Blast From The Past: Dwight Twilley

Dwight Twilley fans are no doubt salivating over the recent avalanche of rarities, live cuts and demos that Dwight has decided to release to the market. Priced reasonably on tactile media and even cheaper via digital download, it’s a clear reminder of why Twilley (with and without partner Phil Seymour) holds a special place in pop history. Sincerely still ranks among the best pop debut albums of the rock era, a breath of fresh air with timeless songs, heartfelt vocals and engaging musicianship. Hard to believe that the Twilley/Seymour “band” lasted only two albums, although both recorded more classic pop on their own.

This wealth of material reminds me the excitement I felt ten years ago, when both a Twilley collection and a new Twilley album dropped virtually at the same time. Sure, there was always the occasional bootleg to savor, but now there was authorized product that we hoped would reinvigorate his career and bring the accolades he deserved. But neither Tulsa nor Between The Cracks broke out, and ten years later I still have the same wish for him.

At least I got my other wish – that open vault I pined for.

Here’s my original take from 1999 on Between The Cracks, Volume 1:

between cracks

A collection of fifteen unreleased tracks from across Twilley’s career, Between The Cracks is a godsend to fans (along with Tulsa, a brand new release on Copper Records). From his mercurial beginnings with partner Phil Seymour through the frustrations of trying to succeed against tides of indifference and just plain bad luck, Twilley’s history is spotted with brilliant work that is criminally underappreciated. Thanks to releases like these, Twilley might enjoy another well-deserved shot at the brass ring.

“Black Eyes,” the leadoff track, could well have fit on any of his releases, especially the first two. With trademark quavering vocals and the always-stellar Bill Pitcock IV on guitar, this sounds like the perfect follow-up to “I’m On Fire,” although it was recorded years later. Susan Cowsill’s harmony vocals graced many Twilley tracks at the time and she sounds almost as good as Phil Seymour. Similarly, “No Place Like Home,” recorded in 1990, could and should have been radio smash.

Some of the early tracks like “Living In The City” and “Too Young For Love” have that same primal pulse that many tracks on Sincerely do, and “Round And Around” is a stark, Lennon-esque balled (played on an out-of-tune piano) with a great vocal from Dwight. Despite the cloudy production (or perhaps the horrible shape some of these tapes might have been in) they are fascinating glimpses into Twilley’s early era. And if songs like “Why You Wanna Break My Heart” are more your speed, “Reach For The Sky” and the amazing “Oh Carrie” (maybe the best song on this set) will give you the two follow-up hit singles that never happened.

The whole package is first rate – Kent Benjamin’s heartfelt liner notes are excellent and Dwight contributes song-by-song comments that are informative and witty. As much as I look forward to his revived career and new material, I also hope Twilley continues to mine the vault to share his past with us. Oh, what might have been…

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Filed under Features and Interviews, Music, Reviews

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