Tag Archives: Van Duren

New Album! Oranjuly

Oranjuly is the name for the one-man whirlwind named Brian King, whose obvious love of The Beach Boys, Jellyfish and other harmony-intensive pop bands bleeds through his music. Not certain if the choice of name combines his favorite fruit with his favorite month, but the band name isn’t important – the music under the banner is. And that’s what I’m touting tonight.

You want me to drop more names? Various songs recall Todd Rundgren, Badfinger, Weezer, Van Duren, Big Star and fill-in-your-pop-hero here. And of course, those Beach Boys. Listen to the keyboards and bass line of the opening track and tell me you don’t think of both “Good Vibrations” and “Wouldn’t It be Nice”, even though his track “Her Camera” sounds like neither. And when those a capella harmony vocals come in on the bridge? Holy crap.

My two favorite songs are the delicate “At Any Time” (think Bleu or Mike Viola) and the bouncy “I Could Break Your Heart” – especially that irresistable chorus couplet. But it’s deeper than earworm hooks; even with the pop-single lengths of three minutes plus, King flashes some instrumental chops, too. “Mrs. G” wraps up the coda with rollicking piano and tasty guitar leads, but even a stripped down song like “South Carolina” floats its hook over acoustic guitar and piano…and bass/drum support right out of the McCartney/Starr playbook.

I remember when a solo album meant just that – a talented performer was playing all the instruments and singing all the parts. King is very impressive here, filling the voids with strings and keyboards and horns and absolutely nailing the vocals. Very, very strong album – I’ll certainly remember this at year-end time. 

Check out the Oranjuly website.

Buy the album from Not Lame.

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T.G.I.F. – Ten Rockin’ Recollections

I can’t really listen to the radio anymore.

Stations today pretty much suck. Much like chain store record department employees, most on-air people are out of their depth. They don’t have a good grasp of what they’re trying to sell or present. They aren’t lifers. They don’t live and breathe the music. Perhaps that has a lot to do with the fact that they’re not choosing what to play (or in the case of the chain store clerk, they are not there by choice but promoted from the small appliances department).

Oldies radio recycles the same few hits by the same few bands and never play the chestnuts. Hell, most of these stations are farmed in from a few central syndicates anyway, so the concept of a revisiting a regional classic is pretty much gone. Some consultant somewhere is choosing titles from a list of what their contractual rights enable them to play without paying additional royalties. It’s dull, lifeless, repetitive.

Oh, I know there are exceptions. There are a couple of guys in my town who have an occasional 3-4 hour slot that can be very entertaining, but the airtime doesn’t line up with my schedule. And maybe satellite radio would cure me of this low opinion; one listen to someone like Little Steven and you see what a world of difference it makes when the creator of the show is deeply invested in every song and detail. Like a great mixtape, each song brings a nod and a smile; it’s great when you’re on that wavelength.

But I don’t need radio anymore. It hasn’t been able to teach me anything in years…decades, perhaps. But I have a lifetime of music to draw upon, and a continuing pipeline of great music that real artists continue to make regardless of apathy, challenges and obstacles. Bless you, fellow zealots.

S0 this week I present you with ten rockin’ recollections, ten songs that I thought of while daydreaming this morning. There’s no logical sequence, it isn’t a mix, and although the thrust of it hovers in the 70s, it wasn’t by design. Just ten great songs that you’ll probably never hear on the radio, but they put a smile on my face and I hope they put a smile on yours.

Enjoy the weekend!

Graham Parker: “Temporary Beauty“. Nice live version from a guy who has been making one brilliant album after another for thirty-five years; he doesn’t get anywhere near the credit he deserves.

Santana: “Soul Sacrifice“. Michael Shrieve is mindblowing on drums; Santana wowed everybody at WoodstockShrieve, at twenty, looked like Sid Vicious!

The Cruzados: “Bed Of Lies“. Vastly underrated band who had a couple of excellent records in the 80s; even Dylan is a fan. This and “Motorcycle Girl” were my faves.

John Hiatt and Matthew Sweet): “Girlfriend“. From Vh-1 Duets. You know, back when music stations actually programmed music content? They also covered “I Wanna Be Sedated” that night!

? and the Mysterians: “Do Something To Me“. Garage gods! This song wasn’t a hit for them although Tommy James had success with it. They still sound great today.

Edgar Winter Group: “Queen of My DreamsDan Hartman goes all Led Zeppelin on us. He was the soul of this group and an incredible talent.

Montrose: “Bad Motor Scooter“. Still smokes 36 years later. Sammy had poodle hair, Ronnie Montrose left Edgar Winter after “Frankenstein”.

J. Geils Band: “Lookin’ For a Love“. Best. Party. Band. Ever. Saw a clip of them from a recent reunion and Peter Wolf can still work that stage like a scarecrow jacked up on coke.

Van Duren: “Grow Yourself Up“. Underknown pop giant who was part of the Memphis scene circa Big Star and came up to Connecticut to record at Big Sound Records. New album in 2010.

Johnny Winter: “Jumping Jack Flash“. With Floyd Radford and Randy Jo Hobbs, although they’re just hanging on for dear life. Johnny owns this song!

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R.I.P. Tommy Hoehn

This is turning into a depressing weekend.

I was so startled by the loss of Pete Quaife yesterday that I didn’t even realize it was Friday and therefore time for my weekly TGIF feature. By the time it dawned on me, I didn’t really care to go back and rectify the oversight; I spent a few hours last night reading tributes and thoughts from other Kinks fans who were also saddened by his passing.

Now just a day later, more bad news. Memphis takes another kick in the nuts with the loss of Tommy Hoehn who died late Thursday night. You might not recognize his name right off the bat, but he was an integral part of the powerpop scene in Memphis and a contemporary of Big Star and other Ardent Studios artists who were plowing a different field than corporate radio in the 1970s.

Memphis is still reeling from the loss of Alex Chilton in March; now this. Besides the obvious thoughts and prayers to friends and family, my heart goes out to John Fry, Jody Stephens, Van Duren and other musicians and associates who knew and worked with Tommy for so many years.

Back in the day, it was Creem Magazine that first tipped me to Big Star and I wanted to gobble up as much of that type of music as I could find. During that expedition I discovered Losing You To Sleep, Tommy’s second album. It was on London Records and sure, with his beard and opened white shirt, he looked more like J. D. Souther or Andrew Gold than your typical powerpopper. But “Hey Polarity” and the title song knocked me out, and another track (“She Might Look My Way”) was a Chilton co-write. 

Hoehn had his hand in the jelly jar for Sister Lovers and also did some work with The Scruffs, but he slid to the melodic Paul McCartney and Emitt Rhodes side of the fence more than he did the crunchy sound of The Raspberries or Badfinger. Reportedly his musical hero was Todd Rundgren, but listening to his beautiful melodies and delicate style, you realize that his doppelgänger might have been his friend from Big Star,  Chris Bell.

Coincidentally, another album I picked up at that time was Are You Serious by Van Duren; Van would later record with Tommy as the Hoehn-Duren Band during the powerpop rebirth of the 90s,  releasing Hailstone Holiday and Blue OrangeNothing disappears on the Internet, so I can give you this link from an eleven year old blog post that sums up how they got back together after years apart. (Van has a new album out, but more about that very soon.)

The anniversary of Michael Jackson’s death is sucking all the oxygen out of the atmosphere this weekend and no doubt both Quaife and Hoehn are getting lost in the shuffle. Maybe that’s par for the course, since both were underrated and undervalued in the commercial scheme of things. But for those of us who get it, these are sad and painful goodbyes to people who have contributed far more to the music of our lives than Jacko ever could.

R.I.P., Tommy. Ironically, we’re losing you to sleep.

Scott Homewood’s 2007 essay on Tommy from Lost In The Grooves

Amy Nyman’s 2007 blog post about that Memphis scene.

Ardent Studios

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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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Blast From The Past: Roger C. Reale

This, folks, is the Reale Deal.

This, folks, is the Reale Deal.

Everybody has an album that sits atop their list of “records that need to be on CD”. Mine is Radioactive by Roger C. Reale and Rue Morgue. One of the great perks of working in a record store was the ability to crack open an interesting looking record and see what it was all about. For example, I thought the song titles on Slug Line were as off-the-wall as the horrible picture of the artist on the front cover, and that album wound up changing my life. (Thanks, John Hiatt!). I also found Herman Brood’s Cha Cha mistakenly filed in the disco section, but I can’t blame the clerk for that when the cover looked like this. Another lifelong partnership between an artist and my ears.

I had that same gobsmacking wallop when I slapped Radioactive on the turntable, but sadly it would turn out to be a one shot deal. It did lead me to grab everything I could get my hands on from Big Sound Records, where Jon Tiven and Van Duren and Doc Cavalier and Ivan Julian and G.E. Smith held court, but those are stories for another day…especially since G.E. Smith’s In The World might be #2 on that “needs to be on CD” list. Roger C. Reale did guest on a lot of albums and reappeared last decade to record an EP with his friends The Reducers and then started a more traditional bluesy rock band called The Manchurians. But none of them were like this.

So if you’re going to make one album before sliding off the radar screen, why not spike the ball and run? Clocking in at less than twenty-five minutes (!), Reale and his crack band (popster Hilly Michaels on drums and G.E. Smith – yes, that one – on guitar) just torched their way through crunhing rock originals and a couple of killer covers. Reale’s voice was as low as his bass and was powerful enough to saddle up this sonic typhoon of a trio and take it for a spin. Every track was roll-down-the-windows, sing along at the top of your lungs rock’n’roll. No wasted notes, nothing fancy, just clever lyrics and gigantic hooks propelled by a truly melodic power trio.

“Stop and Go”, “Pain Killer” and “Please Believe Me” were pop enough to be hits, while “Madonna’s Last Stand”, “Kill Me” and “High Society” could power a muscle car down a highway by themselves. And the covers were fabulous – a druggy, droning take on The Troggs’  “I Can’t Control Myself” and the most kinetic, manic cover of Chuck Berry’s “Dear Dad” you will ever hear in your life. Because it is so long out of print and never was issued on CD…I can point you here so you can join me in celebrating this masterpiece of an album. (Kudos to Angelo, who has obviously had the same epiphany.)

Thirty-one years later and I still play the shit out of this record, it’s absolutely timeless. I will play this record until the day I die and then pack it for the trip to the great beyond.

Roger C. Reale, you flat out rock!

The official Manchurians MySpace site and their CD BABY page.

An outdated Manchurians site – track list info, a couple of MP3 links and links to purchase the CDs.

An outdated Reducers/Roger C Reale page with info about the EP and one MP3.

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