Holiday Gift Guide: Ronnie D’Addario Box Sets

Ronnie D’Addario was a pleasant “lost” discovery for me, and as a singer/songwriter in the ‘70s and ‘80s he has a knack for melodic pop full of hooks and harmonies, comparable to both Paul McCartney and Gilbert O’Sullivan. Its no wonder that his sons Brian and Michael aka The Lemon Twigs, have been receiving accolades as one of the hottest young pop bands, performing on Tonight Show, Conan, and Stephen Colbert. The apples don’t fall far from the tree or in this case, the “Papa Twig”.

Ronnie has just released a massive collection of his music, distributed amongst two (3 CD) box sets. The first set covers his early work until the mid-eighties, and the second set continues up to this year. One thing that struck me is how consistently good the music is. Unlike his more famous contemporaries, you don’t really hear a drop off in quality even in the later years. For the audiophile that has everything, this is a perfect holiday gift.

Ronnie D'Addario

Ronnie D’Addario “First Songs 1976-1983”

This set covers Ronnie D’Addario’s first three solo albums; Take in a Show, Falling For Love and Good For You.

D’Addario’s hook-filled immediacy is displayed early on “Take In A Show,” and you clearly hear his McCartney-like tendencies on “Nice Meeting You Again” and his Brian Wilson like approach to melancholy balladry on “It’s Spring Too Soon.” Eventually, he got to create “Falling For Love” for the Carpenters, a song is so good it’s not hard to imagine Karen singing the lead. “Good For You” finds more great music, with even styled guitar rock thrown in (“Suite 16”) comparable to Dave Edmunds. Loaded with bonus tracks, it really contains the cream of the crop. Highly Recommended.

You Are The Cosmos | Amazon

Ronnie D'Addario

Ronnie D’Addario “Don’t Wait For Yesterday 1986-2017”

This set covers Ronnie D’Addario’s last two albums, Time Will Tell On You, A Very Short Dream and his newest release entitled, The Many Moods of Papa Twig. That last title parodies another dad of talented musicians, but Papa Twig has both talent and insight on this collection.

While Ronnie was raising his kids, he never stopped writing and playing music. You can hear the more modern production (synths) but the style and quality of gems remain. “Time Will Tell On You” continues the run of perfect ballads (“So That’s How It Is”) and a few rockers (“She’s Alright”). Also added is an impressive violin version of “Caroline, No.” Once we get to “A Very Short Dream,” Papa Twig starts to look back on his career as he sings “Somedays you feel as though, you’ve been around forever.” He even gets his sons to do an Osmonds-like tune on “Trophy Girl.” The introspection continues on most of the new album, and its the most stylistically varied. Overall another terrific collection. It even contains the holiday single “Brand New Christmas.”

You Are The Cosmos | Amazon

Tuesday EPs: Cotton Mather, Orouni, You’re Among Friends

Cotton Mather

Cotton Mather “Young Life” EP

Following Cotton Mather’s Wild Kingdom album from April, bandleader Robert Harrison’s ambitious goal of his “Songs From The I Ching” project is near the halfway point. The project includes writing 64 tracks, one for each hexagram of the I Ching, the ancient text which he refers to as an “extraordinary book about ordinary life”

Young Life E.P. adds six more originals to the project and its sadness is apparent as these are the final recordings with the band’s late bassist, George Reiff, who’d been with them since the Kontiki days.“Mighty Girl” is a standout with a jangling riffs and poignant chorus. “Dutch Light” continues the somber tone, with the sole rocking songs here “Eleanor Plunge” and “Shepherds Purse.” Harrison’s music is consistently excellent and highly recommended.

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Orouni

Orouni “Somewhere In Dreamland” EP

French band Orouni isn’t power pop, but it is a lot of fun to listen to. I enjoyed “Makeshift Fans” from their 2014 album Grand Tour. This EP was a little more mainstream reinterpretation with French-British artist Emma Broughton (Bon Iver, Lisa Hannigan) providing the lead vocals. The distinct percussion is what stands out, “Speedball” is a quick bouncy tune, and “Unca Pugilator” has catchy synth chorus with Emma’s light as air vocals. This short EP is definitely worth exploring.

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You're Among Friends

You’re Among Friends “One Day You’ll Look Back” EP

This Cleveland rock band has been described as “bluesy power pop,” but it sounds to me a little bit like a really loose version of Steely Dan, the jazzy “I’m Happier Now” and funky wah-wah chords on “Back To Work Tomorrow” are worth exploring. The production is a little muddy, but the band does a good job in composing each song. And you can explore the band’s entire output on Bandcamp and you can name-your-price.

Bandcamp

Friday Singles: The Bobbleheads, Reno Bo, The JAC, and The Co-op

Holidays are coming soon and the artists we follow deliver singles every year during this month. Not everything here is free, but I do make sure to add a few name-your-price singles to the list. I would also encourage you to check out these artists past work.

San Francisco band The Bobbleheads, one of the most underrated of power pop bands, has a sweet holiday single for us. And this song is extra groovy as its also a name-your-price download.

Reno Bo is another amazing talent. He had one of the top albums of the year in 2015. This month he brings us his catchy “Smile Across The Universe” and a mono version is included with this single.

The JAC (aka Joe Algeri and friends) have a slightly somber take on the holiday since it’s clearly been another tough year for music lovers of the classic era of rock n’ roll – Tom Petty, Glen Campbell, Chuck Berry, Fats Domino and the Young brothers, George and Malcolm.

A collective of artists: Dw. Dunphy, Jeff Elbel, Randy Kerkman, and Dan Pavelich remind us the holidays can also be a time when “Everything Goes To Hell” Please get this song for a single dollar. Proceeds from the song will be donated to St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital. 

Pugwash and The Stars Explode

Pugwash

Pugwash “Silverlake”

The highly anticipated Silverlake takes Pugwash in a more polished direction as Thomas Walsh leaves his old bandmates behind and teams up with Jason Falkner (Jellyfish) to deliver a denser, more confident sound. The opener “The Perfect Summer” is a stunningly brilliant single that is everything a power pop fan could want, accessible, repeatable and infectious. The follow up “What Are You Like” with its angelic backing harmonies, and Falkner’s sparkling guitar solo is even better. It settles in after that, as most of Thomas’ great influences (XTC, Jeff Lynne, etc.) are already baked-in, so even if the audible cues are noticeable, they don’t overwhelm the song.

“Better Than Nothing At All” is an earnest Walsh ballad, and “Without You” has the slickness that Falkner applied to Bent Van Looy‘s work. The pastoral acoustic “Sunshine True” is supported by orchestral strings and the jangle gem “Easier Done Than Said” is another excellent tune that highlights Walsh vocal chops and the solid arrangements. Not a note of filler, as each song hits the mark. It ends with “Autarch,” a slow-burning layered Beatlesque gem. In Falkner, Walsh has found a like-minded collaborator who knows exactly what he wants and delivers excellence. Easily makes my top ten list for 2017, and a must-buy album.

Amazon | Kool Kat Musik

The Stars Explode

The Stars Explode “Too Late to Save the World”

The Chapel Hill-based group The Stars Explode is back with founding member, Doug Edmunds (Gladhands) and a new lineup that includes Dewey McCafferty (Lead & rhythm guitar), Lance Westerlund (Bass) and Jackson McGee (Drums). The bombastic opener “Apocalypse Blues” boasts a darker rock edge and less of an alternative rock buzz. “The Long Way” is driven by a combination of layered guitar rhythms and harmonies, and it does recall The Gladhands late 90’s era. The tribute “Matthew Sweet” is an especially good tune that opines on the iconic artist “Do you remember hearing Matthew Sweet/Our girlfriend would play it on infinite repeat?” It mimics Sweet’s slowly buzzing guitar chords very nicely.

While the song “Some Girls Pt.2” is a Stones-related macho rant, it doesn’t recall that classic band as well as “Untitled #1.”  The guitar arpeggio rhythm highlights “From Daylight To Midnight” a nice slice-of-life rocker in our dog-eat-dog world. The songs are clear and aggressive, as the lone ballad (“Love Alone”) is soulful and sombre. The sonic textures in “The Real World” and “Rainy Days,” are a little closer to 80’s pop, but remain well-written songs. The ender “Our Last Stand” is a real treat with a terrific choral break followed by an energetic guitar solo. Overall a highly recommended collection of music.

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Burgess Meredith and Mark McCrite

Burgess Meredith

Burgess Meredith “A Dimension of Sound”

This band was a big find in 2015, and now the full-length debut arrives. And it’s a pure salve if you miss that 60’s inspired, psychedelic pop that sticks in your brain. George Martin once said about The Beatles’ Being For The Benefit Of Mr Kite, “I want to be in that circus atmosphere; I want to smell the sawdust when I hear that song.” Burgess Meredith has taken that challenge over an entire album. Opening with the old piano and child choral is a sweet sing-along, with a layer of creepiness in the melody of “When We Were Born.” Then the calliope melody of “Wendy” delivers the best Bryan Scary song I’ve heard that he never wrote. But the real jewel of this album is the ultra-catchy “Olivia” which brings to mind a lost Elephant Six gem.

The bouncy “In and Out Of True” is another grand melody with a terrific ascending hook, that will give you goosebumps. “Outside” and “Welcome Home” is where the band’s grooviness reaches a peak. “The Leaver” continues its slow descent into Pepperland, each detailed buzz and chime taking us past “The Man From Abilene.” I couldn’t find a bad song here, and after a few listens the details of each song reveal the intricate craftsmanship involved. High on my year-end list and definitely the best psyche-pop album I’ve heard this year.

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Mark McCrite

Mark McCrite “Getting To The Point”

This Mark McCrite (Rocket Scientists) solo album isn’t new, but it is definitely overlooked and a lot of love and care went into writing and recording these songs. Influences from The Beatles to King Crimson are distilled in Getting To The Point. The variety is also evident from “Can You Feel This,” a catchy slice of rock, and then it goes to the emotional ballads “The Truth” and “Slip Away.” The quality of the musicianship is also very high, as drummer Tommy Amato (Rocket Scientists), veteran pop bassist Derrick Anderson (Chewy Marble) and the late Kevin Gilbert (Toy Matinee) assist here.

Plenty of great songs here,  covers of the Monkees “Love Is Only Sleeping” and ELO’s “Strange Magic” are both beautifully done. The title track, which reminds me of a Squeeze song with more guitar muscle is another highlight. Vocally McCrite is earnest and dramatic on “They Say” and “So Long,” which was a tribute to Kevin Gilbert. These are near perfect ballads, designed to push your emotional buttons. Overall a very solid album that deserves to be heard.

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