Tag Archives: Brad Jones

New Album! Hans Rotenberry and Brad Jones

New to you, anyway – it came out last Fall.

But what has hit the street is the new issue of Bucketful of Brains, the great UK pop mag that has defied the odds and the decline of print journalism. Still going strong, still published on schedule, and still a place I’m proud to hang my keyboard each issue. Click here to find out more.

That’s where you’ll find my review of Mountain Jack, the album from Hans Rotenberry and Brad Jones. Any powerpop fan hearing those two names would instantly get excited; Hans has led the great band Shazam for years and Brad Jones is one of the great pop producers of our time as well as a solid artist in his own right. And while the collaboration might sound different than you would expect, it hits many of the right buttons.

Here’s my review…

Video: “A Likely Lad

Having produced four of the Shazam albums, Brad Jones knows every feint and jab that Hans Rotenberry has in his repertoire. So the pairing of bandleader and producer sounds much like you’d expect, a collaboration that draws heavily upon chunky rhythms, clever (but sometimes obtuse) lyrics and tight harmonies – not to mention song structure that draws heavily upon The Move and early Todd Rundgren. It’s a welcome return for Brad Jones, the powerpop producer who dropped the brilliant Gilt Flake on us many years ago and then dropped back out of sight like a February groundhog.

Those expecting the amp-cranking sound that the Shazam is famous for might be taken aback by the predominantly acoustic format, let alone songs like “Froggie Mountain Shakedown”. But the Americana-cum-powerpop formula suits the pair well; it’s loose and fun, and there’s enough cowbell to balance out the mouth harp. With “Count On Me”, “Likely Lad” and “It Would Not Be Uncool” they have three hit singles at my house, and hell, “Greef” is an Exile on Main Street doppelgänger as much as “Back To Bristol” recalls Alex Chilton. Take the plunge.

Mountain Jack at 50ft Records

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Blast From The Past – The World’s Best Power Pop

“The oasis of pop for many an Internet surfer, the Not Lame Recording Company is a clearing house for power pop bands of all shapes and sizes – reissued classics and the best new hopefuls from around the world. Label head Bruce Brodeen is a pop fan first and foremost, and his passion for the genre has helped his business grow from a dream into a necessary conduit for many of the lesser known bands to connect with their potential audience.”

I wrote those words thirteen years ago when reviewing Not Lame’s first sampler for Consumable Online. It’s out of print now – a used copy is going for a hefty price on Amazon. Check out this list of artists (in bold); many were just breaking through in 1997 and have become favorites of the genre:

Plastic Moon Rain (Moptops) / Exit To Stay (DT’S) / It’s A Shame (This Perfect Day) / Just Another Day (Twenty Cent Crush) / Love You Like A King (Walter Clevenger) / Brenda Revisited (Martin Luther Lennon) / Colours (The Rooks) / Easy On The Eye (Kenny Howes) / Waking From A Dream (Micah Gilbert) / Miss July (Brad Jones) / What Goes Around (Barely Pink) / Go (Willie Wisely) / Yes Yes Hey Hey (Wunderband) / Today Will Be Yesterday (Big Hello) / Waterfall (Heavy Into Jeff) / Almost Something There (The Beatifics) / Wave To Ride (The Living Daylights) / Throw Me Down (Cool Blue Halo) / Try Not To Care (DGS Younger) / Nervous Man (Stellaluna) / So Low (Dead Flowers) / Take Me Or Leave Me (Time Bomb Symphony).

My money was on Stellaluna, a North Carolina band that got some help from Jamie Hoover of The Spongetones. They didn’t become a household name, but popularity has never had anything to do with quality. Read my full review of the Not Lame sampler here.

Bruce and Not Lame are still going strong; besides being a primary distributor for pop and rock bands, his label continues to release first-rate albums on their own imprint. Beyond their own artist roster, their tribute albums and box set anthologies are labors of love that have quickly become collectors items. Visit them here.

Bruce is Very Highly Recommended

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Blast From The Past – Beachwood Sparks

beachwood_sparks

The great thing about revisiting albums years later – especially ones that not everyone is talking about – is that you hear them differently and pick up new wavelengths. It’s almost ten years since Beachwood Sparks released their eponymous album, and while I still enjoy it I’m able to discover other subtleties in the music beyond the major touchstones I identified the first time around. From legacy bands like the Grateful Dead to more recent purveyors Apples In Stereo, it’s all about texture.

Here’s what I wrote for Cosmik Debris back in 2000…

Gram Parsons described his style as “Cosmic American Music”, and I suppose that if he were around to hear Beachwood Sparks, he’d let the quartet on his bus without a second thought.

A quick look at the graphics and titles would have you trot out Buffalo Springfield or The Flying Burrito Brothers as a touchstone, but the production and arrangements owe as much to inventive popmeisters like Brian Wilson and Mitch Easter. In fact, I imagine that if Easter or master knob-twiddler Brad Jones were sent back in time to produce Parsons, this would be the result. Except “Something I Don’t Recognize”, where he would need the Nesmith-led Monkees. Or “Old Sea Miner”, where only XTC would do.

Aw hell, Parsons would have gotten around, he was that kind of guy. And the fact that Beachwood Sparks pulls all of this off without painting themselves into a corner is a hell of a compliment.

The overall sound is psychedelic, dreamy introspection, with interludes like “Singing Butterfly” leading into more uptempo Byrds/Poco moments like “Sister Rose”. Of course, just when you’re safely in that mood, they toss in an aggressive fuzzbox guitar solo over a go-go beat just to throw you for a loop. “See On Three” recalls Wilco’s experimentation, but the dizzying signature changes are probably even outside of Tweedy’s methods.

“This Is What It Feels Like” is another time-travel song, sounding like a pop track that somehow leaked into the future from 1967 California. “The Reminder” eerily and beautifully recalls the innocence of Neil Young’s first records with its delicate guitar and lilting vocals. Individually, these are wonderfully realized moments; as an album, it’s a mental watercolor painting that will dance with your imagination.

I had mixed feelings about their follow-up album, but I love the debut as much today as I did ten years ago. So if you haven’t savored this one yet, please do. And keep your eyes open – supposedly they will release a new album soon (it’s been an eight year drought!)

Beachwood Sparks on Amazon.

Beachwood Sparks on MySpace

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