Tag Archives: Hollies

The Posies: Blood/Candy

Another 2010 Bridesmaid…very good, but missed the Top 25…

The Posies have been around so long and have broken up and reformed so often that it’s probably bad form to call Blood/Candy a comeback album. Isn’t that what we were supposed to call Every Kind of Light? But with their solo and Big Star efforts now put aside, Ken Stringfellow and Jon Auer decided to revisit their oldest muse – each other – and reanimate a collaboration that has served them since they were teenagers. Camping out in the studio to live and breathe the music, the core of Blood/Candy was created in ten days and then tinkered with via various studios, diverse instrumentation and vocal collaborators (Kay Hanley, Hugh Cornwell).

The results, although not quite derivative, are that many of the songs have a familiarity that can’t be avoided when a band’s songwriters have such widespread collaborations. The structure of the fragmented “Licenses To Hide”, oddly enough, sounds like a Billy Joel epic from The Stranger, albeit sung by angels. And while it is not a well-known song, those who know The Odds’ “Love of Minds” will do a spit-take upon hearing the refrain and rhythm of “Cleopatra Street”.

Video: “For The Ashes

“For The Ashes” lets them frame the verses in Crosby/Nash harmonies before morphing into spacey falsettos, just as “Accidental Architecture” uses those same vocal icons to launch a wordy, jazzy melody into an infectious chorus. And staying on Nash point, the boys had to be listening to old Hollies records before penning the album’s best hook in “She’s Coming Down Again”. Likewise, Beach Boys fans will no doubt be struck by the vocal coda of “Enewetak”.

The songwriting is strong, and as one would expect, the vocals and harmonies are exquisite; both Stringfellow and Auer are in top form. There will be those who still point at Dear 23 or Frosting On The Beater as the apex of their career, but slotting this one in close proximity would not be a mistake. Whether or not this is a cohesive effort from a newly focused band or a collection of tracks assembled for the occasional statement, Blood/Candy is – as the title suggests – a showcase for both their delicate fragility and their powerful pop presence.

***

This review was originally printed in Bucketful of Brains.

The Posies on MySpace

Rykodisc

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T.G.I.F. – Ten Trippy Tributes

I bow in your honor

I love, love, love tribute albums. Some are so inventive they occasionally exceed the original. Some are so poorly regimented that they’re fun like an Ed Wood movie is fun. You just have to admire a group of artists taking the plunge, whether it’s a label trying to promote their artist roster or a heartfely bow to some grand master.

I think the pinnacle for me is still eggBert’s Sing Hollies In Reverse, which featured a stunning asssemblage of pop stars, great song selections and some unbelieveable takes on the Hollies canon. Then they wrapped it up in a beautiful package with a well-written and informative booklet. Handled with care. The late great Greg Dwinell is no longer with us, but that album is one of his shining legacies.

Still the champion

But I know most people aren’t like me – tribute albums make as much sense as ducking an artist’s concert to see a cover band. And the funny thing is, I abhor most cover bands. Maybe I like tributes more because of the one-song-per-artist rule, or maybe it’s that I don’t have to watch them…I can just listen. And when the collection creatively juggles so many styles – folk, rock, dixieland, punk, r&b, glam, powerpop – so much the better.

Here are ten tribute albums that might have slipped by you. Click on the links below to listen to sound clips – you’ll be surprised how great some of the cuts are, not to mention some of the famous artists participating on even the tiniest label efforts!

Resurrection of The Warlock  (T. Rex)

Lowe Profile  (Nick Lowe)

Turban Renewal  (Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs)

Uncovered  (Bob Dylan)

We Will Fall  (Iggy Pop)

Brace Yourself  (Otis Blackwell)

Caroline Now  (Brian Wilson/Beach Boys)

Chooglin’  (John Fogerty/ Credence Clearwater Revival)

Blastered  (The Blasters)

Frankly a Capella  (Frank Zappa / The Mothers of Invention)

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Blast From The Past: Herman’s Hermits

So what were *you* doing when you were 15 years old?

So what were *you* doing at fifteen years old?

 Although Herman’s Hermits were never taken as seriously as The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Animals or The Kinks (to just name of few of their contemporaries), they were a dominant force on the pop charts in the 60s, and unbelievably outsold The Beatles in America in 1965. Like many of those bands, they started as a tight r&b band (as evidenced by guitarist Lek Lekenby’s guitar work on this DVD) until pop stardom took them in another direction. The American market was receptive to novelty hits like “I’m Henry VIII I Am” (which wouldn’t fly in the UK), and although the band was now pigeonholed into “the boys next door”, their success was phenomenal, with one charted single after another in rapid succession. But when MGM’s financial woes caused a lull in their output, The Monkees exploded onto the scene and things were never quite the same.

Producer Mickie Most helped manager Harvey Lisberg control their career with his knack for selecting hit singles (similar to the role Don Kirschner would play for The Monkees), and thanks to his connections young studio musicians Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones played on many of the early records. But this DVD, a televised special from Australia in 1966, clearly shows that the band could hold their own quite nicely. The footage is not bad quality, considering its age, and there are no sync problems and very few jumps.

For some odd reason there are two versions of the show – the original thirty minute broadcast and a “2007 mix” where the footage is enhanced by animation, graphics and some visual tricks straight out of a 60s acid flashback movie. Stick with the original; the latter is useless and annoying to watch. The band looks and sounds great, performing nine hits with three interruptions for the oddly risque commercials for Hilton “ladderproof” nylons (who knew?).

But the real value on the DVD is in the bonus features. Along with an odd video for “No Milk Today” and behind-the-scenes trailers for two of their movies (with amusing commentary) we also get performance clips from German and Norweigan TV programs; it’s a treat to watch them tackle  “Dandy” (The Kinks) and “Bus Stop” (“The Hollies“).  “The Hermits Story” is a short documentary that includes Most, Lisberg, writer Johnny Rogan and band members Karl Green, Keith Hopwood and Barry Whitwaw, among others. The documentary looks like it was dubbed from a damaged videotape, but despite the occasional smear it’s fascinating to watch.

Years later I saw the Herman-less Hermits play a club show. Wearing white suits and telling ribald jokes between songs, they were the antithesis of the young and innocent image of the original band. But of course, that whole cheeky image was a calculated act; these guys were as crazed as any group of teenage boys would be tossed into a world of madness. Peter Noone continues to sound great, having later success with The Tremblers and on various oldies tours; even collaborating with Richard X Heyman on a great EP.

Highly recommend picking this DVD up. The price is low, the value is high, and the memories are priceless..

 hermans hermits

Buy this DVD at Amazon.

The Herman’s Hermits website.

The video for “No Milk Today” on the DVD isn’t as good as this one.

A TV performance of “Kind of a Hush” with live vocal from Peter.

Peter Noone resurfaced in 1978 with The Tremblers.

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Blast From The Past: The Wondermints

Fortunately for us, the profile and accessibility of The Wondermints has increased in leaps and bounds over the past decade. Their association with Brian Wilson has not only paid great dividends for them individually and collectively, but they’re done the impossible by getting Brian out of the sandbox and back onto the stage, and later the recording studio. Wilson and Beach Boy fans should have an altar with Wondermints items on it.

Here’s my original review of their self-titled album issued on (the sorely missed) Big Deal Records.

Tasty Treats!

Tasty Treats!

Years ago, a struggling guitarist named Jimi Hendrix had to break in England before his own homeland would recognize and support his talents. Thirty years later, a Los Angeles band is making ends meet by recording for a Japanese label. Fortunately, Big Deal, a New York label, has licensed the debut record and made it available and affordable for American audiences.

Anyone who has the Hollies tribute Sing Hollies In Reverse (eggBert Records, and if you don’t, stop reading and go buy it now. I’ll wait!) was no doubt enthralled with the version of “You Need Love” – picture perfect pop, the kind that allows you to plunk for a full CD without a moment’s hesitation. I did, and although this is not a pop album with “hit singles” busting out of it, most of it is jaw-dropping great. (Okay, maybe there’s a single – the Posies meet Rubinoos sound of “In A Haze” just kills me.)

“Shine”‘s shuffling beat, bongos and psychedelic guitar will appeal to anyone who enjoyed the deeper side of 60’s records, the meat behind the hit singles (indeed, one could sing Joe South’s “Hush” over this melody and not be far off). “Fleur-de-lis” has all that 1980’s Britpop bounce that will make even cynical heads spin (the piano is straight out of “Oliver’s Army”), but in place of the gruff vocal of an Elvis or Nick there’s the candy-sweet harmonies fans of this band have come to love. Yet it’s not all retrospective – slip “Thought Back” onto Jason Falkner‘s recent release and no one would know the difference – and that’s a compliment!

Brian Wilson supposedly claimed that if he had the Wondermints back in 1967, he “would have taken Smile out on the road”. While post-sandbox Brian has to be taken with a grain of salt (he recently called “Grumpier Old Men” one of the three best movies ever made), one listen to the stunning “Tracy Hide” will confirm that this was said on a day when all the sand grains aligned properly. Hypnotic and haunting, “Tracy Hide” blends the effortless falsetto choruses, harpsichord rhythms, kettle drums and other studio nuances that instantly transport the listener to The Golden Age Of Brian. If this had been the flip side of “Good Vibrations”, no one would have complained.

Besides this record, the band has a couple of (now out of print) singles, and “Carnival Of Souls”, here as the record’s closer, is featured on Yellow Pills #2. The band has also released a CD of cover songs, which – you guessed it – is only available as a Japanese import. Some things never change.

The Wondermints 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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