears for good songs that had been abandoned by major writers.

In addition to the album’s original ten tracks, this collection includes an alternate mix of “It’s Too Late,” and early mixes of two tracks from the second album. The second album, like the first, combines a couple of band originals (“Little Bit of Heaven” and “Another Night”) with material drawn from up-and coming and veteran songwriters. Among the former are Moon Martin (“She Made a Fool Of You”) and a pair co-written by Will Burch; among the latter are John Fogerty’s “Almost Saturday Night,” Andy McMaster’s “Love’s Melody” and Alex Chilton’s “September Gurls.” The latter was an especially prescient selection, given that it would be six more years until the Bangles brought the song into the mainstream with A Different Light.

The second album is even richer in vocal harmonies and 12-string jangle, with well-selected songs from British writers that include Dave Paul’s “Silver,” Randy Bishop’s “Infatuation,” John David’s inspirational “You Are the New Day” and the Kursaal Flyers’ now-nostalgic “Radio Romance.” The album’s original dozen tracks are supplemented by four bonuses, including the original B-side “Changing,” two John Hiatt tunes and a hard-rocking cover of Chris Kenner’s New Orleans’ R&B chestnut “Sick and Tired.” Most of this material was previously released on Raven’s Sire Sessions: Rockfield Recordings 1979-80, but with that set out of print, and the additional tracks and new interviews added in this edition’s liner notes, this is the set to get. [©2017 Hyperbolium]

The Searchers’ Home Page

BANG! The Bert Berns Story

Wednesday, December 6th, 2017

The fascinating story of white soul brother #1

You probably heard a Bert Berns song today. If you heard “Tell Him,” “Twist and Shout,” “Cry to Me,” “Here Comes the Night,” “Hang on Sloopy” or “Piece of My Heart,” you heard a song he wrote. If you heard “Baby, I’m Yours,” “Under the Boardwalk” or “Brown Eyed Girl,” you heard a record he produced. Berns’ enormous catalog of deeply-felt songs and deftly-produced records puts him in a league with the best of the Brill Building’s songwriters and New York’s golden age pop producers. When Phil Spector lost the Latin soul of Berns’ “Twist and Shout” with a frantic rendition by the Top Notes, Berns picked it back up the next year and minted a classic with the Isley Brothers. And when Berns felt he’d accomplished everything he could as a writer and producer, he founded Bang records, stormed the charts in 1965 with the Strangeloves’ “I Want Candy,” and signed Neil Diamond and Van Morrison.

Born in 1929, Berns was thirty-one when he finally found his way into the music industry as a $50-a-week songwriter for Robert Merlin’s publishing company. His first hit came the following year with the Jarmel’s “A Little Bit of Soap,” and over the next seven years he minted more than fifty pop chart singles. Berns’ early love of Afro-Cuban music permeated his songs, as did the deep, personal feelings he poured into his lyrics. Labeled by his African American artists as “the white soul brother,” he pushed them “to sing it like he meant it.” Session dialog of Berns coaching Betty Harris, as well as Van Morrison during the recording of Blowin’ Your Mind!, give the viewer a feel for his artist rapport. Testimony from family, artists, production and business colleagues testify to the exalted status in which he was held. The interviews are highlighted by his savvy and tough widow, Ilene Berns, and the tough but artistically sensitive Carmine “Wassel” DeNoia.

Berns broke into production with Atlantic, helping the label through the fallow period that followed the departure of Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller. He wrote for and produced Solomon Burke, the Drifters, Solomon Burke, Ben E. King, Wilson Pickett and others. By 1964 his songs were doing double-duty as fuel for the British Invasion, with the Beatles, Rolling Stones and Animals all covering Bert Berns tunes, and Berns himself producing Them’s version of his own “Here Comes the Night.” He would eventually sign Van Morrison to Bang, produce a hit and fall out, as he also did with Neil Diamond. His relationships with his publisher and his Atlantic partners also soured as the piles of money became tall enough to fight over, but the interviews conducted for this film demonstrate how deeply respected and loved he remains by his former colleagues. His songs and his records provide the lasting epitaph, but this 90 minute documentary connects the dots and names the legacy. [©2017 Hyperbolium]

Bert Berns’ Home Page
BANG! The Bert Berns Story’s Home Page

Roy Orbison: A Love So Beautiful

Monday, November 27th, 2017

Roy Orbison’s vocals backed by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra

Roy Orbison’s sons – Roy Jr., Wesley and Alex – have done much to preserve and expand their father’s legacy. They’ve overseen reissues of Roy Orbison’s MGM catalog and an expanded thirtieth anniversary version of the Black and White Night concert film, released the first-ever issue of 1969 album One of the Lonely Ones, and wrote a new biography. Their latest offering grafts classic Orbison vocals onto new, classical arrangements, multiplying the vocalist’s operatic flights with the power of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. This is producer Nick Patrick’s third such creation, having pioneered this concept with Elvis Presley’s If I Can Dream and The Wonder of You.

Although there is certainly a marketing angle to this release, there is also a great deal of thought in the conception and artistry, and the execution rises well above pure commercialism. The strings of Orbison’s original hits pointed the way, and these full orchestral arrangements fill out the emotional images drawn by Orbison’s soaring vocals. Patrick’s arrangers have studied the original records and leveraged many of their percussion and melodic motifs. The results remain familiar while also feeling freshened up; they don’t always have the raw impact of Fred Foster’s original productions, but neither do they stray so far away as to lose the connection.

Some tracks fare better than others. The intro to “It’s Over” offers hold-your-breath drama, “Running Scared” reaffirms the song’s basis in Ravel’s “Bolero,” and expanded strings on “Blue Angel” and “Love Hurts” add lushness and power to the originals. On the other hand, “Oh, Pretty Woman” seems to diminish the original’s wonder and yearning, and the vocal on “Dream Baby” doesn’t quite sit in the pocket. Later material is given ELO-styled rock treatment that’s less effective than Jeff Lynne’s original productions. As with most covers projects, this one won’t have you tossing out your singles and albums, but for fans who’ve listened to these songs a thousand times, it’s nice to hear something new in the familiar. [©2017 Hyperbolium]

Roy Orbison’s Home Page

John Sebastian: Stories We Could Tell – The Very Best Of John Sebastian

Thursday, November 23rd, 2017

Nicely curated introduction to John Sebastian’s solo catalog

Though John Sebastian returned to the top of the charts with the 1976 theme song to “Welcome Back Kotter,” his solo career never gained the commercial traction of his earlier work with the Lovin’ Spoonful. Which isn’t to suggest there wasn’t artistic growth or musical riches in his solo years – there was plenty of both – but other than the single “Welcome Back” and his self-titled solo debut album, his releases failed to crack the Top 40. Varese’s sixteen track collection cherrypicks material from Sebastian’s five albums for Reprise, including the rare live album Cheapo Cheapo Productions Presents Real Live John Sebastian. The selections include his first solo single, “She’s a Lady,” the ambitious sixteen-minute “The Four of Us,” the soulful “Give Us a Break,” a thoughtful cover of Jimmy Cliff’s “Sitting in Limbo,” the country-tinged “Stories We Could Tell” (famously recorded by the Everly Brothers in 1972), a modernized remake of “Didn’t Wanna Have to Do It,” and a quartet of live Lovin’ Spoonful covers. All four studio albums (John B. Sebastian, Four of Us, Tarzana Kid, Welcome Back) are available for digital download and in a grey-market 2-CD set, but Varese’s 16-track set offers those new to Sebastian’s solo years a well-curated single-disc introduction. [©2017 Hyperbolium]

John Sebastian’s Home Page

Action Skulls: Angels Hear

Monday, November 20th, 2017

A Cowsill, Barnes and Bangle band together

Action Skull’s principals – John Cowsill, Billy Mumy, Vicki Peterson and Rick Rosas – each have extensive show business resumes. Cowsill began his music career in his family’s eponymous band, played with Dwight Twilley and Tommy Tutone, and plays drums as part of the Beach Boys touring band. Mumy started out in television and film before breaking into the music industry with Barnes & Barnes, worked with America and Rick Springfield, and records solo albums. Peterson rose to fame with the Bangles, and subsequently played with the Continental Drifters and Psycho Sisters alongside her sister-in-law Susan Cowsill. Rosas, who passed away in 2014, was a sought-after Los Angeles studio musician who played with Neil Young (including reunions of Crazy Horse, CSN&Y and Buffalo Springfield), Joe Walsh, Johnny Rivers and others.

The band’s genesis dates to 2013, when Cowsill, Peterson and Mumy met and sang together at a party. Mumy introduced Rosas into the mix a few days later, and quickly began writing new material for the quartet. Collaboration and demos were soon followed by live sessions at ReadyMix Music, a studio that has hosted Jackson Browne, Warren Zevon and other L.A. luminaries. The group describes their music as “canyon rock,” and that ‘70s vibe rings through the psych-tinged guitars and three part harmonies, but their sound isn’t nostalgic. Rosas death in November 2014 put the eight finished tracks on the back burner as the three remaining Skulls returned to their individual careers. But they knew they had something, and they knew that Rosas performances should be heard. So they recorded three more tracks with Mumy and John Cowsill’s son Will on bass.

The finished collection includes both solo and group vocals, often swapping within a song, and songwriting collaborations that give the album variety, but with a real group sound. The album opens with the Revolver-ish “Mainstream,” with each vocalist taking a turn up front and banding together on harmonies. Several of the songs wander into imagined worlds. “In the Future” wonders what our bad habits will look like in hindsight, and “If I See You in Another World” ponders the strength of a relationship freed of its current context. Relationships figure into many songs, as the album considers physical and hypothetical separation with warm looks homeward and lonely gazes outward. Whether this is a one-off or turns into an on-going project, it’s a terrific artifact of four accomplished artists coming together to make music. [©2017 Hyperbolium]

Action Skulls’ Home Page

Flamin’ Groovies: Fantastic Plastic

Monday, October 2nd, 2017

The Flamin’ Groovies rise again

San Francisco’s Flamin’ Groovies broke into the underground with a string of critically revered records – Sneakers, Supersnazz, Flamingo and Teenage Head – whose lack of commercial success drove the band to musical itinerancy. By 1971, founder Roy Loney had left the band, and his co-founder, Cyril Jordan joined with Chris Wilson to shift the band from retro- and blues-influenced rock ‘n’ roll towards British-invasion styled pop. They resurfaced in the UK five years later, releasing the iconic “Shake Some Action” and three albums full of solid originals and covers of the Beatles, Byrds and others.

But much like the band’s original lineup, the revised and revitalized Groovies garnered critical accolades, but didn’t break through commercially. Chris Wilson left the band in 1980, and though various configurations and editions of the group have reunited and toured off and on, it’s been nearly forty years since Cyril Jordan and Chris Wilson have collaborated on new material. For this reunion, they recorded with original Groovies bassist George Alexander and latter-day drummer Victor Penalosa over the course of three years, laying down ten originals and covers of the Beau Brummels and NRBQ.

The band charges out of the gate with the Stones-ish “What the Hell’s Goin’ On,” reaching back to the band’s bluesier roots (though oddly crossed with the central riff of John Mellancamp’s “Hurts So Good”) and playing to Jordan and Wilson’s guitar chemistry. There are numerous moments that rekindle memories of the band’s jangly 1970s Sire albums, including the harmonies of “She Loves Me,” the hopeful “Lonely Hearts,” the Shadows-styled instrumental “I’d Rather Spend My Time with You” and a cover of NRBQ’s “I Want You Bad.” The chime reaches its apex with the Byrdsian closer “Cryin’ Shame.”

There are dabs of psychedelia on “End of the World” and the jammy coda to their cover of “Don’t Talk to Strangers.” There’s also a defiant anthem, “Let Me Rock,” that would have sounded at home at the Grande. Jordan and Wilson lean to the group’s British rebirth, but give their due to the band’s full range of blues, R&B, rock, rockabilly and pop roots. Jordan’s original cover art pays tribute to Jack Davis’ cover for Monster Rally and RCA’s Living Stereo logo, and the CD is screened with an homage to the Laurie Records label. The retro touches are nice, especially for an album that’s a great deal more vital rock ‘n’ roll than nostalgic rehash. [©2017 Hyperbolium]

Flamin’ Groovies Facebook Page

The Rolling Stones: Their Satanic Majesties Request

Friday, September 22nd, 2017

The Stones’ red-headed stepchild gets a lavish 50th birthday party

Released between Between the Buttons and Beggars Banquet, the Rolling Stones’ 1967 foray into psychedelia has often been heard as a divisive outlier. Recorded in sessions spread throughout a tumultuous year, and often relegated to also-ran status as a me-too derivation of the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, the album hadn’t the conceptual grandiosity to create such a stir. Worse, the band’s own indifference, exemplified by quotes printed inside this lavish four-panel album-sized package, hasn’t redeemed the album’s image. But on this fiftieth anniversary, one can ask whether the album has been fairly assessed, and see if hindsight illuminates the work more clearly than the flashing, multicolored light shows of 1967.

First and foremost, Satanic Majesties was a clear break from the tough, R&B-driven music on which the Stones had minted their reputation. The overt use of mellotron, oscillators and studio manipulations gives this album textures unlike any of the band’s other releases. And while drugs certainly influence other Stones recordings, none are so entrenched in psychedelia as this album. 1967 was a year of band turmoil, with Mick and Keith having been arrested on drug charges in February, Brian Jones’ girlfriend leaving him for Richards in March, Jones being arrested on drug charges in May, and the band’s manager, Andrew Loog Oldham, leaving the fold. And it was at an intersection of personal tribulation and acid-drenched communal ethos that the Stones recorded this album.

The sessions were chaotic and weighed-down by hangers-on, and with Oldham abandoning ship, the band was left to produce themselves. The results were uneven – with jeweled classics rubbing elbows with uneventful jams. The album’s release on December 8 was foreshadowed by the single “In Another Land,” written and sung by bassist Bill Wyman. The tremelo-processed vocal, harpsichord, mellotron and dream-within-a-dream lyrics fit the album’s mood. With the A-side credited to Wyman (and with the B-side, “The Lantern,” credited to the Stones), the single scraped into the Top 100, leaving the album to generate its own publicity.

The LP performed well commercially, reaching #2 on the U.S. chart with the help of a late December single of “She’s a Rainbow” backed by “2000 Light Years From Home.” Critics were mixed, and though the album earned a gold record in America, it seems to have been largely forgotten by the Stones the moment it was released. The studio recording of “2000 Light Years From Home” was used to introduce the group’s 1972 stage show, but it wasn’t until 1989 that they performed it live, and it was another eight years before they performed “She’s a Rainbow.” The rest of the material remained at rest on record, and the group’s return to rock ‘n’ roll with 1968’s “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” and the rock, blues and country of Beggars Banquet, rendered Satanic Majesties an anomaly.

Beyond the hit single, the album has many charms. “Sing This All Together,” while not of the caliber as the hit single, opens the album with group vocals that echo the feeling of communal opportunity that was in the 1967 air. The track’s middle jam is edged along by percussion and horns until the vocals return and lead into the memorable guitar-riff that opens “Citadel,” “In Another Land” and the terrific “2000 Man.” Side one closes with the return of “Sing This All Together (See What Happens),” which, unlike the taut reprise of “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band,” is an unstructured eight-minute improvisational jam that returns to the album-opening mood before segueing into a theremin rendition of “We Wish You a Merry Christmas.”

The indulgence that closes side one is redeemed by the perfection that opens side two. Introduced by a carnival barker, Nicky Hopkins’ music-box piano and John Paul Jones’ string arrangement key the brilliant and beautiful “She’s a Rainbow,” with bass and acoustic rhythm guitar reigniting the song each time it slows. The group’s blues roots shine through “The Lantern,” particularly in the blistering electric guitar riffs, but the tablas and flute jam of “Gomper” hasn’t aged well. The latter pales in particular comparison to the inspiration of “2000 Light Years From Home.” It’s this latter track, with discordant piano, mellotron, theremin, dulcimer, oscillator flourishes and a lyric of growing physical and emotional distance that will haunt your memory long after the record’s finished playing.

The music hall closer, “On With the Show,” seems to both mimic the frame of Sgt. Pepper’s and anticipate that of Magical Mystery Tour, and provides an entertaining coda to the album. The album’s psychedelic underpinnings glow on many tracks, including the band’s preceding hit, “Ruby Tuesday,” and singles recorded during the Satanic Majesties sessions, “We Love You” and “Dandelion.” Unfortunately, these period tracks aren’t included as bonuses – nor are the outtakes and demos that have been bootlegged elsewhere. But what’s here was freshly remastered by Bob Ludwig at Gateway Mastering (2016-mono, 2017-stereo), and pressed onto both vinyl (from a lacquer cut by Sean Magee at Abbey Road) and hybrid SACDs.

The two vinyl LPs and two SACDs are housed in a heavyweight, four-panel fold-out cover, with the album’s original lenticular art restored to the front cover and the gatefold art to the inside. A 20-page booklet includes an essay by Rob Bowman, and candid photos from Michael Cooper’s original cover shoot photo session. The package is hand numbered, and the pressing is advertised as a limited edition. So what’s actually new here? The mono master is the same as was used for the 2016 box set (vinyl and CD), but it’s reproduced here with a new vinyl lacquer, and as a first-ever high resolution mono release on the hybrid SACD. The stereo remaster is new, as is its vinyl lacquer. The lenticular cover art isn’t new, but has been out of circulation for many years.

For those who’ve already collected the original mono and stereo vinyl, reissue stereo vinyl and SACD, and reissue mono vinyl and CD, the wholly new elements here are the high-resolution layer on the mono hybrid SACD and Bob Ludwig’s new stereo remaster. Are they worth the duplication? That depends on how much you value this album – particularly the punchier mono mix – or whether having mono, stereo, vinyl, redbook and high resolution digital in one three-pound package simply tickles your collector’s fancy. The absence of contemporaneously recorded singles, alternates and outtakes may disappoint some, but having the original dozen tracks, mono and stereo, with lenticular cover art intact will be a treat for the album’s faithful fans. [©2017 Hyperbolium]

The Rolling Stones’ Home Page

Jan & Dean: Filet of Soul Redux – The Rejected Master Recordings

Monday, September 11th, 2017

Jan & Dean fulfill their contract with a satire of Jan & Dean

By 1965, Jan & Dean were riding high. They’d minted a dozen top-40 singles, including the chart-topping “Surf City,” collaborated extensively with Brian Wilson, hosted the T.A.M.I. Show, filmed a television pilot, begun work on a feature film, and as highlighted here, added comedy to their stage act. As the last album owed to Liberty, Filet of Soul, was apparently too outre for a label looking to milk the last ounce of profits from a departing act, so a more conventionally edited version was released in 1966 as Filet of Soul – A Live One. The full length original record, with sound effects and comedy bits intact remained in the vault, unreleased for more than fifty years, until now.

Although technically a contractual obligation album, Jan & Dean used the opportunity to experiment, rather than simply complete their obligation. The duo brought members of the Wrecking Crew to the Hullabaloo Club for two nights of live recording, and then tinkered with the tapes in the studio. As they sweetened and edited the live recordings, they sought to offer something interesting, while not giving their soon-to-be-ex-label chartworthy new material. The answer was to present a live set of cover songs augmented by sound effects and satirical comedy bits. Except it wasn’t an answer to their contractual obligation, as the label rejected the master and demanded more songs.

To appease the label, several songs from the duo’s television pilot were added, but so too a spoken word piece that was sure to raise the label’s ire. But before the lawyers could engage, Jan Berry was involved in the auto accident that ended the duo’s recording career. The label, seizing the opportunity to release amid the ensuing publicity, edited the album down to its songs, releasing a cover of “Norwegian Wood” and “Popsicle” as singles, the latter rising to #21. So how does the original fare? On the one hand, the label was likely right about its commercial potential among Jan & Dean’s teenage audience in early 1966; on the other, Jan & Dean clearly knew what they were doing, and were ahead of their time.

The album’s opening trumpet flourish suggests something grand, only to have its pomposity punctured by the sound effect of a rooster crowing. A live take of “Honolulu Lulu” is awash with the excited screams of female fans, but the subsequent monolog, “Boys Down at the Plant,” lampoons the show business facade. The live tracks are tightly performed, if not always with huge enthusiasm, but the duo’s chemistry, command of the stage and improvisational skills are on full display. The studio manipulations and dadaistic sound effects point forward to the surrealistic rock and comedy records of the late-60s and 1970s, but haven’t the conceptual coherency that the Firesign Theater and others would bring to records a few years later.

Omnivore reproduces the ten tracks of the resubmitted master, and includes Beatles songs (“Michelle,” “Norwegian Wood” and “You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away”), Jan & Dean’s own “Dead Man’s Curve,” and pop hits of the day (“Cathy’s Clown,” “Lightnin’ Strikes” and “Hang On Sloopy”). The recordings are taken from a mono acetate (hand labeled “Fill it with Shit,” seemingly to indicate the duo’s non-commercial intentions). The 10-page booklet includes liner notes by Dean Torrence and surf music historian David Beard, photos and some of the original graphical elements that Torrence designed for the originally planned release. This isn’t the high point of Jan & Dean’s musicality, but it’s an interesting suggestion of where they might have gone, if not for Berry’s accident. [©2017 Hyperbolium]

Jan & Dean’s Home Page

Raspberries: Pop Art Live

Saturday, August 19th, 2017

Astoundingly great 2004 reunion

Reunions are often laden with compromise in service of nostalgia. But three decades after their last performance, this 2004 reunion of the original quartet makes no concession to the passage of time, changing tastes in popular music, nor the yearning for one’s glorious youth. This was a rock ‘n’ roll show as vital and stirring as it would have been in 1974. The band played hard and tight, the vocal harmonies were spot-on and the songs shined with the vibrant colors of photos that had sat undisturbed in a drawer for 30 years. Eric Carmen gave it his all out front, Wally Bryson’s guitars had the perfect tone and touch, and the rhythm section – particularly Jim Bonfanti’s drumming – was as muscular as ever. Nostalgia might have been a spice, but it wasn’t the main course.

The group’s hits – “I Wanna Be With You,” “Let’s Pretend,” “Tonight,” “Overnight Sensation (Hit Record)” and especially the set closing “Go All the Way” – are as thrilling today as they were blasting out of the radio in the 1970s. And hearing them performed live adds a dimension that many latter-day Raspberries fans missed from the band’s hey day. These are killer songs for live performance, and the band’s even more powerful on stage than they were in the studio. And beyond the hits, the band reminds listeners that they made four incredibly strong albums.

Highlights include the ambitiously epic “I Can Remember” from the group’s debut, the country-styled “Should I Wait,” the harmony-rich “Hard to Get Over a Heartbreak” and Carmen’s declaratory “I’m a Rocker.” The band’s influences are heard in the Who’s “Can’t Explain” and a trio of finely selected Beatles’ covers. The latter includes an extraordinary version of 1964’s “Baby’s in Black” that affirmatively answers James Rosen’s rhetorical liner notes question “is this really as good as I think it is?” It is. Together with four extra singer/musicians (“The Overdubs”), the group is able to reproduce the lushness of their studio recordings without sacrificing the energy of live performance.

As on record, Eric Carmen provides most of the lead vocals, though Dave Smalley and Wally Bryson get significant leads of their own, and their pre-Raspberries band, The Choir, is celebrated with “When You Were With Me” and “It’s Cold Outside.” This is a long, satisfying set, and though Carmen’s voice must have been weary by the time they closed with “Go All the Way,” he’s solid in reaching for the song’s highest notes. Initially planned as a one-off to open Cleveland’s House of Blues, the fan response led to nine more dates, including a tour-ending Los Angeles gig. They did a few shows in 2007, and capped their reunion activities with a 2009 show at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Omnivore’s first-ever issue of this show is spread across two discs, and presented in a tri-fold digipak with a 12-panel booklet that includes liner notes by Cameron Crowe (who reviewed the Raspberries’ first album for the San Diego Door at the age of 15), author James Rosen, and Raspberry biographers Ken Sharp and Bernie Hogya. The band’s joy in performing for their loyal (and incredibly patient!) fans is evident throughout the set, and the renewed relationship as a working unit was savoured by all. The confluence of people, places and times that forge a band is difficult to sustain, and nearly impossible to recreate, but the sparks that first ignited the Raspberries were still firing thirty years later, and lit up one of the best reunion shows in pop music history. [©2017 Hyperbolium]

Eric Carmen’s Home Page

The Robert Kraft Trio: North Bishop Ave.

Thursday, August 10th, 2017

Old-school pop-soul from Austin trio

If Robert Kraft wasn’t actually born in Muscle Shoals, he clearly grew up listening to its music. The sweetness of his throwback soul is informed by a troubling childhood whose main solace was the radio. Specifically, KKDA 730 – “Soul 73” – in Grand Prairie, Texas, belting out a mix of soul and R&B, with some gospel, jazz and blues thrown in for good measure. It was the sort of local station that spoke to its community, and in Kraft’s case, provided mentoring that defined the core of his musicality. And despite having played other genres – including alternative rock and an album of standards – the soul music of his youth was always edging its way on stage.

Backed by guitarist (and arranger) JD Pendley and bassist Lindsay Greene, and with guest appearances by drummer Robb Kidd and organist (and producer) David Boyle, the Austin-based Kraft cooks up seven original tunes that would have fit nicely onto KKDA’s playlists. The arrangements are spacious, leaving room for Kraft’s sweet voice and Pendley’s vintage guitar licks. Kraft likens his songs to recapturing “the feeling of a perfect summer day in the park with a girl who might actually like me.” That summer feeling manifests itself in the longing of “I Want to Show You” and “Alone With You,” and blossoms into the colorful metaphors of “So Beautiful.”

Kraft drops a romantic placeholder in “You’ve Still Got a Place in My Heart,” but makes a more illicit offer in “Gotta Have You.” The latter suggests Clarence Carter’s “Slip Away,” but with the guilt of an agonizing dilemma burned away by amatory fire. Pendley offers several tasty guitar solos, and Greene adds nice flourishes to the rhythm section’s time keeping. The set closes with the funky “Stand (The Ally Song),” building on a Bill Withers-styled groove and rounding the vocal tone with a hint of Sinatra. Kraft is a polished singer, and the trio’s Friday night gig at the Continental has honed them into a swinging soul trio whose debut CD is a treat. [©2017 Hyperbolium]

The Robert Kraft Trio’s Home Page