Tag Archives: Ringo

Blast From The Past: The New Cars

It’s Memorial Day Weekend here in the United States, but since I have to account for our society’s short-term memory (and McNugget lifestyle), today I’m only dropping back five years!

Let’s turn the Wayback Machine to my 2005 review…

Is nothing sacred? Those were the first three words out of my mouth when I heard that Todd Rundgren and two-thirds of his current band were hooking up with the lesser half of The Cars to exhume the Boston band’s legacy and (ahem) take it for a spin. But with Ben Orr resting in peace and Ric Ocasek – the face of The Cars – unwilling to sign on, how could one possibly take a new version of The Cars seriously?

A famous musician covering others is nothing new. Utopia’s Deface the Music was a brilliant take on The Beatles, but it was an album of originals, not covers. And when Todd has done the cover route, most notably on Faithful, the results have been stellar…but always under his own name. Ringo takes a few…er, ringers on the road every summer, but he doesn’t call it The Beatles. Elliot Easton, on the other hand, had no problem whoring out (*) as a member of Credence Clearwater Revisited.  (And let’s face it, without John Fogerty, what is there to revisit?) Considering the collective history of this quintet of players, they could have called themselves NazzCar or Autopia and at least had a sense of humor about it, but…no.

And the record? Mostly (cough) faithful and energetic live renditions of the Cars catalogue, the faster tunes more acceptably juiced up. Todd channels Ocasek’s vocal mannerisms for “Best Friend’s Girl” and “Shake It Up” but Sulton’s take on “Drive” is a disappointment. One new track, “Not Tonight”, is probably the poppiest thing Rundgren has written in years but is ruined by ridiculous lyrics. Does this longtime pop craftsman really think a Blackberry is good subject matter? As for the other two new tracks, they’re so forgettable that I have thankfully forgotten them already.

The set here, like the live shows, is padded with Todd songs, so the catalogue is obviously thin. Anytime a “band” has more apparel than material, you have to take them for what they are – a money grab, famous guys leaning on a legacy and going for it (read: merchandising) as an over-qualified cover band.

Cars? They just don’t make ‘em like they used to.

(* ironic present day update: Greg Hawkes is a Turtle)

Judge for yourself: listen at Amazon

Five years later…I’ve probably softened on my initial reaction since then, if only for the continuing struggle that so many of my musician acquaintances endure. Can’t afford health care…their work shamelessly stolen and distributed by pirates…an entertainment industry focused solely on spectacle and tweens at the expense of a generation of living, breathing musicians.

Still hate the Blackberry idea though…

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New Album! Solin

Scarf this one up!

Scarf this one up!

Well, not brand new. Solin recorded Energy Fair in late 2007, some copies were out in 2008, but the album release party was only a couple of months ago. Semantics – good music is good music, and Energy Fair is loaded with it.  The album cover doesn’t suggest a skiller pop craftsman, nor does the daunting title of the opening track “Which Way To Sanity”. But by track two, the jangly “Take it From The Top”, you’re ready to go the distance. And at nineteen tracks, you have miles to go!

Solin has a solid, appealing voice and doesn’t really sound like John Lennon incarnate, although that might be the most frequent namedrop I’ve heard, probably because he portrayed Lennon in an Off-Broadway Beatlemania show. (I’ve heard others suggest Parthenon Huxley and even a more centered David Bowie, and I can’t against argue either.) If anything, the album is more often channeling George Martin-isms, although you’d expect that kind of nick from someone who is a producer himself.

 “Strawberry Wine” really bleeds the influences, featuring “Penny Lane” trumpet, Ringo drum fills and the slow march of voice over piano that Lennon would use on his more pensive numbers. However, the result is anything but a Beatles cop; in fact it is more closely comparable to the midtempo Memphis pop of Van Duren (even more eeriely reminiscent on the gorgeous “Diamond Gold” and “Doesn’t Have To Be With You”). That’s a big compliment.

What I found remarkable about Energy Fair was the ability to keep up the pace for nineteen songs without flagging, especially considering that the bulk of the tunes exceed the four minute mark. While the slower tempo songs allow you to appreciate his lyrics and phrasing, the jaunty tracks like “No Connection” (a favorite), “Adrienne” and “Robin” are just as appealing. Songs are catchy, but not dumb-riff simple; there’s a lot of meat on these bones.

Nothing really rocks on this album with the exception of the 60s psych “Cuz I’m Yours” and “Streets of Westville”, the latter a dark, brooding hybrid of Jim Morrison and Neil Young’s Crazy Horse. Still, while it might sound fine blasting out your car window you’re not going to get anyone dancing or flashing you the rock horns. But neither is it an album that demands quiet introspection, as if the fragilty of the experience would be violated by sharing it outside your personal space. Energy Fair is diverse and vibrant enough to be appealing under any circumstance. If I heard this wafting across the fence I’d be more inclined to hop across and meet that new neighbor.

Solin on MySpace.

Solin website with links to purchase from Not Lame and Kool Kat.

Listen to clips at CDBaby.

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