Tribute To Sloan and Rude Awakening

Dany Laj

Various Artists “If it Feels Go Do it: Tribute To Sloan”

The amazing thing about this tribute is that most of Sloan’s songs aren’t as well known or played out as other more popular artists (i.e. Beatles) and this frees the artist from adhering to a strict interpretation. Also Sloan has some gorgeous compositions that fit perfectly with these artists, and its sure to draw attention.

Stereo Tiger not only starts us off with “C’mon C’mon (We’re Gonna Get It Started),” the band is also offering up a quick EP of added covers FREE here. Andy Reed crushes “I Love A Long Goodbye” and The Dead Girls delivers a solid take on “Friendship.” Lots of today’s best artists contribute: Fireking, Chris Richards, Nick Piunti, Pop4, etc. I could continue to list favorites, but with 31 tracks this post would go on too long. Simply stated this is the best tribute album of 2016 so far! So get it from our friends at Futureman Records!

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Rude Awakening

Rude Awakening “Rude Awakening”

Rude Awakening was formed in Winnsboro, TX in 1985 and disbanded in 1989. They were never signed to a record label, thus never released an official CD, but the band members (Jim Richey, Jeff Hamm, Kenny Swann and Jeffrey Galloway) continued to play together eventually becoming The Pozers. The band specialized in guitar rock based on ’70s and ’80s similar to Cheap Trick, Kiss, AC/DC and Van Halen.

Its worth noting that the musicianship here is solid and the era is re-created perfectly. “First Impression” really rocks out and “One More Cry” sound like lost hits from the proto-metal hair band era. Ballads like “For Angie” and “Traci” remind me of Extreme a little and the speed-metal “Leather and Lace” pulls out all the stops as the drummer goes wild. The album stays stylistically consistent throughout and even if they do go past the four minute mark on songs, it sounds like the band is having fun. “17” is a dead ringer for a lost Kiss single, and you’ll find plenty of favorites to add to your listening mix.

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Emitt Rhodes “Rainbow Ends”

Gothic Chicken

That the legendary Emitt Rhodes can come back 40 years after abandoning the spotlight is simply an amazing triumph in itself. This was a man who’s short solo career would influence generations of artists in power pop. Emitt’s self-titled debut in 1971, gave him the moniker “one-man Beatles,” by writing, recording and producing the album alone in his home studio. After several failed attempts to return, an army of dedicated fan-musicians (Fernando Perdomo, Aimee Mann, Susanna Hoffs, Jon Brion, Nels Cline from Wilco, Roger Joseph Manning, Jr. and Jason Falkner of Jellyfish, Bleu, Probyn Gregory and Nelson Bragg from Brian Wilson’s band) came together as his band with producer Chris Price to help release Rainbow Ends.

Starting with “Dog On A Chain” the album tells the story of bitterness and hope. Rhodes ability to turn a phrase to a simple hook remains as strong as ever, as the chorus kicks in with full force and the beaten down protagonist emerges. All the players here insure that the instrumentation is just flawless. Equally impressive is the blues-pop number “If I Knew Then” with its strong bass lead and piano melody, but the sweet spot is the love ballad “Isn’t It So” a perfectly succinct melody that elevates the song above the norm. Unlike some songwriters, Rhodes doesn’t layer his compositions excessively, but strips them down to bare essentials. “This Wall Between Us” and “It’s All Behind Us Now” are soulful pleas with subtle harmonies and economical guitars backing his crisp vocal.

His balladry is closer to James Taylor than McCartney on this album, “Someone Else” is another gem that sticks with you and deserves multiple listens.  In fact, nothing here falls flat and each song reflects Emitt’s struggle, like “I Can’t Tell My Heart” he intones “When you love someone so much it hurts you, you learn to love the pain…” The storyline tells of moving on after a painful divorce, with a sliver of hope on “Friday’s Love” and the inspirational title track. This album was certainly a grower with me, and while it lacks the punch of immediacy after the first few songs, it’s melodic narrative is very strong from beginning to end. Highly Recommended.

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To learn more about Rhodes, check out his page in the Power Pop Hall of Fame, penned by producer Chris Price.

Initially this project was created with a Pledge Music campaign that is still very much active. If you’d like the extras that accompany this album, this is the only way to get them.

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Golden Daze and Cait Brennan

“Golden

Golden Daze “Golden Daze”

Golden Daze was formed by Midwest musicians Ben Schwab and Jacob Loeb, totally inspired by 60’s melodic psyche-pop and contemporaries like Cass Mccombs and Brian Jonestown Massacre. Golden Daze drenches their songs in shimmering guitar reverbs and ethereal wall of sound effects.”Ghost” is like Donovan meets The Electric Prunes, with a textural drone running over the melody. Highlights includes the bright echoing “Never Coming Back” with its bouncy melody and the strong beat on “Sleeping In The Sun.” But my favorite here is “Salt” with its jangling rhythm and long guitar fade out. If you have any pet peeves about vocals being fuzzed out too much you may have issues, but otherwise this acid-dripped LP is Highly Recommended.

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“Cait

Cait Brennan “Debutante”

Cait Brennan spent the better part of 20 years writing power-pop and glam-rock symphonies in secret. Discovered and championed by legendary producer/musician Fernando Perdomo, the thunderous glam piano opener “Good Morning and Goodnight” mixes the classical ’60s approach with modern lyrics about today’s soulless media, bolstered by a great bass line.

“Underworld” has a Brydsian jangle that supports Cait’s soulful croon. The ballad “Dear Arthur” is like a lost Procol Harum confessional. That Brennan is a transgender person explains her deep vocal, but that is beside the point. These are great songs about love, loss, hope, identity, struggle, and ultimately survival. The trials of Brennan’s difficulties are described in “Showman” and “Father McKenzie” is another masterwork that recalls classic Elton John. No filler here either, a very highly recommended debut.

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Check out a longer documentary about Cait Brennan, the remarkable journey is here.

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Gothic Chicken and Javier Escovedo

Gothic Chicken

Gothic Chicken “Lift The Cobweb Veil”

Pink Hedgehog Records put together Gothic Chicken, a psyche-pop super group with members from The Lucky Bishops and Cheese; Marco Rossi (Guitars), Alan Strawbridge (Bass ), Tom Hughes (Keyboards), and Luke Adams (Drums) with all members contributing to vocal duties.

The production here is high quality, a mix of Schnauser and Syd Barrett-era Pink Floyd on the big opener “Overthrow.” Next the baroque pop gem “And As For Me” is like a Left Banke composition with smooth harmonies, but it dives into prog-land shortly after the chorus. This follows through for many songs, setting up a solid melody and then going ADD with it by flying into a Zappaesque direction. Gorgeous composition sets-ups like “The Mousetrap” and “Priest Hole” will demand repeat listens. “Westward Ho?” is another amazing gem; like a lost 10cc track floating through Pepperland. If you like psychedelic rabbit holes, this is an excellent album to turn on and tune in to. Highly Recommended.

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Javier Escovedo

Javier Escovedo “Kicked Out Of Eden”

This is the second solo release by Javier Escovedo (The Zeros, True Believers) and Kicked Out Of Eden is pure unfiltered rock’n’roll with touches of twang and garage thrown in. Staring with “Downtown” the riffs smacks you between the eyes and doesn’t let go till the boogie-woogie piano break.

The catchy “It Ain’t Easy” and “Beaujolais” are both filled with heavy rhythm and blues guitar lines and Javier’s world weary vocal. The tempo shifts on “Drivin’ Around” with its gentle backing harmonies (Javier and Chrissy Flatt). The McGuinn-like vocal delivery and 12 string chime of “Just Like All The Rest” is another winner. Escovedo doesn’t exactly color outside the lines of the rock template but overall its a heartfelt effort that’s easy on the ears. Highly Recommended.

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Weekend Freebies: Nato Coles and Static In Verona

Both these albums are available for a “Name-your-own-price” and fit proudly in my collection. You could also give the artists a little money and get these great power pop/rock LPs, perfect for a snowbound weekend!

Nato Coles

Nato Coles “Promises To Deliver”

Nato Coles LP isn’t new, but to me it was and I was super impressed by the talent of the man and his Blue Diamond Band. If Meatloaf played power pop it would sound just like the opener “See Some Lights.” Coles songs are anthems to the unsung – like the catchy “Julie (Hang Out A Little Longer)” is a blue collar rocker on par with Springsteen or Bob Seger.

Elements of country guitar and barroom rock are the primary style and done very well, from the driving odes to his van “Econoline” and the road in “Rudes and Cheaps.” Another standout is “The True Blue Rocker” a catchy anthem reminiscent of the Allman Brothers “Ramblin’ Man.” No filler here and absolutely highly recommended rock and roll.

Bandcamp | Amazon


Static In Verona

Static In Verona “Odd Anthem”

Chicago band Static in Verona (aka Rob Merz) has certainly changed over the years, and Odd Anthem is a solid addition to their catalog, but now they bring the high gloss synths to their indie pop productions. This doesn’t always make things better, as it tends to drown the magic of the harmonies in white noise. “Heavy Hands” is an excellent catchy song that could’ve used a lighter touch.

Some songs have a Coldplay-type of feel like “Future Ghosts” and “Shudder to Think,” with dramatic flourish in each chorus. It does have some successful experiments like “Wait, Wait” and “Then A Hush” with its unique percussive structure. “Forgetful” is my favorite song, with its upbeat chorus and successful blend of synths and bass guitar. I would’ve loved to hear the demos for this album. Some have added this LP to best-of lists, so its definitely worth repeat listens.

Bandcamp | Amazon

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