October, 2000



Deja Nu

He may have turned 61 just this past Summer 2000, but it’s clear that the spirit of rock and roll legend Dion is still in 1959. Fittingly, one of the songs on his latest album and debut for oldies giant Collectables Records, “Hug My Radiator”, was written was written by Dion way back in ‘59 on the bus during that fateful winter tour with Buddy Holly and Richie Valens. There’s also two new Dion covers of Bruce Springsteen tracks here and some great Dion co-compositions with singer-songwriter pals Bill Tuohy and Scott Kempner. Kempner can take a bow for one of the album’s coolest tracks entitled “You Move Me”. Dion gives an incredible performance on vocals and rhythm guitar while the CD also features fine support players like Bob Cadway (guitars), Gary Haase (bass), Warren Odze (drums) along with some great ‘50s sounding backup vocalists. Well worth checking out by all fans of late ‘50s / early ‘60s rock and roll, the playfully titled Deja Nu is a strong reminder of Dion’s priceless contributions to rock and roll. Close your eyes and listen, you can almost feel it’s 1962 again! www.oldies.com  


Bachelor No. 2
(Super Ego)

What an impressive husband & wife team Aimee Mann and Michael Penn make. Last year Penn delighted fans with his amazing MP3. And now Mann, still glowing from the success of the Magnolia soundtrack and her ongoing legacy of her years with the pioneering pop group ‘Til Tuesday, returns with her long awaited third solo album Bachelor No. 2, released on her own Super Ego imprint. Like Penn, Mann excels at writing tunes rich in melody and introspective lyrics glazed over with a compelling pop backdrop. On Bachelor No. 2 she has organized a stellar crew of support players including multi-instrumentalist/keyboard wiz Jon Brion, Michael Penn, Brendon O’Brien, Michael Lockwood and pop songstress Jen Trynin all on electric guitars. You can also add in some tasteful bass work from Ms. Mann and the solid drumming of Buddy Judge and Ric Menck. Looking back on the ongoing struggle to release the record just the way she wanted to, Mann reflects, “probably one of the reasons it’s so frustrating dealing with record companies who are trying to push you in a direction you’re not comfortable with is that they’re trying to get you to do stuff you’re not good at. Posing for pictures and videos and schmoozing is the thing I’m least competent at. But putting songs together and recording them - that part I’m good at.” , Bachelor No. 2, subtitled or the last remains of the dodo, is decidedly the album her long time fans have been waiting for. www.aimeemann.com 


The Harsh Light Of Day

Good pop always should have a cutting, sinister edge. Case in point is the new platter by Fastball who after the wild success of their second album, All The Pain Money Can Buy, are back with a record that equals and maybe betters that effort. The group sports two fine singer-songwriters and multi-instrumentalists in Miles Zuniga (guitars/keyboards) and Tony Scalzo (guitar, bass, keyboards) who do their best to conjure up a Lennon/McCartney tag team sound. Driven by drummer Tony Shuffield, the trio are joined by numerous session cats including none other than Beatles’ keyboardist Billy Preston topped off by some tasty guitar solos from Brian Setzer. A very modern pop outting, The Harsh Light Of Day does evoke the late ‘60 and early ‘70s pop/rock sound made popular by bands like Cheap Trick and The Raspberries. According to guitarist Zuniga, “we tried to make an album that holds up well to extensive listening...kind of cinematic, where you notice new themes entering the frame each time you see the film.” A superior model of pop for 2000 and beyond, The Harsh Light Of Day goes all the way with a delectable (tasty, but not saccharine) set of vibrant pop. www.hollywoodrecords.com 


(Medicine Park)

A compilation “celebrating the spirit of Brian Wilson and The Beach Boys”, Starflower is the third release from Oklahoma-based Medicine Park Recordings. Described by label head Toby Thomas as “some new updated Beach Boys music that we could groove to, something a bit more up-to-date and progressive and maybe even a little cosmic”, Starflower renews the breezy So-Cal spirit of The Beach Boys sound with 17 all new tracks. No Wilson songs are actually covered here, however, upon hearing the disc, it’s obvious that each of the artists appearing shares an appreciation for Brian Wilson and The Beach Boys. A sun-splashed tribute to the legends of L.A. surf-pop, Starflower enlists the help of some well known and some not so well known Wilson fans including the great N.J.-based cult rocker R. Stevie Moore, Dave Gregory (former XTC member assisting RS Moore here) as well as former Buzzy Linhart and Todd Rundgren side-man Moogy Klingman who closes out the CD with the very cosmic “Earth, My Body”. The liner notes are particularly revealing with all the artists reflecting on their affinity for Wilson’s timeless pop melodies. The follow up CD to Medicine Park’s recent tribute to pop great Todd Rundgren entitled, Grok This! - Defacing The music Of Todd Rundgren, the newly released Starflower should definitely help carve out a niche for the new label. www.silvermoonmusic.com 


Caroline Now!

Subtitled The Songs Of Brian Wilson And The Beach Boys, the recently released 24-track Caroline Now! puts it all together with an air of rare authenticity few tribute albums come close to. Not only does the album assemble a bevy of big name Beach Boys fans such as Alex Chilton, The High Llamas, Saint Etienne, ‘60s pop icon Kim Fowley and songwriting great Chip Taylor (performing here with singer Evie Sands), but the addition of incredible graphics and extensive liner notes makes the CD an essential spin for all fans of the the legendary California band. The set is further bolstered by a recent interview of Brian Wilson by writer Andrew Thomas. Highlights include covers of the 1962 Beach Boys mini-epic “The Lonely Sea” by pop purest Eric Matthews and a new version of “Endless Harmony”, written by Bruce Johnston for the 1980 Beach Boys album Keepin’ The Summer Alive and revived here by The Free Design, the great ‘60s pop band who reformed especially for this tribute album. The fact that the album chose to cover such a wide range of rarely heard, yet critically acclaimed tracks (proving just how good each of the Beach Boys were as composers) gives Caroline Now! extra significance for long time devotees of The Beach Boys and Brian Wilson. www.marina.com 



First establishing herself as background singer on a pair of mid-80’s albums by folk legend Leonard Cohen, Hawaii-based singer Anjani steps into the spotlight with her latest solo effort. A mix of dreamy pop, smooth jazz and Far Eastern musical motifs, Anjani is a splendid introduction to a vital talent. On her self-titled CD, Anjani is assisted by a several gifted guitarists including fusion great Frank Gambale as well as Hawaiian guitar legends Henry Kapono and Ozzie Kotani. According to Anjani, “I learned so much from producing this album. It is not a solo project by any means; friends, artists and craftsmen gave so freely of their time and talent to make this truly a group effort. Now that I know firsthand the triumphs and traumas that come with completing an endeavor like this, I acknowledge all independent artists who successfully complete the journey”. On her new album, Anjani blends a wide range of breezy R&B flavored pop and jazz while also keeping the spirit of Hawaiian music alive and well. www.anjani-music.com 


Go My Way
(Aezra / Orpheus)

Since abandoning his position the lead guitarist with U.K. prog-rock greats Procol Harum way back in 1971, Robin Trower has gone on to record nearly 20 solo albums. Drawing on his ground-breaking ‘60s work with Harum, Trower continues to paint inventive soundscapes with his guitar. Trower’s solo albums often showcase him in a blues-rock trio setting with a dynamic lead vocalist. Trower’s latest and his debut for Aezra Records, Go My Way, rearranges his one-of-a-kind guitar skills in three different power trios featuring a number of quite qualified support players including Alvino Bennett (drums) and top vocalist Richard Watts (bass). Fans have always likened Trower’s electric guitar to that of Jimi Hendrix and on Go My Way Trower lives up to that comparison. Robin rips his way through 11 classic tracks including several that feature him on lead vocals. As great as his playing is here, one can’t help but wish for another Procol Harum reunion with Trower. But until then, Go My Way suffices as a fitting testament to Trower’s incredible legacy as one of rock’s most influential electric ax-greats. www.trowerpower.com 



Hailing from Commack, Long Island, Wheatus takes a shot at the big time with their Columbia Records debut CD. After you’re blown away by the group’s unrelenting punk-pop energy it’s apparent that not only can these guys really play but evidently they also have written some catchy, in-your-face and very up front pop tracks. Imagine a Phil Spector production of mid-70’s glam rockers like Sweet or possibly 10cc. Brothers Brendan B. Brown (guitar, vocals) and Peter Brown (drums) join forces with Rich Leigey (bass) and Phil A. Jimenez (percussion, keyboards) and the result is a crushing and totally wired 35 minutes of pure pop panic. Commenting on this auspicious major label debut the group’s lead songwriter B.B. Brown adds, "The experience was monumental in terms of how to make a record--we were in the studio all the time--and the money I made from it was spent on gear," he says. "I started writing songs for me. I consider this my first heartfelt creative effort." Fans of the currently popular rockers Smash Mouth are well advised to check out the lyrically challenging, yet thoroughly enjoyable Wheatus sound. www.wheatus.com 





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