(Various Artists) – “Don’t Press Your Luck!: The In Sound of 60’s Connecticut (Garage and Psych Howlers from the Vaults of Trod Nossel Studios ’66-’68!)” (2008)

February 6, 2012 at 8:30 am (Fran Fried, Music, Reviews & Articles)

Written by my friend Fran Fried for The Fresno Beehive website, May 8, 2008. This comp is definitely worth checking out…

From Our Old Garage to Yours 

I had a blast last October when ’60s Lemoore rockers The Brymersplayed their reunion show at a packed Hanford Civic Auditorium. The Brymers were among the hundreds of teen garage bands around the country in the mid-’60s who released one or two singles locally, had a big following in and around their region, and then disappeared — only to be resurrected years later by zealous record collectors, looking for great, raw, obscure rock ‘n’ roll.

These days, high-profile garage festivals such as Cavestomp! in New York (which has rounded up ? and the Mysterians, The Remains, The Monks, The Standells, Richard & the Young Lions, The Chocolate Watchband and The Sonics) are populated by music fanatics and affected hipsters from around the world, many of whom were too young to have seen these bands in their day. However, this Brymers show was much more like what I imagined a mid-’60s show would have been — lots of friends hanging out in a big room, socializing and dancing to good tunes. (Except that most of the people were much grayer and/or balder, teen dances didn’t sell beer, and there were way too many Hawaiian shirts instead of the long-lost groovy threads of 1966.) It was a purely local experience, just as it was in ’66, and a hell of a lot of fun. Read the rest of this entry »

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Fran Fried – “The Mooney Suzuki: Lotsa Sweat” (2003)

August 29, 2010 at 6:03 pm (Fran Fried, Music, Reviews & Articles)

An April 10, 2003 New Haven Register article on high-octane rockers The Mooney Suzuki. 
Note: I had to make a correction to the story. Fried says that the band was named after German rock band Can’s members “Donald Mooney and Holger Czukay.” Mooney’s first name is actually Malcolm, and Suzuki is for singer Damo Suzuki…

This time, for real.

The Mooneys’ second album — Electric Sweat, originally released a year ago on the indie label Gammon Records — was picked up and re-released last month on Columbia. And now, with big-label muscle behind them, they’re finally playing Toad’s tonight and back out touring, pushing the disc.

More than six years after frontman Sammy James Jr. began the band while studying at Manhattan’s School of Visual Arts, the real work begins. Read the rest of this entry »

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Fran Fried – “The Beat Patrol” (2010)

July 29, 2010 at 9:01 am (Fran Fried, Reviews & Articles)

From Fran Fried’s blogsite, Franorama World (link in my blogroll), July 26th. This is the first “write-up” that The Beat Patrol has received (to my knowledge), and I appreciate Fran’s kind words. The only thing I would add is that I do write, but I am not a professional writer, by any means, and Fran and I did have a very brief meeting nearly twenty years ago in a Waterbury, CT record store (Brass City — link also in my blogroll) — other than that, Fran’s piece (part of a larger blog entry) is right on the money. Thanks Fran — for the write-up and for your passionate, and often eloquent articles and reviews  all these years.
Thanks also for the suggestions..
.

——————————————————————————————————————

Jay Mucci is the one person on the Blogroll I haven’t met personally. He lives in Waterbury and found me online a couple years ago while I was still at The Fresno Bee. Turns out he was a fan of my music writing from my days at the most heinous Republican-American and wanted to know if I minded whether he put up some of my old stories and reviews on his site. So there are stories and reviews here from both my Waterbury and New Haven days that aren’t available electronically anywhere else. Read the rest of this entry »

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The Fleshtones – “Do You Swing?” (2003)

June 9, 2010 at 10:49 pm (Fran Fried, Music, Reviews & Articles)

Fran Fried’s New Haven Register review from April 25, 2003 of super rock legends The Fleshtones’ Do You Swing?

Brooklyn’s self-proclaimed uncrowned kings of pop’n’soul are now 27 years into pushing the steamy, high-frenzy mash of ’60s garage trash and R&B they call super rock, and it’s incredible that, after all this time, the band can keep up its mad pace on stage.

As great as they are live (and there’s still no band I’d rather see on a Saturday night — period), their recording history has been erratic, and in the ’90s, they were all over the place — from their best album (Powerstance, from 1991), to their worst (Laboratory of Sound, their 1995 fiasco) to somewhere in-between (Hitsburg U.S.A. and More Than Skin Deep from the late ’90s). Read the rest of this entry »

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Warren Zevon – “The Wind” (2003)

April 19, 2010 at 5:23 pm (Fran Fried, Music, Reviews & Articles)

Warren Zevon’s final album, recorded while he was dying of cancer, featuring the song that I would like played at my funeral someday, “Keep Me in Your Heart” (incredibly sad and moving, but without sappiness). This review comes from Fran Fried, Aug. 22, 2003, from the New Haven Register…

Zevon Has the Final Word, and It’s a Strong Wind

So why should things change now that the reaper really is walking up the sidewalk, ready to ring the doorbell for his big date?|

Bcause this is real life — that’s why.

Things did change. Even the most cavalier of wits can’t laugh off the inoperable lung cancer with which Zevon was diagnosed a year ago this coming Thursday. And with death drawing closer (he was too ill to respond to emailed questions for an Associated Press story this week), his final album, which comes out Tuesday, has more than its share of tearjerking references to what’s coming.

But it’s full of abandon and happiness and love and wit, too. In other words, it’s human. And if anything, Zevon’s final words resonate because of that humanity and because of their surprisingly even temperament — though, all the while, it’s hard to keep yours on an even keel when you listen to the album.

How do you not react when you hear Zevon, his husky voice getting weaker, singing Bob Dylan’s “Knocking on Heaven’s Door,” as anthemic in its way as “Free Bird”? Or, even more so, when you hear him close the album with the strummer “Keep Me in Your Heart” — when, as “shadows are falling and I’m running out of breath,” he makes the dying plea not to forget him? Incredibly sad, yes, but at least you know Zevon’s not trying to milk it.

And regrets? He’s had a few. “Amor de Mi Vida,” a Latin-tinged piano ballad that’s equal parts John Lennon and Dylan; and “She’s Too Good for Me,” a Latin, acoustic guitar-laced ballad, are about the love he let get away. And the sorrow drips from his voice with each note. And “Stay With Me,” a plea to a lover (with backing from Emmylou Harris), is driven home by the most mournful sax line in the world, from Gus Bernal.

But the emotional flipside of this album assures you this is also a celebration of life, both the absurd and the mundane.

The opening tune is as flip and cheeky as he gets here, as he seeks a woman with low-self-esteem who’ll ease his mind as he winds down his “Dirty Life and Crimes.” “Disorder in the House,” with Bruce Springsteen on guitar and backing vocals, is delivered with as much wide-open gusto as the On the Border-era Eagles. He gets feisty and prickly discussing the realities of his situation on “Rub Me Raw,” a nasty blues slide-guitar progression straight out of “Rocky Mountain Way” (most probably because it’s Joe Walsh himself on guitar). And the twangy “The Rest of the Night,” with Tom Petty and Mike Campbell on board, is a devil-may-care call to party all night.

Like a person whose friends gather around the deathbed, Zevon surrounded himself with his musical pals — Springsteen, Harris, Dwight Yoakam, Ry Cooder, Don Henley, Tim Schmit, Joe Walsh, Petty, Campbell, Jackson Browne, Billy Bob Thornton, John Waite, David Lindley, Tommy Shaw — for this final disc, produced by his longtime best friend, Jorge Calderon. And now he can let go, knowing he did his best.

Fran Fried

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Fran Fried – “Hearts of Solid Gold: The Fleshtones Just Love the Music” (2001)

April 18, 2010 at 2:13 am (Fran Fried, Music, Reviews & Articles)

Written by Fran Fried for the New Haven Register, March 23, 2001, about the kings of “super rock”…

You’d think they would have quit a long time ago. Instead, they just released their 16th album, Solid Gold Sound, on Blood Red, a Portland, Ore., indie label. They’ll also return to the Tune Inn Saturday night to play in the club’s two-night, 20-band Junk Culture Festival, going on at 9:30.

So why are they doing this? They’re not getting rich — or younger. Why put themselves through the grind, long past the point where others’ hearts would have shattered?

The answer can be easily seen at one of their shows. Like all the Whos down in Whoville, singing around where the Christmas tree once stood, The Fleshtones’ hearts haven’t been tarnished by material disappointments.

Singer Peter Zaremba still sweats and strains, frugging and swimming himself into a medallion-swinging frenzy out of a ’60s discotheque. Guitarist and fellow original member Keith Streng still bashes chords as if a young man. Bill Milhizer, in the band since 1979, still pounds the sweat-soaked beat that drives the hybrid of ’60s rock and soul that Zaremba calls “super rock.”
Bassist Ken Fox, the junior member, with 11 years in The Fleshtones since leaving Jason & the Scorchers, still has as much fun as he did when he was a fan of the band in the mid-’80s.

They just love what they do.

“At this point, I think we’ve really got it. We’ve got something here,” Zaremba, 47, said. “I don’t know if it’s energy or the way we reinterpret rock’n’roll or regurgitate it. Sometimes I think we’re the greatest rock’n’roll band in the world, and at least two dozen people agree. But generally, to see us is to like us.”

Besides, “It’s taken us 25 years to learn to make a record. So why quit?”

“(We don’t think) in terms of making it,” said Streng, 45. “If we thought like that, we would have been done 15 years ago, 20 years ago. The fact that we never made it keeps us going. It’s amazing people still do discover us — ‘I’ve never seen you guys before. You guys are great!’ That’s very inspiring.”
Maybe it’s also because the band has never looked at music as a business proposition.

“I always said that I would not think about rock’n’roll as a way to make one’s living,” said Milhizer, 52. “We’ve done it for enjoyment, even though it’s been hard at times.”

And maybe it’s that adage about the family that plays together. All but Milhizer are married, Streng and Zaremba with kids, so it wouldn’t be right to call The Fleshtones a family. But the bonds run deep, and they all live near each other in Brooklyn, Streng and Fox next door.

“I would say the word ‘surrogate’ is perfect,” Milhizer said. “I can tell you this: When it’s Friday afternoon, I always call Ken, Keith and Anne (Streng), even Peter, and say, ‘What are you doing?’ And that has nothing to do with playing in the band.”

Streng and Zaremba attended Flushing High School in Queens in the early 1970s. So did original bassist Jan Marek Pakulski, who left the band in 1986 but did some singing on the new album; he and Streng have been friends since they were 12. Streng and Pakulski rented a house in the Whitestone section of Queens and began jamming. Streng was weaned on ’60s top 40: Beatles, Stones, Motown, James Brown and other soul.

By 1974, Zaremba, a Yardbirds fan, was at the School of Visual Arts in Manhattan; Streng came in to see bands on weekends and crashed at Zaremba’s loft. One night, they went to CBGB to see The Ramones, amateurs who made themselves into stars. “That did it for me,” Streng said. Thus inspired, he and Pakulski started a band and asked Zaremba to join. “I was too shy to be in a band,” said Zaremba. “I didn’t think I had any talent.”

But they got a gig at CBGB on May 17, 1976. After alternating on drums, Streng and Pakulski found Jimmy Bosko, who played that first show; he soon left, replaced by Lenny Calderone.

“A lot of people didn’t like us,” Zaremba said. “We were too friendly. We were a twist band, a throwback. They thought we weren’t hip enough to run with them.” But thanks to early Cramps drummer Miriam Linna, who championed The Fleshtones in New York Rocker magazine, they began to attract an audience.

They cut their first single, “American Beat”/”Critical List,” in 1978, but an album, Blast Off, was halted for financial reasons. (It came out in 1984 and has been re-released several times since.) Tensions mounted.

“Marek was distressed with Lenny’s drumming,” said Streng. So they fired Calderone in 1979 and plotted their future while renovating a building for artist Frank Stella. Then, impresario Marty Thau, who released their first single on his Red Star label, asked them to cut two songs for 2×5, a compilation of New York bands. Blondie’s Clem Burke played drums.

Six weeks after dumping Calderone, Streng and Pakulski were eating lunch in a deli when Milhizer approached them. The Troy, N.Y., native was in the house band at the cabaret Reno Sweeney but wanted to play rock’n’roll, and overheard them.

“Keith and Marek were talking about looking for a drummer and I introduced myself,” he said. “I had no idea who they were.” Soon, Miles Copeland, founder of I.R.S. Records, heard 2×5 and wanted to sign them. “That’s when we decided we’ll do this (full time),” Milhizer said.

After a 1980 EP, Up-Front, they made the album Roman Gods in 1981. The lead single’s A-side was Lee Dorsey’s “Ride Your Pony.” The flip, the title instrumental, was one of rock’s first dance singles and went top-20 on Billboard’s dance chart. It earned them an appearance on American Bandstand.

“We were happy. We were kids. We still are,” said Streng. “It was a blast back then. At that point, we were going places.”

The descent was slow. The 1983 album Hexbreaker! got mixed reviews. In 1984, they re-recorded “American Beat” as the theme to Tom Hanks’ first starring feature, Bachelor Party. But their career momentum petered out, even as Zaremba became the host of MTV’s The Cutting Edge. Two live albums failed to capture the frenzy of their shows. They watched as bands that once opened for them, such as The Go-Go’s and R.E.M., became headliners. In 1986, I.R.S. dropped them.

It got worse. The 1987 album Fleshtones vs. Reality, on indie label Emergo, was poorly distributed. The band tried to find another label, to no avail. After Pakulski, they had three bassists in four years (including Andy Shernoff of The Dictators, another high school pal). Side projects — Streng’s Full Time Men, Zaremba’s Love Delegation — couldn’t mask the fact that The Fleshtones went four frustrating years without recording.

When Shernoff left in 1990, Streng brought in Fox, his Full Time Men bassist, who had just left the Scorchers. The Toronto native, now 40, moved to New York in the early ’80s and learned to play bass from Fleshtones records. They returned to the studio when a friend, singer Dave Faulkner of Australia’s Hoodoo Gurus, offered to record them for his Trafalgar label. Powerstance was released in 1991, and they found a U.S. label, Ichiban, the next year.

But the band suffered a creative dip. Beautiful Light, produced in 1993 by R.E.M.’s Peter Buck, had lukewarm results. Laboratory of Sound, produced in 1995 by Steve Albini, left everyone with a bad taste.

“I wasn’t sure about Albini,” said Streng, saying it was a suggestion of their then-managers. “I don’t feel good about that record to this day. A lot of people told me the same thing.”

From that dark cloud came a revelation: “We learned late in our career that we don’t need a record company first, or a producer,” Fox said. “We’ve learned a sense of what to do and what not to do. We learned from Albini that we can do it ourselves.”

And that’s what they’ve done. They’ve produced all their albums since, and cheaply and quickly: 1997’s Fleshtones Favorites (later called Hitsburg U.S.A.), 1998’s More Than Skin Deep, 1999’s Hitsburg Revisited and the new disc.

Fran Fried

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The Monks – “Black Monk Time” (1966)

October 5, 2009 at 1:36 am (Fran Fried, Music, Reviews & Articles)

Fran Fried’s July 10, 2009 posting on Amazon’s website. The Monks are one of the great unsung rock & roll bands of the mid-60s. Fran has made me want to buy this reissue, due to his raving over the impressive sound quality of the remastering.
And to quote Spinal Tap…how much more black can that album cover get?.
..  

 

Gawd, the Sound! The sound!

 

So there I was, in this record store in the Mission District in San Francisco, wondering whether I wanted to drop some $$$ I probably shouldn’t have been blowing in order to get, in essence, one song. Then again, the song was the instrumental “Monk Chant,” which The Monks never recorded in the studio, taken from their appearance on a West German “bandstand”-type show called Beat-Club. And here it was, on this new reissue of Black Monk Time.

What can I tell ya? When you get the fever, you get the fever. If you’ve seen the clip of the performance on YouTube or (in pristine form) in the documentary Monks: The Transatlantic Feedback, then you probably have the fever, too, and you can understand why I just had to buy the new reissue of a CD I’ve had for years. It’s just a mad, two-minute, free-form church/jazz organ-meets-primal guitar noise free-for all, and now I can play it whenever I want – which will probably be often.

And I popped the CD in the deck for the long, thankless drive back to Fresno that night and was in for another bonus. No, not the other heretofore-unreleased track, “Pretty Suzanne” (an OK song with mad, distorted bass) – it was the sound quality itself. This cannot be a 1966 recording. This is a 2009 recording masquerading as a ’60s garage record. The studio tracks are so pronounced that I didn’t know whether I was listening to a brand new album or someone had swapped out my sound system while I was walking around the city. The background is clean, Larry Spangler’s church organ is more arcing and punctuating than ever, Roger Johnston’s drums are so much more brutally crystal-clear, Dave Day’s rhythm banjo rips through the speaker, Eddie Shaw’s bass is tremendously, pointedly fuzzy, and Gary Burger’s guitar feedback and shouting soar above the rest of the madness in a way that sound equipment couldn’t have possibly translated in their heyday.

If you consider yourself a rock’n’roll fan and you’re unaware of The Monks – well, you need to become aware and need to hear what you’ve been missing. They’re not only the great lost American rock band (five ex-GIs who stayed in West Germany and recorded this one album for Polydor in ’66, broke up in ’67 and reunited to play two shows at Cavestomp! in New York in 1999), they’re also essentially the first punk band. The Sonics (“The Witch”) predated them musically by about two years, but The Monks’ sound and image and attitude had the ’70s punks beat by a decade. They were the anti-Beatles; when everyone grew their hair long and started wearing colorful threads, they cut their hair short, shaved tonsures into their skulls and wore somber black. When The Beatles and others were singing love songs, the monks were singing “I Hate You” and “Complication” and asking “Why’d you kill all those kids over there in Vietnam?” Gary was playing with feedback about the time Lennon was doing the same, Dave was playing rhythm banjo and Roger was prone to playing with the butt ends of his sticks. And nothing ever sounded or looked like them before or after.

If you’re already aware of The Monks and have Black Monk Time, you need to reacquaint yourself with it. This pressing/remastering is like having a second chance to enjoy the sensation of listening to a great album for the first time. Plus, I’m assuming the band is getting royalties off this reissue, where they didn’t get any off the original re-ishes in the ’90s. And the accompanying booklet has tremendous pics. The only two trifling complaints: The booklet print is too damn small and, while each copy of the CD has a collector’s card (I have Larry), there has to be a way to collect all nine…

Fran Fried

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Elvis Costello – “When I Was Cruel” (2002)

May 6, 2009 at 11:03 am (Elvis Costello, Fran Fried, Reviews & Articles)

This review comes from Fran Fried, April 26, 2002, from the New Haven Register. Good album, but I can’t say that it’s better than Imperial Bedroom, which to me is EC’s masterpiece…

 

No Cruelty to Costello’s Brilliant Return to Form

 

Through the dark ages of ’90s rock, it was as if Costello took a working vacation — digging into expanding his horizons and seeing what happened. And when he did come up for air, in various personae (the Jerry Garcia Elvis, the Brodsky Quartet Elvis, the Burt Bacharach/Austin Powers Elvis), he was trying things out in public — seeing what worked, what didn’t. It might have been frustrating to his fans, to bounce with him through his many forays — but it was necessary, really, in his growth process.
Well, it’s only been two years since his album with mezzo-soprano Anne Sofie von Otter, but it seems an eternity (actually five years-plus) since the last “Costello” album (All This Useless Beauty). And now, he’s come around full circle and given us his best album in over 20 years. Actually, 24 years. This will probably land on the medal platform with This Year’s Model, his second album, and My Aim Is True his second and first discs, respectively.
I know; that’s a serious statement, and some fans will point to Imperial Bedroom (1982) and King of America (’86). But three things set this album apart. It’s a synthesis of just about everything he’s absorbed musically over the years. It’s clear that Costello finally took Bacharach’s advice about trying to cram too many words into a bar of music, rediscovering the balance between lyric and melody, letting the lyrics breathe. And he rocks like he hasn’t in a long time.
He’s had his rock moments over the decade or so — “Veronica,” “The Other Side of Summer,” “13 Steps” — but not many. Here, backed by a core unit that includes old Attractions mates Steve Nieve and Pete Thomas, he lets loose years’ worth. The nostalgic “45” explodes into a bloom of melody and sound, then retreats, the waits to do it again. “Tear Off Your Own Head (It’s a Doll Revolution)” is, at turns, ’60s trippy and poppy, edgy and relentless. The noisy “Dissolve” is his John Lennon venting moment, early-’70s vintage. And “Daddy Can I Turn This?” a rage against a golden cage, is as hard as he’s sounded since the Angry Young Man days, a searing guitar screaming over a dense beat and ominous melody line.

But, master of subtlety and variety that he’s become, he’s just as effective slowed down. The acid test is when one can make a long song seem too short. “When I Was Cruel No. 2,” a 7-minute tale, treads old territory (money can’t buy happiness), but paints it with a craftsman’s verbal dexterity, roasting it slowly over a musical bed of dread, sadness and emptiness. It will probably stand as one of his best songs. And “Alibi,” nearly as long, uses dub reggae to set up a song that morphs into Bacharach/Dionne Warwick soul with a fuzzy guitar over it (think “Don’t Make Me Over” at one point).
It’s corny and untrue to say “Elvis is back” or even hint this is a comeback. The sly dog didn’t go away, and besides, he knew what he was doing all along.

Fran Fried

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Miracle Legion – “Me and Mr. Ray” (1989)

May 3, 2009 at 1:09 pm (Fran Fried, Music, Reviews & Articles)

March 5, 1989 Waterbury Republican review by Fran Fried of this now somewhat-forgotten CT band…

 

Miracle Legion, Left to Their Own Devices, Succeeds 

New Haven’s twins of different mothers, Mark Mulcahy and Ray Neal, have always seemed to have, like some real sets of twins, their own separate little world and language. We don’t understand either many times, but we take it all for what it is.
Their creative core is the insular world of twins, a secret club locked to even those closest to them – which is what led to what happened the first week of last July; the rhythm half of the band, tired of being left out of the creative process, took a walk and left the two to their own devices.
Now, this could have been a low point. Their album Surprise Surprise Surprise and their ensuing EP Glad, which Rough Trade banked upon to be successful on the college charts and beyond, were boring flops. They had no bandmates and their future was uncertain.
But a funny thing happened.
A day or so after the split, Mark and Ray – with the occasional help of a guitarist friend – took the Night Shift stage in Naugatuck for their scheduled gig and, stripped to the bare essentials, played a full set which brought out the best in their music. They were much more enjoyable as a duo (and I hate to admit it, knowing a couple of people who’ve been given the musical cold shoulder by them), as they turned their sudden bit of adversity into a plus.
Thus, they decided – to Rough Trade’s chagrin – to go into the studio by themselves (first a place in Boston, and when that didn’t pan out, Prince’s Paisley Park in Minneapolis). With the enhancements of a studio setting, plus the ambience of their bare-bones sound intact, the end result is a pleasant surprise, surprise, surprise – even better than their two-man live shows.
This, finally, is the record with all the excellence promised when a little EP called The Backyard spread like a national-park fire from the Elm City across the country and the Atlantic four summers back.
Their sound, for the most part, is acoustic-based adult folk-rock flower-child innocence and optimism and frailties wrapped into tidy rustic bundles (and often abstract lyrics). Again, I hate to say it, for the reasons above, but comparing this record to the last two, it’s safe to conclude that Mark and Ray were weighed down by having a full band.
Their sound had been murky and plodding, to say the least. This time, unencumbered by extra musicians unless necessary, all their subtle delicacy is brought forth for the first time since The Backyard. Songs like “And Then” (accentuated by minor chords) and the poppy “Even Better” (with some tight harmonies, to boot), bear this out, as does “You’re the One Lee” (pronounced “only”), a breezy strummer showing hope in the face of doubt. Also notable, for its tightly woven harmonies which come off as a locomotive whistle in spots, is “Old Is New.”
They also manage to show absolute force, long buried, when needed. In fact, the first song, “The Ladies From Town,” puts you on notice, with its lonesome harp and desperado strumming. “If She Could Cry,” from the Hank Williams school of honky-tonk, comes through as well. And “Pull the Wagon,” which starts in an acoustic trot and ends in a furious electric gallop as the intensity builds, stands by itself.
It’s funny how life works. Back in the heady days when Miracle Legion was compared to R.E.M. and New Haven’s old Grotto was packed with fans who bestowed a sort of demigod status upon Mark, the group never followed through on its potential. Now that the New Haven scene has scattered and their large area following has dwindled, they’ve come through with possibly their best overall effort. Just something to ponder, mind you.

Fran Fried

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APB – “Something to Believe In” (1985)

March 5, 2009 at 9:18 pm (Fran Fried, Reviews & Articles)

Fran Fried’s review from Amazon.com (Feb. 22, 2006). I’ve loved this compilation of their 80s singles ever since…well, the 80s. As a matter of fact, I believe it may have been Fried himself who turned me on to this album and group (back when he wrote for my hometown newspaper, the Waterbury Republican). Anyhow, this is one of the greatest white funk groups of all time. Find a copy of this album any way you can. You’ll thank either me or Fran someday.
By the way, APB got back together in 2006 and released a new album called
Three in 2007. I’ve heard a bit of it and it sounds pretty decent…  

 

Miracles Do Happen – The Ghosts Materialize!

 

Rewind to just over a year ago. The receiver I had owned since college had just finally crapped out (after 22 years!), and for a brief spell, the only place I could play music was on my computer. I was starting to miss playing some of my old ’80s records — like APB, the tightly wound Scottish punk/funk band who broke up in 1990, who were madly popular among the alternative/college radio crowd in the New York Tri-State area in the day. (I lived in Connecticut and was in college on Long Island when WLIR radio broke them big in ’82.)
In that spirit, I came here to Amazon looking for a CD copy of Something to Believe In, Link Records’ collection of the band’s early singles — and was appalled to see that the cheapest the out-of-print disc was going for was $100, and one copy was posted for $300. In a way, though, I was happy — it was an affirmation of just how good the band was and how their music held up. Still, I wasn’t paying $100 for songs I already had on vinyl. And the one act most conspicuously absent from ’80s compilation discs was still elusive to an audience who didn’t know what they were missing.
So imagine my joy when the news came out in January — miracle of miracles! — that a New York indie label, Young American, was re-releasing Something to Believe In as a 2-CD set, to be followed by a John Peel sessions CD and the re-release of their only studio album, 1985’s Cure for the Blues.
If you’ve waited this long for the disc at a reasonable price, your patience has been rewarded.
The joys can be found in the simple reasons CDs came into existence in the first place – to be able to enjoy music without the pops and scratches, the convenience of not having to turn over records…and the sound quality. The sound quality! I’d swear I was in the middle of Wilf Smarties’ studio as the trio (well, originally and in the end a trio, with some other folks in between) poured on the kerosene. On Disc 1 – the very disc some people were paying three figures for – every nimble bass run and every Scottish wail by Iain Slater, every attack of the high-hat by George Cheyne, every sharp guitar snipe by Glenn Roberts is incredibly pronounced. That the songs stand up is no surprise: the tribal chant and instrumental bodyslam of “Rainy Day,” the hyperactivity of “Shoot You Down” and “Help Yourself,” the dance-club cool of “One Day” and “Danceability,” the all-out passion of “Summer Love.” But all of them sound much more glorious now than then. And in the era of hyper bass and stereos on wheels, maybe “All Your Life With Me,” an instrumental B-side back then, will get the attention it deserves.
The second disc is just for giggles and curiosity, a throwaway, really – a bunch of live tracks from Hofstra University and Club Malibu on Long Island, with sound quality that a Scot would call dodgy at best, plus one strong B-side (“Crazy Grey”) and a few previously unreleased tracks that didn’t pass muster then (and still don’t). I would’ve liked to have seen the second disc used to re-release some more single sides (“When I Feel This Way,” “Funk Invective”), but maybe they’ll show up as bonus filler on the next releases.
Really, the reason for buying this collection is to have a pristine copy of that essential first disc without spending a mint. But in the end, it’s much better than that. Listening to this is like finding out that the sweet girl you had a crush on in college 20 years back is still a knockout…and she’s available…

Fran Fried

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