Friday, June 5, 2009

Now Hear This! - Vol. 1

This is a series I've been considering for over two years, and I've finally decided to do it. It's simple: I'm going to recommend a bunch of tracks I'm digging and want more people to know about. If I've already given an artist a full review or feature on One Note Ahead, whatever album or EP I've written about is off limits in the "Now Hear This!" series because it will get (or has gotten) a shout-out in the "Quick Takes" series; unrelated tracks by that artist can be included in "Now Hear This!"

If you've read enough of my work, you know what eras are my favorites, so I'll have some newer tracks (since the 1980s) and some older tracks (before the 1980s) each time I do this. If I can find these selections on iTunes, I'll let you know where to look for them so you can get the whole album or compilation if you want.


"Breakdown," Tim McGlone
(available on Street Sounds)

This likable singer/songwriter is boys with Matt Duke and has had Jake Snider support him at two sold-out shows; I was inevitably going to get hip to this guy. While he runs through a variety of styles on his new album Street Sounds, "Breakdown" is the kind of rock 'n' soul you just don't hear much anymore: a production that's slick but edgy, a captivating arrangement (Tim's own), and a raw voice belting out lyrics most of us can relate to. Tell your friends and maybe it'll be on iPods all around the world.

"No Way Out," Jim Boggia (available on Misadventures In Stereo)

I've only mentioned Jim a couple of times, both in connection with last year's XPN festival, and that's just as well -- there are plenty of writers out there who simply adore him and have demonstrated as much. But I have been remiss in not saying anything about this particular song, a most off-kilter ode to drinking one's life away. There are some killer riffs in the dizzyingly over-the-top arrangement and it would make a hell of a production number for a burlesque show. Intrigued?

Jim Boggia and a huge supporting cast do "No Way Out" live:

"Plenty Good Reasons," Pete and J (available on Plenty Good Reasons)

Okay, you caught me: there's a connection here, namely that Pete and J played as a band with Jim Boggia at a recent show which kicked so much ass that they should all be arrested if they never do it again. "Plenty Good Reasons" is a proud slab of all-American folk-rock, marrying the great American folk song tradition to the driving rhythms of early rock 'n' roll. This is a rare offering that reminds us of this country's grand musical history while sounding fresh enough to light up today's radio playlists. (Recent experiences with various friends compel me to add that Pete and J are not the same act as my PR clients The Josh and Pete Band!)


"You're My Girl," The Everly Brothers (available on Walk Right Back: The Everly Brothers On Warner Bros. 1960-1969)

The Everly Brothers might have been known for their sweet harmonies and clean-cut appearances, but some of their mid-1960s work was downright badass. Don and Phil with fuzz guitar, choppy drumming, and lyrics like "When I close my eyes and I think of you/You wouldn't believe what comes in view"? It's all here. This didn't become a hit. Maybe it wasn't commercial enough. Maybe Americans just didn't care about the Everlys in 1965. Too bad. This rocks.

"The World Through A Tear," Neil Sedaka (available on Sedaka Sings The Hits)

Also from 1965, by which time Neil Sedaka could no longer "down-doo-be-doo-down-down" and "doo-ba-bop-bop-o-doo-bop-she-down-down" his way to the top of the charts. But wait! Easy Listening was a still a viable market in 1965. And that was the field in which Sedaka made his comeback.......but in 1974, not 1965. Too bad, for "The World Through A Tear" is fabulous: a somber yet breezy ballad with a Latin beat and an unusually reserved vocal from the normally flamboyant singer. It made the charts at least, but it probably left Sedaka's loyal fans confused because -- it sounds nothing like a Neil Sedaka record! And he didn't write it, no matter what he might imply in this clip:

"I Can't Tell The Bottom From The Top," The Hollies (available on Epic Anthology)

I remember when I raided my sizable collection of Hollies CDs to load a bunch of their tracks onto my iTunes library. I wasn't quite sure why I included this one, but I'm glad I did because I've come to realize how beautiful it really is. The Hollies scored two of their biggest US hits with "He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother" in late 1969/early 1970 and "Long Cool Woman (In A Black Dress)" in 1972. Nestled between those records was this gem, a deliciously-harmonized love song with a spacious arrangement. A pre-stardom Elton John played piano on this track, which did quite well in the UK but barely registered in in the US.

I'm not going to post volumes in this series with any regularity, just whenever I can and feel like doing so. But stay tuned all the same!

Text copyright © 2009 S.J. Dibai. All rights reserved.

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