Some friends and I were recently talking music (what else is new?), one of us mentioned Power Pop, and someone else not familiar with that genre asked what that was. I muttered something about the combination of sweet vocal melodies and barre chords, somebody else starting dropping names of bands who played in the style . . . But if we really wanted to make our friend understand Power Pop, we should have just played him some songs by The Shoes. Better yet, we should have directed him to buy Double Exposure, the new 2-CD collection of Shoes demos. The 30 tracks are workbook recordings of songs that would appear on the band's two seminal albums from the late 70s/early 80s, Present Tense and Tongue Twister. The Shoes had every right to be as popular as Cheap Trick, the Cars, et al, but somehow they never scored any hits (at least, to my knowledge). Their melodies are sing-songy but with just enough of an edge to them – and the backing tracks are all power chords and sharp hooks. It's like Cheap Trick but more introspective, the Cars but not as slick – four shy and nondescript guys from the Midwest who had a love of melodic music and a knack for creating great pop songs. It had been a long time since I'd listened to The Shoes (prior to getting this set), and I have been listening to a lot of Guided by Voices of late; hearing these demos tells me that Robert Pollard studied this band closely when forming his melodic sensibilities and his band's sound. The Shoes songs make me feel like I'm at the roller rink on a Friday night, slow dancing with my new girl, both of us with feathered hair and me with a comb in my back pocket. But this is not novelty music; it is some of the best Power Pop you'll ever hear. These demos, while not vastly different than the versions of the songs that appeared on the official records, are just raw enough to make them worth hearing for a Shoes fan. Double Exposure in on the Black Vinyl label, and despite being a new release is pretty hard to get your hands on. Make the effort.
but over seventy (Count â€˜em!) other
most powerfully poppinâ€™ combos
â€¦..including KLAATU even
all in the aid
of a more than good cause:
Jam Recordsâ€™ benefit CD
for the Hurricane Katrina victims.
your fairest share as well,
Relief never sounded
quite so good.
Take three guys with a dozen songs or so of roughly three to four minutes apiece into a studio in Jersey with just a few instruments and not that many tracks to over-produce across for two weeks only and what do you get?
Well, in the case of Dipsomaniac Mick Chorbaâ€™s self-confessed â€œlo-fi side project with alt. counry overtonesâ€ The Successful Failures, you more than ably get to recreate that fleeting Golden Age of the Paley Brothers, Greg Kihn and Rubinoos anew, thatâ€™s what!
And guess what else? Well, one can hear precisely the kind of potent musical potient Ryan Adams, for one, is in most dire need of right about now (â€œSewer Waterâ€), one can savor again all the Farfisic paisley garage-pop of the classic circa-â€™86 Cheepskates (â€œWhat You Areâ€), one can imagine Poco hiring Pete Ham to write them a rightful middle-eight (â€œGod Knowsâ€) or The Replacements threw some brand new ProTools even (â€œIf Thatâ€™s The Way That You Want Itâ€).
But no, that still ainâ€™t all! Coz â€œHick Barsâ€ may as well be the worldâ€™s first-ever lovingly lowly mp3, â€œLetting The Terrorists Winâ€ once and hopefully for all relegates John Ashcroftâ€™s â€œLet The Eagle Soarâ€ to the Axis of Evil Besides, and even the Bonus â€œI Am A Rockâ€ Track is SO much more a pleasant Surprise than P. Simonâ€™s latest ever will be, believe you me.
So, as recent all-American events more than repeatedly demonstrate, only the most successful fail upwards, and this CD certainly isnâ€™t about to prove otherwise, God knows.
There’s no cause to doubt the title and beach party cover art: Rudnick’s disc is packed with sleepy, summery retro sounds that neatly split the difference between classy ’80s pop (M. Crenshaw, dB’s, Smithereens) and later, lusher Beach Boys. The tunes, arrangements and boyishly nasal harmonies (partly courtesy the Rubinoos) are tasteful, catchy and only sometimes silly. Bonus tracks include a couple vocals-only takes, and lovingly realized demos of the Beatles’ “Yes It Is” and Beach Boys’ “Til I Die.” Sweet stuff that power popsters will want to hear.
In order to kick straight off
the Sixth annual New York
International Pop Overthrow
Festival to boot ??
For the answer to these,
and oh So many other merry musical questions,
simply Meet Us at around 11 PM
on the night of Thursday, November the 9th
within The Baggot Inn,
right there at 82 West 3rd Street
in Greenwich Village.
MANY splendid Seconds of Pleasure are guaranteed for all !!
Blue Ash is a Lost in the Grooves artist. Click to sample the music or purchase tracks from Around Again – A Collection of Rarities From the Vault 1972-1979. And keep an eye peeled to Frank Secich’s Blue Ash blog here at LITG for news, photos and insights straight from the band. This reissue (of a double CD first put out by the good folks at Not Lame) is just the start, as we’ll soon be digging deeper into the Blue Ash vaults for songs never before heard by fans.
Metal Mike Saunders provided this vintage record review for the Lost in the Grooves anthology:
Blue Ash No More, No Less (Mercury, 1973)
“I Remember A Time” could do for Blue Ash what “Mr. Tambourine Man” did for the Byrds: the start of a brilliant career, a Number One hit, instant mythology. The guitar intro lasts all of five seconds before Jimmy Kendzor and Frank Secich’s voices come in, oozing of everything the Byrds and Lovin’ Spoonful ever promised, the soaring harmonies in the chorus driving over jangling lead guitar work. It’s the sound of tomorrow right here today, it’s the perfect folk-rock single. It’s beautiful, that’s what.
This is one of the most spirited, powerful debuts ever from an American group. No More, No Less opens with “Have you Seen Her,” a fast rocker kicked off by four whomps on David Evans’ snare. This is the one that makes me think of The Who; the lead guitar is pure West Coast, though.
"Just Another Game” is the one quiet song, an effective tonedown before “I Remember A Time.” “Plain To See” is similar to “I Remember A Time” in the way its simple, compelling melody rocks out with vocal harmonies framed over a trebly Byrds guitar sound.
“Here We Go Again” follows, midway between the hardest and softest numbers on the first side. What’s great here are the group vocals on top of the tuff folk-rock cum hard rock instrumental sound; it’s like killing two birds with one stone, the whole premise behind the old and new Mod groups (Small Faces, early Who, the Sweet), not to mention the hard pop masterpiece known to the world as “Do Ya.”
By the time this album ends, there’s no doubt about it, Blue Ash have got themselves one hell of a debut LP that may send fellow stateside groups like Stories, the Raspberries, and Big Star running back to the woodshed to come up with music even better than their present stuff. (Mike Saunders)
The interview can be found at:
This is a great new site run by St. Petersburg musician Iggi Scaldin and his wife Marina.
Pictured below are Blue Ash in 1969. Photo by Darla Bartolin