The Junior League “You Should Be Happy”
After a few solo projects, Joe Adragna puts his sweat into a new Junior League album. Starting with “Keep It Home,” its an excellent roots rocker, assisted by buddy Scott McCaughey (The Minus Five). “Hey Misery” is a Beatlesque piano tune with Pet Sounds styled bass and horns, and even a sax solo. The next song, “One Step Forward (Another Step Back)” has even more Beach Boys styled instrumentation and harmonies.
Adragna then shifts back to a strumming acoustic guitar on the excellent “Samantha Smile,” with a hook filled chorus that reminds me of The Autumn Defense. The heartache ballad “Charming” has a very distinct Queen-like quality in the guitar and strings coda. In fact, the best written ballads I’ve heard this year are found towards the albums end. No filler here, its exceptional all the way around and makes my top ten of 2013 nominee list.
Gary Ritchie “Near The Alley”
Chicago based Gary Ritchie gives us a follow-up to Hum, Sing, Repeat from 2011. This time we start with the title track from his last album “Hum, Sing, Repeat,” a loving nostalgic look at rock back in Richie’s childhood. With his partner in crime Jeff King (bass, guitar, keys) they play through a terrific collection of songs. “Victimized” and “Charming Life” are catchy melodies that compare well to The Romantics.
The band takes on early Beatles simplicity for “Hear My Pleas” and then it’s back to the guitar riffs of “Midnight Lovers,” which sounds like a lost Raspberries tune. Clearly Ritchie knows his classic power pop, as “Back To You” has some Badfinger-styled guitar. The quality of tracks vary after the mid point, but standouts include “Invisible Man” and “Pull Your String.” Rock on, Ritchie!