Thursday, August 20, 2009

Eric Sorensen's JANGLE ON for August 2009!!!

PhotobucketJANGLE ON!
By Eric Sorensen‏, written exclusively for NOT LAME

Just when it appeared that chiming Rickenbacker guitars were falling out of favor, I discovered a surfeit of jangly albums and jangly tunes this past month – proving again that the "feast or famine" cycle still occurs in pop music scene. New discs and new tunes that have made my "Jangle Pop" play list over the past month include:

Wow! Sometimes a CDBaby search unearths a gem such as this 2003 release that features Darryl Everitt and a supporting cast. There are chiming, jangly tracks throughout this disc that merit comparisons with Dom Mariani and the Someloves, the Connells, the Gin Blossoms, Guadalcanal Diary, Smart Brown Handbag and Matthew Sweet. Standout tunes include "Don’t Talk To Me About Love", "I’m Not Following", "Everyone’s Allowed A Little Dreaming", "That Girl Is For Another Day" and "Sunday Night’s Goodbye". This is superb power-pop album that features a rich tapestry of chiming guitars in all the right places. Long may you run, Sir Darryl!

Speaking of Dom Mariani – check out the stunning instrumental track he recorded with the Majestic Kelp, "The Byrds Have Flown". A very nice nod to Roger McGuinn and the Byrds!

The Wonderwheel - SAFE AND SORRY
The good folks at Rainbow Quartz have discovered a Norwegian duo – Oyvind Holm and Ulf Risnes – who combine their talents to conjure up Simon and Garfunkel, Seals and Crofts and Matthew Sweet references. The twelve original tracks feature plenty of strummy acoustic riffs and catchy layered vocals. This disc deserves "Top Ten" consideration for 2009. My favorite track: "If She Don't Mind" – which features jangly electric guitar and smooth vocals that hearken back to the Lennon/McCartney era of songwriting. Many thanks to Rainbow Quartz!

Another recent Rainbow Quartz release worthy of mention is MAGIC CIRCLES by the June. "Sir Eugene Maddog" is as close to a jangly track as this album has to offer, but the disc lives up to its Rainbow Quartz pedigree by featuring excellent pseudo-60s psych-pop.

When he’s not recording gorgeous instrumental albums, producing the works of other artists and attending to JAM Records matters, Jeremy Morris still finds the time to release primo pop that is overflowing with jangly guitar riffs. His latest solo release – JOURNEY TO THE CENTER OF THE HEART – will definitely please Rickenbacker fans! "Church of Byrds", "Love Is Gonna Win", "Vanity Fare" and "Sweet, Sweet Relief" all showcase Jeremy’s love for chiming 12-string guitar. I cannot think of another pop artist who is as prolific or as on top of his art form than Jeremy Morris. Long may you run, Sir Jeremy!

It’s hard to use the word "prolific" without also mentioning guitar virtuoso Les Fradkin. If you’re in the mood for Bob Dylan tunes that feature an updated Rickenbacker 12-string sound, look no further than Les’ 2006 RRO release IF YOUR MEMORY SERVES YOU WELL. This disc features Les’ interpretation of ten Dylan songs, and every track should make Bob (and Roger) proud. Here’s hoping that Les will book a show date on the east coast and I will finally get the chance to meet him and hear him perform!

In the "blast from the past" category is MASTERING THE ART OF FRENCH KISSING by Euphoria’s Id. I love it when indie labels dig up vintage material from the mid-60s. This disc features a Byrdsian version of "Morning Dew" and a cover of another jangly favorite from that era – "Hey Joe".

Another, more current "blast from the past" is ON THE FLOOR OF HEAVEN by the Blue Shadows. The group featured the terrific Everly Brothers-like harmonies of Billy Cowsill (the Cowsill brother who sadly died during Hurricane Katrina) and Jeffrey Hatcher. The album has some wonderful ballads whose poignancy is strengthened by Hatcher’s Rickenbacker 12-string riffs. "Is Anybody Here" is one of my favorite all-time country crossover tunes.

Robert Gray - BORN READY
Yet another CDBaby find. Although it’s not jangly, this album has a strong appeal due to its the Beach Boys-inspired melodies. Gray’s vocals remind me of Richard Snow...and to a lesser extent, Arthur Lee of Love. This is a very pleasing listen from start to finish.

PhotobucketI have always been a big fan of cover tunes when they are performed with reverence for the original songs. Three recent albums are loaded with excellent cover songs from the 60s and 70s: UNDER THE COVERS VOL. 2 by Matthew Sweet and Susanna Hoffs (AKA Sid and Susie); OUT OF THE BOX by Dwight Twilley; and COPY CAT by Andrew Gold. If you dig how Andrew covers Lennon/McCartney and Brian Wilson tunes, you will also enjoy his 1998 LEFTOVERS album...and his classic GREETINGS FROM PLANET LOVE by the Fraternal Order of the All. Andrew Gold is a one-man Pop All Star Band!

"Song of the Month" honors go to "New Driftwood" by the Trap. Runner-up tunes include "The Rain Inside" by the Electric Marmalade, "False Prophets" by the American Hot Club Band and "Hey Gene" (in memory of Gene Clark) by the Choir.

PhotobucketLast but not least, this year’s INTERNATIONAL POP OVERTHROW VOLUME 12 compilation includes many pop gems and a few jangly sparklers. Look no further than "His Vision Of Her" by the Smiling Eyes, "Fishwife" by Plasticsoul, "Thank You" by the Starfire Band, "Anna" by Jeff Littman, "Sorting Out The Rules" by K.C. Bowman, "My Star" by Sugar High and "See About Me" by the Shamus Twins.

For those of you who are fortunate enough to attend the IPO Festival in Los Angeles this month, I am envious that you may see some of these artists perform live. For those of us on the east coast, there is always the Charlotte Pop Festival the last weekend in September to look forward to.

Until next time, jangle on!

Mike Baron's Review of the new SHAZAM album!!!

PhotobucketThe Shazam - METEOR (Not Lame)

Nashville’s The Shazam have been around since 1993, stunning audiences with anthemic, hook-laden rock in the spirit of their two poles, The Who and The Move. They moved beyond those obvious influences on ‘03s stunning TOMORROW THE WORLD, a blast of rawk big enough to fill ten Olympic stadiums.

The Shazam are part of the underground independent pop scene, the guys who gather for the Charlottesville Power Pop Festival, International Pop Overthrow, or SXSW. Shazam have been with Not Lame since 1999’s masterful GODSPEED THE SHAZAM. This is the first disc Not Lame has produced in three years, not counting their annual
INTERNATIONAL POP OVERTHROW compilations. METEOR is a titanic yawp of brilliantly executed hard rock anthems alternating with hooks so sweet they take your breath away. Hans Rotenberry, who wrote and sings the songs, has carved style from extreme rock dynamics crossed with a sweet, supple voice.

"So Awesome" opens the record with a twenty-one guitar salute to the sheer joy of living, lead guitar as hard and elegant as the Golden Gate Bridge. "Don’t Look Down" is a power ballad with guitar written in rock. You could climb the notes like a staircase. Rotenberry’s vocals are winsome and masterful, going from cooed aside
to anthemic bellow in a heartbeat. "Disco at the Fairground" is the best Move song the Move never recorded. Alternating sinister, earth-chewing minor chord guitars with drunken sailor music hall choruses it crunches euphorically. Zappa would approve.

"A Little Better" is a self-improvement song that might have come off WORKINGMAN'S DEAD with a slightly harder rock edge. "Always Tomorrow" is one of those bittersweet masterpieces built around a simple repeating guitar motif overlaid with Rotenberry's
pliant vocals, filled with inchoate longing as is all great pop. "Let It Fly" is more of the same only better, harking back to "Squeeze the Day" from TOMORROW THE WORLD. This is life affirming rock that will have you pumping your fist in the air and yelling "YEAH!"

"Hey Mom I Got the Bomb" contains the lyric:

I got The Bomb, yeah I got The Bomb
If you don't think I'll use it you're ridiculously wrong!

You really have to hear this to get the full effect.

"Time For Pie", the closer, is a distillation of every great arena rock guitar solo you ever heard.

As far as I know you can only order the record from, just as all the underground indie popsters are only available online, most with You won’t hear about the Shazam in Rolling Stone or Spin. You won’t hear them on Big Radio, certainly not on MTV or VH-1. But the Shazam are merely the tip of the iceberg. And the hardest part of the iceberg too.