Tag Archives: ELO

Do Ya (Feel Lucky, Punk)?

The Powerpop Criminals are at it again…

This time it’s a thematic album composed of rock and powerpop bands covering the classic Move song, “Do Ya“. One of the all-time classics, it’s been a favorite cover tune for a lot of bands with its off-kilter verbal cadence and its anthemic sing-along chorus. Hell, if you only know the words “do ya do ya want my love?” you’re already halfway there.

Video: “Do Ya” (The Move, studio version)

Although the song was first done by The Move, it was one of its spin-off bands that made it more famous – The Electric Light Orchestra, or as they are better known, ELO. I love The Move and Roy Wood, but Jeff Lynne made a much superior version with ELO.

Video: “Do Ya” (ELO, live version from Midnight Special)

Powerpop bands gravitate to this song like moths to a flame – chunky fat power chords, opportune for great background harmonies, and a stomping beat that has serviced every rock band since the invention of the third chord.

So click here!

Included in this compilation are versions by Jason Falkner, Matthew Sweet, Ace Frehley, Yo La Tengo and Todd Rundgren’s Utopia, the latter from the initial three-keyboard version of the band. (By the way, those first two albums – Utopia and Another Live – kick serious ass!)

And lest you think this is the first time someone came up with this idea, may I introduce you to the amazing Anna Borg, whose TallBoy Records issued an extended play clear vinyl single in 2002 with four bands covering the classic: Parallax Project, Kenny Howes and the Yeah, Linus of Hollywood and Einstein’s Sister. You can buy that here along with many other great releases (I highly recommend that Sugarplastic series of singles!)

So…do ya feel lucky, punk?

Do Ya?

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Top Ten Albums of 2010 – #10

Farrah is a vastly underappreciated pop band whose catalogue is swimming in great songs. Their latest self-titled effort is no exception; in fact it’s the Fountains of Wayne record that you didn’t get this year. (Check out “Scarborough“, a kissing cousin to FOW’s “Valley Winter Song”.)

“Swings and Roundabouts”, the opening track, is about as perfect a cross between Paul McCartney and ELO that you will ever hear. Like “Just Driving” and the pulsing piano pop of “If You Were Mine” , it screams radio hit. Hell, there isn’t a duff track on the album.

Video: “Swings and Roundabouts

Equally adept at delicate ballads (“Wasting Time”, “DNA”) and infectious pop rockers, Farrah is simply bloody brilliant. Jez Ashurt has a knack for hooks and melody and his lead vocals are instantly engaging (as are his duets – Kim Richey excels on “Abby’s Going Out”).  Everyone in the band adds vocals as well; kudos to Andy Campbell on guitar, drummer Dana Myzer and bassist Michelle Margherita. Absolutely criminal that they’ve barely made a dent in the US, but that is par for the course.

So you might as well head to Amazon and get your copy now. And grab Cut Out And Keep while you’re there. And Moustache. Good luck finding Me Too.

And then tell everybody you know.

Farrah on MySpace.

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Meet The Beatles, Sorta

Time once again to pay homage to Angelo over at Power Pop Criminals, whose mixtapes (will someone please come up for a less cumbersome word for mix disc?) are always first-rate works of art. And that includes the art, by the way – original work always created with affection, humor and great skill.

Over the past couple of years I’ve tipped you to many of his powerpop anthologies, Beatle album tributes and collections of tribute songs. This weekend I’m recommending you check out two of his more eclectic tributes, starting with Meet The Beatlesque. We’ve all heard bands and songs that make you think of The Fab Four; pretty much any pop band around has some Beatle DNA in their bloodstream.

So where many bands cover Beatle songs outright, here we are talking about bands who are channeling their influence or building off their foundation. Angelo describes the selections as those “who have had a Beatlesque moment, whether consciously or not. Beatlesque means bearing a definite resemblance, often to a specific Beatle song. To be truly Beatlesque,a record must wear that influence openly.”

So who does that? Hmm…how about The Raspberries, Utopia, The Rutles, Marshall Crenshaw, The Smithereens, ELO, 20-20 and The Flamin’ Groovies? That’s only a small sampling…from Disc One! Disc Two features Badfinger, Klaatu, Matthew Sweet, Cheap Trick, Emitt Rhodes, The Gurus, The Jamfifty tracks of fab between the two discs!

So click here to visit PPC and download this great collection. Enjoy!

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Under The Radar: Sounds Like…?

My buddy Angelo over at Power Pop Criminals has done it again.

Angelo loves well done cover tunes as much as I do, and we probably share the same disappointment that record labels don’t often do a good job assembling tribute albums. PPC’s Beatle album recreations, for example, are works of art (literally – the cover art on their home-crafted mixes is always first-rate!). So like many of us do, Angelo makes mix tapes to compensate. Thankfully, he also offers them as a free download.

Last month also marked PPC’s fifth anniversarycongratulations!

Head on over to PPC. You’ll find a wealth of magic in the archives and hopefully discover a new favorite artist or two; hopefully your interest will turn into support via album purchases and concert tickets. I’ll bet you find a couple of new (to you) bands that will floor you in this collection.

Here are his words on the subject:

“I guess you all remember Dave Edmunds recreating the Phil Spector’s Wall Of Sound, or how many bands have contributed to the Beatlesque history of Power Pop and some other artists searching for the perfect harmonies of Brian Wilson, even The Fab Four did this with “Paperback Writer”. All those bands have something in common, the love and respect for these forerunners. So instead of covering some classic tunes, they wrote original songs, mixed and produced them in the spirit of the bands we all love.

This new 2CD PPC collection is my humble try at compiling the homages recorded by the bands featured here. Of course, some of you won’t hear what i’ve heard, but you won’t deny the L.E.O.’s song might be one of the best songs Jeff L. has never written, or that Marc B., Bob D., Elvis C. can be heard without being really featured. Some other acts have included partial references to their heroes – this is how Roy Wood’s Wizzard can be heard with some glitter stomp in the same song, i could write and on and on, but where would be the fun of discovering the  tributes hidden in the songs. Enjoy.”

Some Soundalikes is available at the PPC website.

 
 

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New Album! Bleu

(Well, not brand new. But I do hold these back until after the print magazines have hit the racks.)

In 2003, Bleu’s Redhead album blew me away. I was on that one so hard and so fast, Columbia used my pull-quote on the front cover of the album. It came out early in the year and I predicted it would hold off all contenders, and it did – I voted Redhead as the best album of the year.

Fast-forward through the next dog year, and Bleu is recording a few one-offs, working with other artists, joining an ELO-inspired collective and even forming a pop geek supergroup with Mike Viola and Ducky Carlisle. And now, finally, that carefully Watched Pot.

I think Bleu has a lot in common with Butch Walker – he’s so talented that the tendency is to have him do too many things at once. And if I were that fortunate, to be both talented and in demand, who is to say I wouldn’t say yes more than I should? At least that’s what I surmise is happening, for as good as A Watched Pot is, I feel…well, to follow his metaphor, that it never quite boiled.

So here’s what I wrote for the latest Bucketfull of Brains.

I guess the pun here is that “a watched pot never boils“, and in fact this third album was bottlenecked by label apathy and the artists’ own perfectionist tendencies. Not that Bleu McAuley hadn’t been a busy guy since moving from Boston to the west coast; collaborating with pop savant Mike Viola (and Bleu’s Beantown producer/drummer Ducky Carlisle) in The Major Labels, and releasing a blatantly affectionate ELO nod (L.E.O.’s Alpacas Orgling). But this on-and-off project has taken quite a while to see the light of day. Maybe the formulaic music industry wasn’t cooperating, or maybe (as he sings in the first track) “nobody saved me from myself”. The irony is that while the pot is here, the contents are not exactly boiling.

I don’t think there’s a film using “There’s No Such Thing As Love” as its title theme, nor “Save Me” or “When The Lights Go Out” (the stunning vocal duet with Sandra McCracken). But if I were a screenwriter I wouldn’t hesitate to incorporate them; hell, the arrangements are so huge that they would be tempted to write a screenplay around them. On most of the songs Bleu sounds like he’s going for the brass ring, seeking either the big hit single or (via a cover version by a name artist) the big royalty opportunity.

Carlisle and John Fields have helped sculpt a huge aural platform for his songs, both lyrically and musically complex. And Bleu’s wordplay and sense of humor is firmly in place as is his subtle sinister side. Much like the stalker reveal in Redhead’s beautiful “Watching You Sleep”, his “I Won’t Fuck You Over” seems apologetic…until the very last Hitchcock-ian phrase. And  I suspect the clever Bleu used the amusing tale of opposites attract in “Boy Meets Girl” to take a subtle shot at reviewers trying to pigeonhole his music (“it’s like Jesus Jones and The Rolling Stones  in a game of Twister“).

My first impression was a bit of disappointment that Bleu didn’t rock out a little; some of the more engaging songs on Redhead had a little more energy behind them, like “I Won’t Go Hollywood” and “Could Be Worse”. Aside from “Kiss Me” – which crosses 60’s Motown with 70’s Philly Soul – everything on A Watched Pot is pensive and lush. But when I revisited Redhead I realized it had the same ratio of tempos; it was jus that those two songs jumped out more from the pack. 

Those seeking the power in powerpop might be a little put off by the slower, more dramatic pace and struggle to take it in a single gulp. But there is no denying Bleu’s uncanny ability to create majestic pop songs with huge arrangements, and when they are sung by what might be the best pop voice since Robin Zander, that’s a small nit to pick.

Bleu on MySpace

Video for “There’s No Such Thing as Love“. (Damn…I should have been a photographer.)

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Under The Radar: The Oohs

Dig in.

Hanging out on Internet groups can be incredibly frustrating, for trolls abound everywhere; we’ve all encountered the uneducated idiot who lashes out at everyone and everything to get attention (when they really shouldn’t be skipping those remedial English classes). But the pearl in the oyster is accidentally discovering a band or a film or an artist that you overlooked or may never have found otherwise. Sometimes it’s because they are recommeneded to you. Sometimes they’re one of the fellow listmembers.

I came across The Oohs in such a way, as the listgroup in question was focused upon melodic pop music, from bubblegum to powerpop and beyond. Hooks and harmony required for admission, in other words. And when this band decided to name their first record Ear Candy…well, that’s a gauntlet, isn’t it?

Suffice it to say I was more than pleasantly surprised by the pop foursome, and The Oohs have gone on to release a couple more since then – Saturday Morning Daydream and Llamalamp – in addition to appearances on several tribute and compilation albums.  But I happened to pull this one out tonight, so I thought I’d share my words from the review I wrote many moons ago for Amplifier Magazine:

All four Oohs can handle lead vocals, but when they sing in unison (as they do most often), words like “Jellyfish” and “Queen” and “ELO” immediately jump to mind. But I hear roots much deeper than that in their songwriting. Remember when you looked back on singles from the 1960s and discovered how adroitly they balanced lust and innocence. Check out how the vocals explode along with the subject matter in “Baby’s Going Out Tonight.” Listen to the musical roots all the way back to the Bee Gees‘ “Spicks And Specks,” but the majestic arrangement and signature shifts prove that The Oohs are not going to settle for the easy (retro) way out.

Listen to the vocals s-l-i-d-e together in perfect harmony, the bells chiming in the background, the way the drums seem to carry the song, but then it’s the keyboard…no, wait, it’s the guitar line…as the song fades, you want more and you want it now. And, seconds later, you get what you need as it sweeps back in. “Summer Sun” even borrows the essence of The Four Seasons‘ street-corner savvy to accentuate the pitch-perfect vocals (the acoustic version proves that this is not done with mirrors, by the way). “Head Above Water,” dodging the logical chord progressions for something more inventive, firmly exposes the Rundgren influence the band enjoys, right down to that synth solo (where have you gone, Roger Powell?).

Calling this collection “Sing Along With The Oohs” would not be far from the mark, as you will find yourself doing just that. One more thing about all this name-dropping – the fact that the same band names will jump into your mind is testament to the small number of bands who have been able to pull these arrangements off live. Savor the experience.

The Oohs website.

The Oohs on MySpace

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Tributes

I got a couple of emails from readers of yesterday’s post who were loving the Beatles cover comp and asking about tributes, since I’m on record as an obsessive fan of such efforts. On more than one occasion I’ve made my mixtape entry a covers collection (even pilfering a Replacements track title – I’LL BE YOU – for one of the more recent efforts) and I always love when I get them in return. (I’ll have to dig up that comp and post it here in the near future.)

I’ve found that the best ones are usually from independent projects on small labels where the scope will go outside the artist roster. By licensing tracks from other worthy bands that would appeal to the same audience as the internal ringers, the label is saying “we are putting the project first” rather than “this is a cheesey effort to get even the crappiest band on my roster some attention“. Frankly few of these get airplay anyway, so those weaker efforts just wind up in the band’s garage where they belong.

The major labels often blow it as well; too often their efforts wind up using big name artists that have no clue. Of course, with their overhead mapped against the unlikely hit potential, these are not frequent releases. But like the tiny labels trying to build around one good band with filler, the big boys have proven that they’re equally adept at creating a PLE (painful listening experience).

A list of the greatest tribute albums ever deserves more time and thought than I have to spare right now, but I do want to float out a couple of my favorites as well as clue you in to a little known collection assembled by a fellow blogger. These aren’t necessarily the five best, although my favorite tribute ever is included. 

Winner and still champion

Winner and still champion

SING HOLLIES IN REVERSE (eggBert): A majestic collection of power-pop artists including Bill Lloyd, Jon Brion, The Wondermints, Mitch Easter, Tommy Keene and Material Issue. Compiled by the late Greg Dwinnell, this was an all-hits no-misses effort where even the artwork and liner notes were first rate. Greg’s eggBert label also issued a wonderful Bee Gees tribute called MELODY FAIR that was almost as good.

Kovering the Klassics

Kovering the Klassics

THIS IS WHERE I BELONG (Rykodisc): Steve Forbert, Jonathan Richman, Bill Lloyd (the KING of tribute album appearances), Fastball, Fountains of Wayne, Cracker, Minus 5…a solid list of great commercial bands drawing from one of the Koolest Katalogues around. A little better than GIVE THE PEOPLE WHAT THEY WANT, which was released around the same time, although “Ring The Bells” by The Model Rockets from the latter might be the best cut of all. (If you can find a copy of SHANGRI-LA on Communion Records, that’s also highly recommended! (Note – if you listen to the Amazon clips, realize that the matchup of artist and song is incorrect).

Whipped Gum and Other Delights

Whipped Gum and Other Delights

RIGHT TO CHEWS (Not Lame): For the bubblegum pop listener in all of us, Not Lame’s impeccable release was complied by John Borack (longtime reviewer and author of Shake Some Action) and features some of the best artists in the current power-pop scene.  Great takes on The 1910 Fruitgum Company, The Ohio Express and Tommy Rowe by Michael Carpenter (genius) , Walter Clevenger (ditto), The Lolas and others. Not Lame has released several great tribute albums for artists as diverse as Gene Clark, Jeff Lynne/ELO and The Cars, among others; every one of them has several chestnuts worth roasting.

Bone Up on these great covers

Bone Up on these great covers

While you’re waiting foa any of the above to arrive in the mail, why not enjoy a great tribute mix right now? Angelo from Power Pop Criminals assembled these brilliant cover comps that are available as free downloads. And on that same page, the excellent rarity and out-of-print Bobby Fuller Four tribute OUR FAVORITE TEXAN.

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