Bash On Pop – March 2015
Ladies and gentlemen, the past couple of months have been a very rough road. As many of you know, I suffered a heart attack on January 27, and had to have two arteries unblocked and two stents inserted into my heart. Ever since then I’ve been in recovery, which involves going to Cedars Sinai Hospital in Beverly Hills three times a week to do cardio exercises, along with several appointments with my Internist and my Cardiologist (yikes, I never thought I’d have one of those). As of this writing my heart seems to be doing well, and I thank God for that, but I’ve been suffering chest pains every day which, while apparently not cardiac related, are still troubling and have necessitated further visits with my Gastro-Intestinal doctor and my Ear, Nose and Throat doctor to see if the pains are gastric-related. Wish me luck that someone will finally figure out what’s going on!
Throughout all of this I’ve managed to continue to work on the International Pop Overthrow festival, with a lot of help from my best friend and life partner, Rina Bardfield. Without her tireless efforts, I don’t know that I’d be able to make IPO happen this year – but happen it will, and, as of this writing, I have been cleared for travel to all of our cities (we did Phoenix a couple of weeks ago, and I’m happy to report it went very well!). Stay tuned for details on subsequent IPO cities.
Ok, now for some mini-reviews of some CDs I’ve recently heard:
Promise-Promise (Got Kinda Lost) : Kudos to Jeremy Cargill and Got Kinda Lost Recordings for rescuing this one from virtual obscurity, a situation fostered by its cover art, which had it destined for the cutout bins next to the likes of 101 Strings Does Dallas (or something). However, the band certainly had it goin’ on, as Promise, recorded in Colorado in 1980, sounds like it came right out of Badfinger 101. Tracks like “Say Allright!” and “Hands Of Luck” should be classics in anyone’s book, and while the album as a whole doesn’t necessarily rank up there with the best of the genre, it’s a delight from start to finish and should be owned by anyone calling themselves a power pop fan. The liners, written by Cargill, shed light on the story of a band and album that up until now remained one of the biggest mysteries in collector’s circles.
The Weeklings-The Weeklings (Jem Recordings): We move from Badfinger to their progenitors, The Fab Four, when talkin’ bout The Weeklings, whose debut album is a fun combination of songs Lennon and McCartney gave away and originals co-written by songwriter extraordinaire and former Beatle-Maniac, Glen Burtnik. Over the years there have been other fine albums featuring John/Paul rejects (Revolver, The Beatnix, etc…), and The Weeklings is right up there with them in its ability to play loose with the songs, while also presenting them skillfully and genuinely. Originals like “Little Tease”, Leave Me With My Pride” and the catchier than the flu “Mona Lisa” ably sit side by side with MacLen’s “One & One Is Two”, “I’m In Love” and “That Means A Lot”, to the point where novices would not be able to tell which was written by whom. Add to this the fact that the album is recorded in glorious monophonic sound, and the well-worn phrase “Have Mersey!” definitely applies!
The Grip Weeds-How I Won The War (Jem Recordings): The sharp eyed among you will notice that How I Won The War is also the title of the 1967 film in which John Lennon played a character called…wait for it…Private Gripweed! Of course, The Grip Weeds have mined the Fabs influence for many years, mixing in The Who, The Move, The Byrds, Jefferson Airplane and many others, all the while making each of their albums sound all their own, including this, their sixth effort. How I Won The War may be their most rugged album yet, with drummer Kurt Reil’s Moon-like chops really coming to the forefront, but never overpowering the band’s patented full-bodied harmonies. Try and resist ‘60s inspired gems like “Life Saver”, “See Yourself”, “Vanish”, and their former label name-check, “Rainbow Quartz”. Kurt Reil’s gritty lead vocals are the perfect counterpoint to his brother Rick’s smoother tones, and fortunately on this album we’re treated to guitarist Kristin Pinell’s lead singing on “Over And Over” (let’s hear even more of her on the next album!). All in all, How I Won The War ranks up there with The Grip Weeds’ best, and that ain’t no easy task!
The Wind-Re-Wind (Cheft Records): The Wind were (and are) the trio of Lane Steinberg, Steven Katz, and Stephen Burdick, who formed at college in Miami and released two fine albums and one EP in the ‘80s (well, Burdick wasn’t on all the discs). After a long period in which Steinberg endeavored in several solo projects and one with Katz called Tan Sleeve, The Wind have reunited with the appropriately titled Re-Wind, and the album was definitely worth the wait. Caveat emptor, though: if you’re expecting the quirky, XTC-isms of the ‘80s Wind, you’re not gonna get ‘em. Rather, Re-Wind is a fun affair that mixes the jazzy-pop chord structures of Tan Sleeve with some mighty soulful strutting, particularly on Steinberg’s “Unattainable” and Katz’s “Baby, I Can Take A Punch”, on which he lets his Al Green freak flag fly! Burdick chimes in with the rather Beatlesque “Can’t Find The Words”, but for the most part, Re-Wind is a tasty disc featuring those Steinberg-Katz signature harmonies that made us love the band way back when, and ensure that we will love them for as long as they live!
The Stereo Twins-Good News (Self-Released): This new project by The Huseman Brothers puts them in unfamiliar territory, at least to their fans, who will expect an updated version of Splitsville. What many of us didn’t know is the brothers have become spiritual, and have released a record which reflects their faith, quite eloquently in fact, both lyrically and musically. Good News opens in appropriate fashion with “J2J”, a worshipful sing-a-long if their ever was one, with its “Jordan To Jerusalem” lyric and hand-clapping repeating throughout most of the track. Other tracks, like “All That I Know” and “Mariamne” soar to the heavens with visceral intensity, while “Parable” draws you right into its lyrical message. An excellent disc throughout that Splitsville fans will appreciate, both for its signature Huseman harmonies and melodies, and for the fact that the guys have clearly found meaning in their lives.
Beyond Belief-A Tribute To Elvis Costello (Spyderpop): It’s not rocket science, folks: the secret to producing a great tribute comp is: 1) pay tribute to a musical icon, and 2) recruit excellent artists to do the tributing. Beyond Belief-A Tribute To Elvis Costello succeeds on both counts, featuring a who’s who of the pop music scene showing their love to Mr. McManus. More than 50 tracks over three discs, and hardly a duff one in the bunch. I could make a list of standout tracks, but there are too many to mention, although I will say I don’t think I’ll ever get Parallax Project’s flange-laden version of “New Amsterdam” or An American Underdog’s easygoing “Crimes Of Paris” out of me head. If it seems like this review is a bunch of hyperbole, my apologies, but I will go on record and say that Beyond Belief-A Tribute To Elvis Costello is one of the three best tribute discs I have ever heard, and if you’re both a pop fan and Elvis fan, it’s a must have (but wait, there’s more: all profits from sales of the compilation will benefit the Mr. Holland’s Opus Foundation…so you can be responsible for the development of a future musician or three!)