Tag Archives: Jim Diamond

Almost Romantic

Tell it to Carrie…

Like many cities, mine sponsors a series of events during the Summer season to get people out of their houses and hopefully expose them to the wonders of downtown. Like many cities, there aren’t many wonders downtown, but for two dollars you can enter a section of city pavement boasting a temporary stage and beer tents and catch some music on a Thursday night. Last week I headed out of the office at 6:30 (or as I lately refer to it, lunchtime) to catch The Romantics.

I hadn’t seen the band in years – a short set maybe a decade ago – but when they were in their prime they used to roam the NorthEast club circuit. I’ve seen them in snappy red leather (like the latter-day New York Dolls sans commie flag) and often they’d pair up with local legends The Flashcubes. Met them all at one point, they were nice guys catching a good break and taking advantage of it. In the 80s, when they started to split, Jimmy Marinos formed The Motor City Rockers and they were referred to the management company where I was working. They played a great demo, but despite my pleading, I was outvoted 2-1 and they went elsewhere. Had I realized who Robert Gillespie was at the time, I might have followed them out the door.

Video: “What I Like About You

The band now boasts five members, and while I initially assumed as many as three might be replacement members, I think that drummer Brad Elvis might be the only one with a recent pedigree. Wally Palmar was still up front, Mike Skill (still boasting that mop of hair) stage left, and I’m pretty certain that was indeed both Rich Cole and Coz Canler on guitars. That would mean that the first three guitar players in the band  – all of whom replaced each other in the lineup at some point – were sharing the stage. Naturally one of them now handled bass guitar duties, although for the life or me I don’t understand why a few of the songs featured one guitar and two basses. None of them are John Entwistle, so I can only assume that the five dollar Newcastle drafts blurred the set list. I’d hate to think that they were trying to bring the thunder on purpose.

Things started off swimmingly with a robust “Rock You Up“, classic chunky power chords that make you wonder where you last left the guitar so you can bash it out when you get home. But after another kinetic rocker, Wally told the crowd they were going to take it down for a minute. I know the wandering mass of city workers, mullet heads and bikers might not have been jumping up on stage, but give us credit for the ability to withstand more than seven minutes of upbeat tunes without having to lay down. I started to get the feeling that what was set to be a ninety minute set might have a little padding in it.

They sprinkled the more recognizable songs through the set – “When I Look In Your Eyes“, “Stone Pony“, a majestic “Tell It To Carrie” – but at these gigs the crowd only snaps to attention when the big hit records are played. Fortunately The Romantics have two, so “Talking In Your Sleep” and especially “What I Like About You” got everyone’s attention. Even if that meant a few Bic lighters while daylight was still present plus the bane of any reunion gig – some of the worst no-rhythm soccer mom gyrations ever seen, a sad attempt at dancing. (Lady, there are kids here. Get back in your minivan.)

The band played with energy, and Brad Elvis is a showman as well as a keen timekeeper, but there was something lacking. In fairness, the sound at times was atrocious, and powerpop needs to be crisp and clean (although they extended several songs to remind us they are rockers from Detroit, not pansies). My friends wondered whether a shorter, tighter set might have been better, as momentum was occasionally lacking. The strong finish did include the requisite Kinks cover and audience participation, but as my friend Bill aptly put it, we were neither overwhelmed or underwhelmed. Just…whelmed.

The band is supposed to be working on a new album, and they certainly have the chops to pull it off, plus Palmar’s voice is in fine form. Maybe Jack White or Jim Diamond will work their magic and rekindle this flame? If so, Do Me Any Way You Wanna, guys – I’m on board.

The official Romantics website

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Single x 3 = Thringle

And that’s just what The Love Me Nots have tossed out there as a taste of their upcoming album, The Demon and the Devotee. Available right now on CD Baby, Thringle whets the appetite with a 1-2-3 punch of the Spector/garage hybrid that this Arizona band has consistently excelled at.

Once again working with the legendary Jim Diamond, the band combines catchy but meaty pop songs with a sonic wallop that’s at once retro and current. Vocalist Nicole Laurenne is the personification of sultry, but she can pounce as well as she can purr. And while I’m enamored with her presence front and center, the whip-crack trio standing alongside her (Michael Johnny Walker, Kyle Rose Stokes, Jay Lien) are equally critical cogs in this machine.

Video: “You’re Really Something

The Love Me Nots have dropped three albums in recent years, and with each one they get better. I’m already smiling at the ringing twelve string chiming on “The Girl Lights Up“, but I’ll save my thoughts on these three tracks until the full length comes out.

The Demon and the Devotee will soon be available in Europe on Bad Reputation Records, with a US release on Atomic A Go Go Records shortly afterwards. So drop the two dollars now and get your Thringle on. And if you haven’t already done so, I recommend that you grab those other three albums to help hold you over.

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New Album! Scott Morgan

Longtime favorite Scott Morgan has a new one out, a mix of originals and great covers (Sam Cooke, Bobbie Gentry, Holland-Dozier-Holland, among others). Morgan has always paid respect to other’s music alongside his own, and as usual he’s chosen wisely and done them justice. Recorded with a crack band of fellow devotees, this new self-titled album is another rock’n’soul testament from a man who deserves to be far better known. He’s Detroit rock royalty, and his kingdom deserves rezoning.

Guitarist Matthew Smith, drummer Dave Shettler and bassist Jim Diamond all contributed background vocals and shared production duties on the album, recorded at Diamond’s legendary Ghetto Recorders in Detroit. (Powertrane axeman Chris Taylor is the critical fifth piece; Morgan primarily plays organ and piano.) It’s tight but not pristine; indeed it’s five guys jamming for the shared love of the material getting soulful and wonderful results. There’s probably not a radio format eager to play it and I doubt any of them saddled up with that in mind. I’m reminded of a couple of albums Jon Tiven issued several years ago, which similarly flipped the bird to the naysayers and said “this is for the believers”.

Morgan is equally adept at introspective blues as he is with joyous expressions; standouts include “Since I Lost My Baby”. “Memphis Time” and “She’s Not Just Another Woman”. There’s some Stonesey rock, some psychedelic nods, some serious name-checking and most of all an organic and honest feel to the selected songs. I’m not certain how long they spent in the studio but I’ll bet it was relatively quick and dirty, guys looking for the groove and not an Auto-tune in sight. (What a refreshingly ancient concept!)

It’s been wonderful to have so many of Morgan’s projects released in the past couple of years. Some new, some long unavailable, work from Sonic’s Rendesvous, Powertrane, The Solution and even The Rationals is now there for the asking. For anyone who hadn’t followed his career it’s an amazing legacy of work that is obviously still chugging along in full gear. While Scott Morgan doesn’t blister like many of his other albums, it will move you.

Visit Scott’s website.

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Under The Radar: The Forty-Fives

Hate, hate, hate it when a great band starts to make their mark and then just fades away because of money issues, lack of recognition or some other game-changer. After getting progressively better from Get It Together to Fight Dirty, The Forty Fives looked like they hit paydirt with High Life High Volume. The Atlanta band went to Detroit to soak up the vibe and lay down tracks at Ghetto Recorders with producer Jim Diamond; the results were great! But somehow, not long after that, my expectations – and theirs, apparently – were dashed.

Looking back and giving this one another spin, I remembered why I get so excited when a band like this comes down the pike. At least they did get to tour the world, play gigs with their heroes and even showcase at Little Steven’s Underground Garage Festival at Randall’s Island. Maybe they’ll do me a favor and make another record?

Diamond continues to find and work with great acts (The Charms and The Love Me Nots among the more recent stunners) as does the label Yep Roc, and bands like this do continue to pop up and take their shot. I just have to keep looking since with few exceptions, the radio and the press isn’t much help. And when you find one…ahhhh, bliss.

Here are my words from 2004 as they originally ran in Pop Culture Press

Hip-shakin’, roof-raisin’, ass-kickin’ rock and roll as Atlanta’s finest quartet hooks up with a producer who “gets it” (Jim Diamond behind the knobs) for a jukebox full of dynamite. Echoing every great British Invasion band (with a special nod to the Small Faces), Bryan Malone’s stirring vocals and electrifying guitar chops lead the way, but this is a rock solid band effort.

They’re too cool for school, rocking with abandon, dipping their toe in a cow pie (the countrified “Bicycle Thief”) and even daring an instrumental (“Backstage At Juanita’s” soulful Hammond – kudos Trey Tidwell – is worth the price of the record by itself). Killer cover (“Daddy Rolling Stone”) segues into a Dolls-like glam rocker (“Junkfood Heaven”), before the horns and blues of “Too Many Miles”. And if you’re still wavering, the blazing “Superpill” features the best handclaps since The Romantics ruled the earth.

Did some jackass say rock and roll is dead? No way – it’s right here, baby, on one of 2004’s best records.

Give them a listen on MySpace or at their website.

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