Friday, 9 November 2018

Mick Terry - Days Go By

It's been a long wait since Mick Terry's excellent debut album, The Grown Ups and although I knew this was coming, it's been a real impatient wait. I'm also a big Jim Boggia fan, so their collaboration seemed like a match made in heaven.

What has transpired is an incredibly mature album, very different to that poptastic debut. Yes those Pop Sensibilities are still present, particularly on the magnificent show stopper, Emily Come Back, but Days Go By goes much further.

This is a real Singer Songwriter album with nods to Motown and Philly, particularly on Arthur's Tale with it's Temptations like feel and Everybody's Talking. Riverbend is like Jackson Browne with a crack Country Rock band.

Pop's A Dirty Word is great 70's Pop Rock, there's a fair few name checks to remind you of this, it's very Elton John, in fact and Elton and Billy Joel spring to mind on a fair bit across the album. Rocking In The Photograph is Terry at his pop best with it's Madness like piano, a sort of take on Ben Folds.The Glitter Guitar makes you think of Pilot on Magic and January.

Stars is in Easy Listening territory and features some great Slide playing, Friends Like That has a Toto like intro accompanied by a splendid Brass Chorus accompaniment. Ignorance Is Bliss has a melancholic beauty in it's stripped down way, with a wonderful Pedal Steel solo.

The album was recorded in London, Philadelphia and New York and that shines through with the influences on display. Boggia's presence glows too. But for all this variance, it's Terry's trademark pop that shines through on the magnificent, Emily Come Back, one of the best songs that you'll hear this or any year.

You can listen to and buy the album here. It is available on Vinyl, CD or download. The CD is available on the Kool Kat label in the States and Elsewhere here.

Thursday, 8 November 2018

Semisonic - Feeling Strangely Fine 20th Anniversary Edition

20 years since Feeling Strangely Fine! Wow!  Released here in the UK at the back end of Brit Pop, Dan Wilson finally got the success that he deserved. He was no newcomer, almost 37 on release on this, the band's second album.

I'd got in to Trip Shakespeare in late 1986. I'd got really fed up of the UK scene, New Romantics was not for me and after brief respite courtesy of Glasgow, it became all dance nonsense. Through the 80's I'd concentrated more on the States and Canada and a few fellow music fans exchanged tapes via Pigeon Post.

One such tape had Applehead Man on it and I was hooked all the way through to the end. I still consider Lulu to be one of the great lost Masterpieces. After being dropped by A and M, Trip Shakespeare called it a day and via Pleasure, Dan Wilson and John Munson formed Semisonic with Drummer, Jacob Slichter.

Pleasure had released an EP, which was followed by the Semisonic debut album, Great Divide. The debut is a fine album, although it felt very different to the Psych of Trip Shakespeare. It was this follow up that hit the bucks.

It was aided by two big singles, Closing Time in the US and Karaoke favourite, Secret Smile in the UK. The album is a fine thing indeed, obviously the two great singles are present, but the rest is pretty dandy. The hypnotic keyboard riff of Singing In My Sleep, probably my favourite song on the album.

Never You Mind is Billy Swan Piano Rock, great Pop. This Will Be My Year, a Slichter Song, is all Jangle and Riffs at pace, it's an absolute corker. California simply weeps. All 12 songs stand next to each other wonderfully. Of The Four Bonus Tracks, Beautiful Regret has long been a favourite of mine, certainly hints of Trip Shakespeare here.

The band recorded one more album, 2001's All About Chemistry, a much lighter softer affair, that to be honest was sadly a tad dull. From there on, Dan Wilson went on to an excellent, if infrequent, solo career. However is work as a Writer and Producer for the likes of Dixie Chicks, Pink and Taylor Swift. He also wrote three songs on Adele's 21, most notably Someone Like You.

Fans will be disappointed to only have 4 Bonus Tracks added, all of them B Sides. It's known that there were around 60 demos for Feeling Strangely Fine, but only 20 were Studio Recorded and apparently, only these 16 mixed originally. But maybe the other four would have been welcome.

However, it is worth noting that the original album sound was really iffy, unfeasibly loud which distorted a couple of songs. I don't know if that was because of the mastering or the way it was recorded with the band. All that is solved here.

I know most of the cool people will already have the album, but the master is great and it's also available for the first time on vinyl. This is also a great time for a generation on to catch up on one of the great 90's albums.

You can buy the album on CD Download or Vinyl everywhere. The likes of Amazon offer a free download with a physical purchase. There are also still some Special related items available on the Pledge Music Site here.

Cinderpop - Bricolage

When Music Forums list inspired groups, I often rightly see The Sugarplastic, XTC, The Orgone Box, Ooberman etc, but I rarely see Vancouver's Cinderpop and I have no idea why. They are as equally important and at times more inventive.

Kevan Ellis remains one of the great underappreciated talents. Cinderpop's Back Catalogue stands comparison with anyone and for those of you who have missed out, Bricolage offers you the opportunity to repent and join the Church Of The Poptastic.

This is a Best of and includes their most recent 2017 recordings, Saline and Ephialtes And The Greeks. These two songs bookend the selection of what's gone before. The band's albums were always highly original, so gathering a selection of songs makes them seem even more eclectic and rightly so.

Dead At The Side Of The Road probably sums them up best, it's magnificent, but even that doesn't give you much of an inkling of what you are about to witness across the other 15 tracks. Yokahama and Yogi Bear are gentle Psych Pop, Oliver 8 and Blonder are in your face Indie Rock Outs.

Bumblebee is like a Psyched Up They Might Be Giants, Cinnamon Winter and Folding Time are in The Sugarplastic Territory, the latter almost Prog. Bastion Cooper could be The Orgone Box, Ephialtes And The Greeks is Folk Rock.

What you have here is a collection that would grace anyone's collection and is guaranteed to get you raiding the internet to find their back catalogue. Carlsberg don't do bands, but if they did they'd probably be Cinderpop.

You can listen to Bricolage here and buy it at all good establishments.

The Sunset Spirit - Sometimes EP

One of the biggest surprises from last year were The Sunset Spirit. The debut album, From The Top, was refreshingly great Pop Rock and against all the International competition, only the magnificent Chris Price album beat it to the I Don't Hear A Single Album Of The Year. In any other year it would have won.

Not content with that, the single, To Have It All, also finished as Runner Up in Song Of The Year. Beaten only by Sparks in that section, it is amazing for a debut offering to feature so highly in these parts. You can read my review of From The Top here.

I'm delighted to report that the band are back and Fife's finest have expanded to a six piece. The new 5 Song EP, Sometimes, is more of the same, but with a much expanded sound. The addition of a Lead Guitarist has really fleshed out the sound, particularly on Time To Shine and especially on the magnificent, Mary Jane.

The Organ is still plentiful and Stuart Shields Vocals are as Spot On, again a cross between Glenn Tilbrook and Neil Finn. However. it's the sound that grabs you. The killer riff on Mary Jane, Better Man is wonderfully melancholic, You're Alright has a Classic Rock Feel, particularly on the closing Guitar solo.

Get It Right is the only thing that betrays their roots a little, it's almost Runrig. Anyone thinking that the debut album was a flash in the pan can feel reassured. The Sunset Strip have got bigger and better.
Sometimes is available to buy on the likes of iTunes. You can also listen to it on Spotify here or Apple Music here.

Wednesday, 7 November 2018

Ken Sharp - Beauty In The Backseat

No waiting around for a decade for the follow up to New Mourning. Two years on, Ken Sharp releases Beauty In The Backseat. My review of New Mourning covers a lot of Ken's background, you can read that review here. This allows me to concentrate on the job in hand, that being this splendid 2018 affair.

Sharp is very much known Power Pop wise, but Beauty In The Backseat provides much more than that. It feels far more at home in the Pop Rock world of the 70's in all that it does. The 16 songs here last for an hour, something not usually the case in Power Pop and the slightly longer songs allow much more in them.

The style, arrangements and sound are very much into that Post Glam Rock world. Albums that appealed to Mum and Dad as much as the kids. Here in the UK, those albums were gathered up willingly, think Pilot, Jigsaw and even 10cc.

There are quite a few guest appearances here. Ace Frehley riffs on Rock Show, Kasim Sulton adds vocals to Mona Lisa Smiles. Ruti Celli plays some wonderful Cello on The Day That David Bowie Died and even the magnificent Marshall Crenshaw gets involved on Miracle.

It's also quite a coup to get John Oates in on the act for Philly Kind Of Night and nice to hear IDHAS favourite, Rob Bonfiglio on Backing Vocals across the album. For all these appearances though, the greatest plus point is the involvement of Fernando Perdomo. The man never seems to sleep and I don't think that I've ever heard a bad song that he's on. He plays on all of the album and Co-Produces and it shows.

There's a real Summer feel to the whole album. That Philly influence can be heard at times, but it's the Pop that shines through. Pull The Strings is pure John Miles, The Hardest Part is very teeny bop David Cassidy and there's also a song about Cassidy present here, that is much more Jangly though.

You can imagine Sharp playing Ring On Your Finger on Soul Train, the same applies to Sinking. Miracle is almost Motown. Lemons To Lemonade will appeal to most, but it's Mona Lisa Smile that hits my buttons most. You can imagine it in a Partridge Family episode.

The album marches on from New Mourning's welcome return. It's far more Philly Sound than that album and very very 70's, but it works beautifully. It's a corker of an album that should be added to your collection.

You can listen to and buy the album here. You can find out more about all things Ken Sharp here.

I Don't Hear A Single Volume 55

Ok it's about time that we got the weekly hour long thing back on the road with Volume 55 after a fair break. This will now only appear on Mixcloud to make things easier to find. The format is still new songs in an hour long mix. No artist intros. I've thought of adding them, but people say they like the hour long no break model. I will sound out people if that needs to change.

The playlist details will be on here and by clicking the Mixcloud tab. You can listen to the previous adventures on Mixcloud here.

The new talky 2 hour radio show is a couple of weeks away, details will be posted on IDHAS and is completely different to this.

This week's show features 14 superb songs, ending with a magnificent 18 minute Rundgren-esque final song. Details of how to listen to number 55 are provided by the link after the playlist below :

01 Ex Norwegian - Good Intentions
02 Andy Bopp - Sure And True
03 Cursed Arrows - Near Death Daydream
04 The National Reserve - No More
05 Greg Pope - She's Already There
06 Groovy Uncle - Howard Eno
07 Matt Berry - Rainbow
08 McPherson Grant - Not My Cup Of Tea
09 Fever Feel - Lose Your Mind
10 Otto Niklasson Elmerås - It's Over
11 Hawk - Allison's Gone
12 Dennis Gurley - Every Other Summer
13 The Imperial Sound - Daylight
14 Nick Frater - The Sombrero Fallout Suite

I Don't Hear A Single Volume 55 

Friday, 2 November 2018

Be-Bop Deluxe - Sunburst Finish Deluxe Edition (3CD and DVD)

One of the advantages of age is to witness the reassessment of artists that you loved when young. I remember ELO being largely disliked by the mass unwashed and at best being a guilty secret. Now everyone loved them all along.

Be Bop Deluxe are another example. To me, they were one of the best bands around. To many more, they were Second Division Rock. Bill Nelson was and still is one of the most innovative guitarists and although the band were incendiary live, you couldn't quite pigeon hole them.

Most Rock Guitarists didn't wear three piece suits or had short hair. Plus, the music was so diverse, in essence a sort of Sci Fi affair, but wrapped in Prog, Blues and Pure Pop. Nelson's Guitar Playing marked Be Bop Deluxe far in excess of average, bordering brilliant.

Now of course, everyone loved them, maybe they always did or feel guilty for missing them, hopefully many are discovering them. Sunburst Finish is the band's third album, a halfway point in their five album career. It's always probably the most accessible and maybe their best.

The Guitar solos of the first two are reined in, with a focus on the songs. Nelson still lets rip on Crying In The Sky and the magnificent Blazing Apostles took on a new life as a rock out live, it could last beyond 12 minutes. The former shows all you need to know about his axe hero reputation.

But the songs here veer more towards Pop Rock, beautifully so, particularly on the opener Fair Exchange, There's a ton of inventiveness across all eleven tracks. Ships In The Night is Pop Reggae, Life In The Air Age is Southern Rock. Sleep That Burns is a mix of the continental and Prog. Sunburst Finish is a masterful album, labelling Nelson as a Pop Rock star that you felt he never wanted to be.

Bill Nelson was not one to stand still. After the mixed reaction to the minimal BBD final album, Drastic Plastic, Bill Nelson's Red Noise was to virtually invent New Romantic and then head for an extensive solo career. His solo work encompasses Instrumental, Ambient and the odd Rock Out. All of it is wonderful and his prolific nature has cost me a lot of money over the years and is probably the best value for money that I've ever bought.

Esoteric have done a lovely job with the set. The 3 Audio CDs contain the remastered album and  2018 Stereo Mix plus outtakes. The third disc contains a 1976 BBC Radio 1 In Concert and a Peel Session.

The DVD contains the 5.1 Surround Stereo Mix plus Video from the 1976 appearance on the Old Grey Whistle Test and the Promo Video for Ships In The Night. The Booklet is a 68 page extravaganza with an essay of Recollections from Bill Nelson.

Also included are a facsimile of The Sunburst Finish Tour Program, Postcards and a replica poster. This really is quite a set and a great testament to a fantastic band and a fantastic album. You can Pre-Order the deluxe version from Cherry Red here. There is also a link on that page to buy the cutdown 2 disc version.

Sunday, 21 October 2018

Sgt Kipper : The Advent Of Todd Dillingham

At ASH, we have always been long term admirers of the magnificent Todd Dillingham. So I'm delighted that his brother Mick has written this article about how the musical adventures began.

Mick is a dear friend of mine. As a journalist, he is outstanding. People often complement me on the music I recommend and how much I know. Well I know less than half of what Mick knows. His consistent uncovering of great bands and artists is awe inspiring.

He has also been involved in all things ASH related from the very beginning, approaching nine years now. Mick hasn't been writing as much lately, which is a crying shame, I'm hoping this is about to change. You can find more of his work here

There is no better person to write about the beginnings of Todd's psychedelic delights than Mick.

Todd was always the classic bedroom musician, first and foremost. An eccentric outsider not really built for this big bad world of ours. He always loved music and for his fifth birthday got the latest Beatles album and by his teens he had a big record collection and went to a lot of gigs. He taught himself how to play guitar and was quite a superb player, but Todd being Todd, he never really did anything with it other than entertain us all with his ability to make up silly songs on the spot.

In his mid twenties he wrote a few songs, The Summer, Fading Just For You which he went into a tiny studio to record. But then one day he won a couple of hundred quid on the horses and went and bought himself a four track Tascam recorder. More brilliant songs started pouring out, matched by musical invention and quality playing. These home recordings, most of which remained unreleased, though a handful turned up on various releases, were staggering stuff and eventually brought him to the attention of Nick Saloman.

Art Into Dust was Todd’s first album, the bulk of which was recorded in a couple of days up at Mick Crossley’s (Flight Reaction) place in Saffron Walden with Nick Saloman (Bevis Frond), for release on the man’s Woronozow label.

Todd’s song Lament has already appeared on the fourth Ptolemaic Terrascope EP, given away free with the magazine (and played on the John Peel show!). Another track Reality appeared on the Woronziod sampler. Todd also played his first (of only ever two) live appearances with a short acoustic set supporting The Bevis Frond at an all dayer at The Dome in Tufnell Park. He was very nervous and sat on a stool during his four song set.

Twink, the legendary drummer from Tomorrow, The Pretty Things and The Pink Fairies who happened to be in attendance that day and aware of Todd’s nervousness beforehand very kindly and spontaneously grabbed maracas and a tambourine and joined him on stage to play along. The crowd also got behind him and cheered and clapped after each number with warm appreciation.

Saloman had been dragging his heels for a few years over doing the album by then, so it was a relief when he finally decided it was time. No sooner had the recording been completed then Todd was given the chance to record down in Canterbury with the legendary Richard Sinclair, Andy Ward and Jimmy Hastings.

With some money from our Father, we headed down the Canterbury to spend five days recording at the same studio as Sinclair was using for the Caravan of Dreams album. In retrospect the studio was too big for the task, but an album’s worth of tunes was captured.

When Saloman found out about this, his nose got out of joint and he decided not to release Art Into Dust after all. A few months later, Voiceprint came on board wanting to release Wilde Canterbury Dream. On hearing about the unreleased debut they decided that it would be cool to release that as well, a few weeks after Wilde Canterbury Dreams. So Todd went from nothing to two albums just like that.

Expanding the original album for the Voiceprint release, Todd added a home demo, Am I Alone and two tracks recorded recently with Andy Ward in East London. Little Green Pears, with a young Canterbury based guitar player Nicky Johns and a mind bending 24 minute version of the Floyd’s Interstellar Overdrive on which Andy shines like a thousand stars on the drums. This then was Todd’s second but really first album Art Into Dust.

Todd was very prolific at this point and the thousand pounds or so made from the first two Voiceprint albums was ploughed back into recording using small studios, first in East London and then another in West London.

Andy Ward (Camel, Caravan Of Dreams and later Bevis Frond) was the only constant, not only was he a lovely bloke to hang out with ,but one of the best drummers this country ever produced. The brilliant Terry Burrows a.k.a Yukio Yung of Chrysanthemums fame often came down over the next few years to lay some superb stuff down.

Andy got electric violin player Anthony Aldridge down to the studio a couple of times, one of them on  the same day that Rob Ayling of Voiceprint arranged Mike Wedgewood of Caravan/Curved Air fame to join in. First Mike and Anthony overdubbed their parts onto the Vast Empty Spaces suite that Todd and Andy had been working on that dominates the album of the same name.

Then Todd and Mike recorded Little Sister together that also made it to the third album. The musical highlight of the session was the epic prog monster Janus At The Gates of War, recorded live in one take, Todd and Anthony in the main room, Andy and Mike in the drum room. Peter Giles was the engineer (no not the Crimson bloke) and he was also a fine keyboard player always up for playing along.

Todd was never really Rock Star material but if you plopped him down in a modest studio, boy could he create, sometimes recording and mixing four or five songs at a session. Andy Ward was amazing and there was a synergy between him and Todd that meant that he easily and brilliantly kept up with the breakneck pace. 

Andy actually found refreshing when recalling the often interminable time spent in the studio with Camel. Like the three days spent sitting around in some big expensive studio, bored to distraction, while the engineer miked up the drums.  Todd’s approach to all the talented musicians he was fortunate enough to record with was straight forward and clear: just play entirely what you want to play and that was it.

Vast Empty Spaces came out on Voiceprint soon enough and sold out within a few months and the money from that helped continue the recording.

Todd had so many songs at this point and was writing more every week. As the recording sessions mounted up he would sort through the pool of recordings and compile the next album from them. With Bevis Frond’s offer to put out Sgt. Kipper on Woronzow and with so much great stuff to choose from, far too much for Kipper alone, the idea of self releasing Astral Whelks was born. It was released in a limited edition of 450 copies and was very much the sister album to Sgt. Kipper. With its potent blend of Psych, Prog and Folk Pop it remains many folk's favourite album by the man.

The opening three songs had already seen the light of day on various vinyl singles, but all were noticeably alternative mixes done at the time of recording. The next three tracks were from the same sessions with Andy and Terry blazing away. Janus also made its debut. While it and the title track were long prog epics, The Turquoise Mountain with Peter, Andy and Anthony was the biggest of all.

Based on the adventures of Brian Blessed’s attempt to climb Everest, the vocal version did not quite work, so most of the vocals were stripped away in a second mix (and the song redone as The Blessed One, which remains unreleased).

The Summer was one of Todd’s oldest songs and had already appeared on the Wilde Canterbury Dream album, dating from the very first real studio session Todd ever did a few years before. The version on Whelks was all new with Andy on drums and the only appearance of younger brother, Peter, on bass.

As a teenager Peter had been in Todd’s first and only attempt at forming a band, Coloured Rain (This was when Todd had just started writing songs seriously and he had a dozen or more gems already home demoed.) Unfortunately the other two members of the band (on drums and rhythm guitar) were low on talent and high on delusions of grandeur. After three or four rehearsals it became clear that Todd’s songs and those of the drummer, (who was a big Police fan and insisted on singing his third rate Police knock offs in a fourth rate Sting voice) where not really sitting well together

What sealed the band’s inevitable fate was a really useless, amateurish day up on Hampstead Heath spent "filming a video" or two with nothing more than a rented home video camera and with no thought of how it was going to be edited or any such important issues. Let's hire a camera and go up the Heath was the plan in its naive entirety. It really was a hopeless shambles. At one point two Italian girls who were there with a friend taking glamour photos wandered over to see what was going on with the video camera (quite a novelty in those days). The drummer basically bigged up the whole thing up and told them they could be in the video if they wanted, dancing along to one of his songs.

So while the band mimed along, these two dumb girls gave it their sexy dancing all. The other two band members thought it was great, (it wasn’t), the Dillingham brothers wanted to curl up and die with embarrassment. Later it started to rain and as they sheltered from it, the non-Dillingham members of the band started going on about the certainty of being on Top Of The Pops and playing Wembley within the year.

Todd and Peter left the band a few days after. Peter moved up north a while later and on one of his visits back to London, Todd thought it would be nice for him to pop down the studio and play bass on one of those Coloured Rain songs, The Summer, from all those years before.

Sgt. Kipper was the main focus though and a lot of the best recordings were earmarked for that. It was to be a full length cd and a double album on vinyl . Unfortunately some sort of technical snafu on the vinyl art meant that Todd made not one penny from the release.  

With no money forthcoming, the next studio was an even smaller affair and though some amazing recordings were produced, in the end we couldn’t even scrape together enough to continue even that. There was a EP and a ten inch for Pink Lemon but there was little money to be made from them.  A while later Todd got married and moved to the States and stopped making music until a few years back when he started up again.

Friday, 19 October 2018

Modern Space - Flip For It

It will be no shock that I like an album by a Canadian band, what is most newsworthy is that a major label has got hold of a half decent band. Modern Space are not necessarily aimed at out demographic and Warners probably normally think that we buy all our stuff from Cherry Red and await the new "return to form" Paul Weller album.

So let's enjoy the fact that a band that we'll like will get some decent promotion and celebrate the fact that Flip For It will be right up our street. It's chock full of hooks that largely work. It is a tad shouty at times, but it is splendid pop.

Sean Graham's Ontario outfit are now a five piece and that has expanded the sound. There's plenty of hints of the likes of The Vaccines and The Killers in earlier time. Graham's vocals are suitably diverse enough to pull in an older crowd and the songs romp along.

Kaiser Chiefs spring to mind, although there is far more depth to Modern Space. Surprisingly to these ears, the single and title track is probably the weakest song amongst some really strong songs. The Strokes like riff on A Small Pocket adds to a great lyric. Just Quick starts with a great riff and develops into almost rockabilly.

There's plenty to enjoy here and Flip For It is well worth your attention. You can buy and listen to it everywhere. You can find out more about the band here.

Thursday, 18 October 2018

Andy Bopp - Wherewithal

I mentioned how great Myracle Brah were in the review of Andy Bopp's previous album. Blisters And Thorns. That solo album is great, you can read the review here. But the even better news is that Bopp has moved on a pace since then and Wherewithal might just be the best thing that he's ever done.

The album reminds me a lot of Ian McNabb's latest, Our Future In Space. There are plenty of similarities. Melting Into Velveteen is interchangeable, it could be either's song. But the comparison is deeper, both will be compared to their previous band.

Yet their solo work is far deeper, far more fulfilling, but will get less attention than what's gone before. Bopp leans more towards Psych Pop. McNabb to Classic Rock, but the charm and ability is equal.Both have produced exceptional albums this year.

Sure And True is a wonderful example of how good Bopp is now, it's a killer Beatlesque chorus. Lonely Driver is Indie Joy, built around a funky bass riff. Push And Pull is pure Bowie, complete with Sax and some incendiary Guitar. It's a belter. Even the moody piano instrumental. April Is Near.

There really is so much here. The closer, Stranger Is Strange is all twangy moodiness, think Ian Hunter's The Outsider. Blind Faith is a haunting strum, it could make you weep, it's inspired. Shadow is anthemic in a Lennon manner.

These 10 songs contain so much in them, so many twists and turns in each. Beautifully arranged with some outstanding Guitar playing. You even find yourself singing along to the slower numbers. This is nothing like Myracle Brah and you wouldn't want it to be. Andy Bopp is at the top of his game. Wherewithal is a definite inclusion in my Top 10 of the year. Moody. yet incredibly melodic.

I can't recommend the album highly enough. You can buy it everywhere, including the likes of Amazon here. You really should!

Henry Chadwick - Marlin Fisher

I could say more about how great the Henry Chadwick is, but my great friend Dennis covered Marlin Fisher beautifully on his excellent Pop Record Blog. You can read his review here. I urge you to give the album a listen, you will be hooked. The album is right up our street.

You can listen to the album here. Buy it here and everywhere. You can find out more about Henry Chadwick here.

The National Reserve - Motel La Grange

I'm all up for surprises, there are too few of them and Motel La Grange caught me by surprise. It's a wonderfully constructed mainstream album and that caught me unawares. I'd suspected quite a bit of yee haw and what I got was a splendid album that resides more in Classic Rock territory.

Why surprised? Well usually as soon as I see a cowboy hat and a guitar, I run for the hills, hoping to avoid cliche after cliche of good ole boy lost love. Well I should shed my preconceptions, as I'm delighted to tell you that this is a cracking 38 minutes.I was sad when it ended and on it went again.

Yes there are country tinges, but these aren't many and are more than compensated by the rocking and ace song arrangements. Indeed the opener, No More, is a fantastic thing. It resides in some place between Springsteen and Del Amitri, it's a corker of a song.

The National Reserve are from New York, although you'd think that the five piece are more acquainted with Southern California or Nashville. Motel La Grange is a very American album, a real nod to the 70's. It's also a fine testament to the leadership of Sean Walsh. Great songwriting, a commanding vocal and some fine Guitar rock outs.

Although there are hints at times of a rocked up Eagles or a fleshed out Hootie And The Blowfish, the whole album stands firmly on the quality of the playing and some great Organ breaks. New Love smacks of The Outlaws, in fact there's a lot here that compares to that band without the excess.

I should open a closed mind a bit more. This album is a great listen, something that makes me wish I'd discovered it a little earlier. I can't wait for the follow up. You can find listen to and buy the album here. You can find out more about The National Reserve here.

Wednesday, 17 October 2018

Cursed Arrows - Rebirth

I've always had an admiration for Cursed Arrows. The Ontario Guitar And Drum duo of Jackie And Ryan Stanley have always come across well as a sort of Roots Folk Buckingham Nicks. This is their sixth album and things have changed, hence the album title.

The expansion into a trio with the addition of Scott Gray has sent the band into a different direction. It's not a major diversion, but the arrangements are bigger, the soundscape, whilst still wonderfully eclectic, veers more towards a rock canvas and it works beautifully.

The rocking is at a gentle pace, a song like Dusty Old Soul up front is all jaunty, but behind the eyes are some weird and wonderful instrumental diversions including a cracking Psych Guitar Riff. The songs are very piano led, but it's what is going on in the spaces that makes the album so effective.

A song like Rebirth is duet that feels dark, but the 60's synths and haunting guitar refrain makes it wonderfully moody. There's plenty that's familiar here if you've been on the Cursed Arrows journey for a while. But Rebirth, just takes it on massively. There seems so much in each song and more every time you listen.

This is an incredibly good album. Power Pop it is not, but it's a body of work that deserves your attention. It's a belting listen. You can buy and listen to the album here.

Summer Magic - Sharks And Other Dangers

There's a real 80's Pop feel to Kevin Bachmann's Summer Magic. Not in the twee or SAW way, but in a really innovative mix of eight songs. The two album openers show that strength in very different ways. Hey! is pure Power Pop whilst Tracing A Bird On Construction Paper is a noisier synth led Sheffield pop.

Charles De Gaulle In The Afternoon is Glam Rock that even includes a Roxy Music like Sax refrain. New Years Day is Bubblegum until the fuzzed solo nods to Glasgow 88. By Your Side is a cracking slab of Psych Pop.

The main surprise is that this delightful album comes out of St Louis, it sounds very English. It's also really hard to pick track selections as each is so different. The closer, Running Game is mesmerising, a sort of George Harrison All Things Must Pass dream soundscape.

A Certain Little Chord feels a bit like Doves doing The Beach Boys with some ace harmonies. Attraction Corridors heads straight for the Byrds / TFC slot and jangles straight to the Bullseye. That's the beauty of this album. No song is overdone, say what you've got to say and move on to the next.

Sharks And Other Dangers is one of the best debut albums that I've heard in a long time.

Sunday, 14 October 2018

The Posies Are Coming To Town

Here in the UK, we look at the live Power Pop and Pop Rock happenings in the States with a mixture of longing and an opportunity to moan. Most of all of it is financial of course, more would come across of course, if people bought more albums or supported tours by attending.

So when a band do make the effort, it is essential that they are supported and The Posies do support the UK Scene. They are becoming Elder Statesmen of Power Pop and remain one of the finest live acts that you could witness.

2018 has been a really exciting time in Posies land culminating in this 30th Anniversary World Tour with the original Frosting On The Beater Line Up. It's a wet dream for fans and builds on the 2 Disc Deluxe Edition Release of the album.

Some of us will be attending as fans at different tour dates. I'm at Manchester, so there's also a chance to catch up on what is going on in the IDHAS world. Keep up on Facebook and Twitter to find out who and where.

The Four UK Dates are as follows :

Friday 19 October       The Garage London
Saturday 20 October   Brudenell Social Club Leeds
Sunday 21 October     King Tut's Wah Wah Hut
Tuesday 23 October   The Deaf Institute Manchester

The band then head off to Germany and Scandinavia to complete the Tour. You can find tour dates and buy tickets here. The splendid Omnivore label has reissued the three Geffen albums as double disc editions. Two have been released, Amazing Disgrace is coming up very shortly.

You can find details and tracklisting in the following links :

Frosting On The Beater

Dear 23

Amazing Disgrace

The albums are also available at all the usual retail emporiums.

Thursday, 27 September 2018

Mick Dillingham Interviews : Curvey

It's about high time that we had another Mick Dillingham Interviews feature. This is a hectic time for Mick with another couple of interviews coming up in the near future.

Here at IDHAS, we are big admirers of the magnificent Psych Pop purveyors, Luck Of Eden Hall. We also love Curvey's latest project, Custard Flux. So we thought it was about time that we caught up with the great man. Mick found out all about Custard Flux, including a track by track breakdown of the Helium album and much more.

Mick: So you moved from Chicago to Detroit. That must have been quite an upheaval for you both physically and emotionally.

Curvey: Yes.  I really had no desire to leave Chicago, and my house that I’d been pouring my heart and soul into for ten years. But my wife was really burned out from working for the City of Chicago for twenty years and she was receiving job offers from all around the country.

So we decided to make the move for her career.  I thought I could handle it, but it has really taken a toll on me psychologically.  Detroit has a great music history, but I haven’t had much luck finding local musicians to play with and it’s been quite depressing.

Mick: So how did the Custard Flux project first germinate in your mind?

Curvey: My friend Lee Klawans, a great photographer and man of many talents, was managing an estate sale in Chicago, where they were selling an old harmonium, or pump organ.  He told me that I should see it and that I’d fall in love with it, so I rented a trailer and drove from Detroit to Chicago to have a look.

Jim Licka had one in his keyboard emporium that I used to play on and I’d been wanting one of my own, so I bought the harmonium and brought it back to Detroit.  I played on it for about a week before it started to fall apart.  First, one of the old straps that work the bellows ripped, so I replaced both of them.  Then the mechanism that allows you to play an octave higher without touching the keys broke.

So I ended up taking the Harmonium apart and gave it a thorough cleaning and replaced all of the felt pads and cloth hinges.  Once I had it all back together, it was just about as good as new.  My fantasy was, or is, to set up in the park and play progressive psych pop without any amps or p.a.  A green dream, if you will, to share with the kiddies.

Mick: How did the recording process and musical approach taken differ from Eden Hall, what challenges did you encounter and what lessons did you learn from setting yourself this goal?

Curvey:  On this project I wanted every instrument to be recorded with microphones, not plugged in directly, to give the songs a true acoustic feel.  I don’t own an acoustic bass, so I had to borrow one from my friend Steven Chamberlin and it sounded fantastic when recorded.  I never mic the bass when I’m tracking songs for The Luck Of Eden Hall.  I always use amp software for that and occasionally for my guitar sounds too.

Another big difference is that I didn’t use a click track for most of the songs this time.  My studio’s in the basement and my piano is on the first floor, so I had to run mic cables through a hole where radiator pipes pass through the floor to be able to record the piano.  My headphones wouldn’t cover the distance, so I had to track the piano first and use it as a guide for recording the drums and the rest of the tracks.

That really helped give the songs a different feeling.  I basically approached mixing the songs the same way I do with Eden Hall.  As far as panning, I just limited the effects used to reverb and delay.  I did learn a lot about blending acoustic sounds on this project, but it’s basically the same as mixing electrified noise.

Mick: In your mind did the songwriting process differ in anyway from what you’d done before….were you conscious of writing Custard Flux songs rather than Eden Hall songs or did you just write songs as normal and then let the creative approach turn them into something else?

Curvey: I wanted Custard Flux to be more progressive than it turned out, but pop songs flow out of me like slag.  I had written a slew of tracks that were starting to lose their appeal and then The Hit Parade happened.  I really liked the different time signatures in that song and tried to write more songs that way to break out of the typical pop mould.

Songs usually come to me eighty percent complete, and yes, I was very conscious of writing acoustic songs for this project.  I knew I wanted to include a few instrumental tracks, but most of the ideas I had required electric guitar and echoplex.  I saved a few to flush out for the second release.

Mick: If you had to sit down and re-record any of the tracks as Eden Hall versions how different do you think they would be. Are there tracks on the Flux album that you couldn’t fathom how to do an Eden Hall version?

Curvey: Oh, I think they’d all work as The Luck Of Eden Hall songs.  Some of the tracks would be much heavier and psychedelically blown out, to be sure.  I actually had a hard time not putting down more electric guitar solos on these songs, because I hear them in my head that way.  There’s no sustain when using an acoustic guitar, so I really had to practice my scales, which has really improved my skills.

Mick: How about a track by track breakdown of the album.

Curvey: The Hit Parade.  This track was written around the beginning phrase and the “I feel better” chorus.  I liked the sound of the riff being doubled on piano and guitar.  The lyrics are all about the high you get when you create something new artistically that’s well received by critics and the public.

Forevermore.  I wrote this on the harmonium, but was really pleased the first time I heard the piano and harmonium parts together.  It created a real dreamy circus feeling.  The lyrics are about the current dingbat U.S. president and his administration.

Empyrean House.  I wrote this track for a collaboration I did with Icarus Peel.  I’d finger picked the guitar on the version he released, which was beautiful and mellow and I decided to rework the song for this project after playing it on my Harmonium.  The lyrics are about experiences I’ve had in the wild, on mountains and in India, how man is really out of balance with nature.

Tiger.  I really liked this riff.  I record melodies on my phone for later use and it was one I’d thrown down.  The chorus lyrics are from a Buddhist saying.  My friend Gregory Chamberlin, who let me use his art for this project, is Buddhist and I wrote it for him, but it’s really about me.

The Shire Of Gingin.  The name of an Australian town I’d passed while on vacation.  Actually my wife was asked to speak at a conference in Perth and I was her baggage boy.  I thought it would make a good song title, so I logged it into my handy dandy iBrain phone.  The lick felt like dark magic and I had to learn a completely different set of scales to be able to riff on top of it, which was fun.  I imagined the shire swirling with magic and genies.

Sleepy.  This was written on the piano and is one of my favourites on the album.  I really like the riff, which got a little buried in the final mix.  I recorded most of the piano tracks on this album with the sostenuto pedal pressed, letting the piano strings ring.  The song is about being lonely.

La Mort.  I had this happy riff and couldn’t seem to turn it into a lyrical song, so I played solos over it and let an ominous blanket of dark harmonium engulf the end.  The drums were added last.  I was picturing a happy child blindly running through a field of daisies and tripping into an old well.  I hope that doesn’t ruin it for you.

Out Of Phase.  This is a track that was left over from The Acceleration Of Time sessions.  I liked how it sounded on the piano, so I rearranged it and added the trippy ending.  It’s all about relationships.

Golden Opportunity.  I wrote this while on tour in England.  I’d played at Kozfest and saw Soft Machine, who blew me away, and it rained the entire weekend.  The mud was thick and hungry for wellies.  I had a great time.

Tiger Reprise.  Believe it or not, all the parts in this song were recorded as part of the Tiger track, but I decided to strip Tiger down for the final mix.  I liked my solos and the drum part, so I mixed this version without vocals.

Helium.  Written on piano.  The Floydian bass line brought it home for me.  I’d nearly scrapped it for being too pop, but I really liked the lyrics.  Dreaming about the queen of psych.  I was originally going to title the album Harmonium Chrysanthemum, but decided it was a little misleading and one of Gregory’s paintings reminded me of a helium balloon, so I made this the title track.

Bonus Disc.  All of the original songs on the bonus disk, except for Innermission, were early songs I’d written for Custard Flux that fell out of favour.  I’d grown tired of them.  It’s usually a sign for me that I shouldn’t release the song if that starts to happen, but I remixed them and added parts that made them more interesting to me again.

Sweetened Hallowed.  I premiered this song last summer at the Halfmoon in Putney.  It’s a made up story about a beautiful, nice lady who gives money to children for candy.

The Feline Hallucination.  Written on guitar, and a little more jazzy.  Another fictitious story, this time about a guy who’s lost his mind.  Me.

Innermission.  Written on piano.  One of my favourite instrumental tracks and I was very happy to get artist Shane Swank to create a music video for the song.  You can check it out on YouTube.

Ascending Stories.  The music for this was written on guitar after returning from tour a couple years ago, but I finished up the lyrics for this project.  It’s about fighting depression.

Mick: So you put together a live band, how did that go?

Curvey:  Well, I wish that were true, but I haven’t put together a live band.  I’d really like to find some local like-minded musicians, but the Detroit scene is about electronica, Jazz, or hard and heavy rock.  Everyone’s already in three bands, or committed to another group.  I really wish I lived in England!

Mick: How has the response to the album been so far?

Curvey: Fantastic!  The first review was out of Moscow, and blew me away.  Shindig and Record Collector magazines have agreed to review it and I’m working on getting more.  I’m so behind in my promoting.  I’ll tell you I’m really happy to be talking to you again!

Mick: As ever you’ve come up with another dazzling limited special edition CD version. How was putting all that together?

Curvey: I wanted Custard Flux to look different than my usual releases and was extremely thrilled when my friend Gregory Chamberlin agreed to to let me use his paintings for the album art.  That too was a lot of pressure off me from coming up with artwork.  About four years ago, my wife and I backed the production of Glowforge, a laser cutting machine, because we could get one for half price.

It took three years for them to get the bugs in their design worked out and our unit arrived last year.  I knew I couldn’t hand cut anything out with exacto blades anymore, because of the pain it causes in my hands. A laser cutter seemed perfect for one of my CD projects or possibly an etched vinyl edition.

I looked into pressing vinyl locally, but the cost was way too much, so I decided on a CD Box Set.  The laser can etch images beautifully into wood.  As I started pricing out the supplies needed for each Box Set, including wood, hinges, CDs, a booklet and postcards. I ran across some boxes for wedding DVDs that were already assembled with hinges and a latch.

They were one third of the price that it was going to cost me to make each box, so I ordered ten to test how they worked under the laser and was pretty pleased with the result.  I had the CDs manufactured at Diskfaktory, where I’ve had CDs made since Subterrene’s release.  Had 100 of each postcard printed by a place I found online.

The 16 page booklets were printed locally, and I saved money by assembling and stapling each one myself.  Then I put the printed pieces in a paper envelope and sealed it with a wax stamp.  The positive feedback that I’ve received from customers has been rewarding.

Mick: You say something about the CD version being edited?

Curvey:  Yes, what I mean by that is some of the songs fade into one another.  If you download the songs from the Custard Flux Bandcamp page, each one is completely separate.

Mick: Will there ever be a second flux album at some point or is this a one off.

Curvey: Oh yes.  Number two is already starting to form in the ether.

Mick: Future plans?

Curvey:  I’ve just finished up a recording session with Tim Ferguson from The Red Plastic Buddha and the three songs we tracked need to be released. Keith at Fruits de Mer Records has asked me to piece together songs The Luck Of Eden Hall has previously released on the label, plus a couple new cover tracks, including one recorded with members of Sendelica, for a new compilation LP.

Mark Lofgren and I will be getting together this winter to start on a new album for The Luck Of Eden Hall. I’ve been asked to record drum tracks for a project Andy Budge is working on and I need to finish up my work on a live album recorded in Glastonbury with The Cary Grace Band and Andy Thompson. That should keep me busy!

You can listen to and buy the Custard Flux album, Helium, as a download, CD or Deluxe CD Set (as mentioned above), here. You can find more about the delights of The Luck Of Eden Hall here.

Lisa Mychols - Sugar

Lisa Mychols is back and we should all celebrate that. Whilst there are many contenders for King Of Power Pop, Mychols is certainly the Queen Bee of the hive. Her sugar sweet vocals adorn these 11 songs. Her Queen title is safe and sound, although the album is less about Power and far more about great pop.

It's been quite a while since her last album, five years on from the glorious Above, Beyond And In Between and I think everyone was more than ready for the next adventure. The Pop Community knew it would be great and will it on simply because of the support that Lisa gives to others in the same field.

Unsurprisingly, Sugar is wonderful. It continues her reputation as a modern day Rachel Sweet or even taking over the mantle of Kirsty MacColl. The album has a very 60's Pop feel. but there's plenty more present than just that.

Domino has a verse that has a UK 80's chirp and rolls swiftly along, Goodbye To All Carousels is splendidly Saint Etienne and Next To Impossible is Bond Theme like. My Friend And Me allows you to feel the ache with the Organ drifting in beautifully.

Into Oblivion is chanteuse in it's feel and although the Power Pop is still around with He's Got Me Dreaming, a song like Messages To The Muse with it's hypnotic brooding shows how varied the album is. Having said all of this, it's still great to hear Mychols excel on trademark 60's Pop like One Revolution and Loving You Baby.

All in all, in a three decade career and even considering her magnificent collaboration with Wondermints, this is probably Lisa Mychols most accomplished album and I can't pay it a greater compliment than that.

You can buy the CD here and the download from CD Baby here.

The Stan Laurels - Maybe

Austin Texas's John Lathrop is The Stan Laurels. His Third Album is the Soundtrack for Lex Lybrand's Maybe Shower. Don't be fooled by the Soundtrack label though. These are not snippets of instrumental twaddling, all nine offerings stand up alone and combine to make a fine album.

There's a lot going on in the songs and considering Lathrop played everything himself, the greatest compliment you can pay is that it sounds like a band recorded them. Guitar Solos burst out, combined at times with an 80's synth sound. all suiting his laid back vocals.

Maximum Zen edges into Psych, Door #1 is classic Fountains Of Wayne type Power Pop and maybe the best song on the album. In fact, the FOW comparisons are often to be heard as are hints of Sloan. The harmonies on Where I Want To Be hint at Teenage Fanclub.

Maybe is probably most people's choice of single, I've only not embedded it here, because there's a couple of songs that I really want you to hear. Maybe is a mixture of Cars like synths and out and out harmonic Power Pop. The riff just hooks you.

The album is another plus, yes another, on Ray Gianchetti's Kool Kat Label. The label has been prolific in the number and quality of releases lately. You can buy the CD from Kool Kat here. You can listen to and buy the album as a download here,

Greg Pope - A Few Seconds Of Fame

A welcome return of the Pop Monster. Greg Pope is beloved here in what has been a prolific solo career in the last decade. This is his eighth album in that period and you always know that you are going to get Power Pop Excellence before you open the tin.

You can read my review of Guiding Star here and Fan Boy here. The harmonies and riffs are always present, as is that laid back mellow joy of a voice, but there's always more, adventures into the left field, variation or the pure unexpected.

With A Few Seconds Of Fame, there are far more of those unexpected pleasures and although the Power Pop stamp is still present, this album is more of a move into Pop Rock. The arrangements are bigger, the solos are filled out, it all works beautifully.

The 12 songs are book ended by Forget About You and You Got Inside My Head, both are more traditional Greg Pope poptastic, as though they are reminding you of what default is. The latter, in particular, has a blistering Guitar Solo.

The drums and especially Bass Riffs are far more prominent. She's Already There is encased in a real Prog feel, it works so well. The song gets a Part 2 as the penultimate track, but this time in as an acoustic vocal extravaganza.Hopes And Dreams And Fears is classic 70's Pop Rock, think John Miles, even more so with the solo. There's a splendid tempo change partt way through.

Planet Earth is a sort of Classical Rock. Greg's Son, Micah Pope plays harpsichord and Pope himself, goes all Ritchie Blackmore in the Guitar accompaniment, all this surrounds a melodic winner of a song. Compare all the arrangements in that to the simplicity of Give You What You Want, which is a real vent. build around a fine Bass Run.

A Few Seconds Of Fame is a superb album in a superb year. It gives you just enough of what you'd want from a Greg Pope album, but stretches out far more than on previous albums. It's going to be high in people's end of year charts and rightly so. It's highly recommended.

You can listen to and buy the album here.

Thursday, 20 September 2018

The On and Ons - Welcome Aboard

In The Big Sunset album review I mentioned the joy of discovering a new band that you knew nothing about. It's also great to discover a band that you've missed, but that is mixed with an irritation that you should have noticed them much earlier.

That irritation is increased when you realise that you know of the four band members through other things. Sydney's The On And Ons released their second album about 12 months ago, so now is the time that we can all catch up on what we've missed.

Brothers Glenn and Brian Morris were in The Zeros and then became part of Paul Collins Beat in 2012, touring the US and Australia in 2012. Clyde Bramley was in The Hoodoo Gurus and Jon Roberts was in The Barbarellas.

Welcome Aboard is on the excellent Aussie Label Citadel, another plus and the album offers up some good old fashioned Power Pop. Old Fashioned is meant as a compliment, I listen to so much Power Pop that isn't really such, that I've tried to separate it with a Pop Rock tag.

The On And Ons offer up a mixture of 60's Power Pop, also think The Knack and splendid Psych Pop. They are also not afraid to Jangle. There are also hints of the 90's Pop revival of Cast etc. All 13 songs speed by, leaving you with a "that was ace" feeling.

Glenn Morris's laid back vocal works on whatever they turn their hand to and there is plenty of variation. Mystic Eyes is very Big Star, Things I Love is Gallagher-esque with a great hippy trippy guitar solo. She's Leaving is great early Beatles Pop. To Die For is Jangle Heaven. Not The Only One, pure mod pop.

It is however the straight ahead Power Pop that appeals most to these ears, it's so refreshing to hear it done well, most notably on No Good For Yourself and (Not A) Sweet Girl. Welcome Abroad is a charming slice of Power Pop that deserves your attention.

You can find further details on buying the album at Citadel here. It's also available for download on the likes of iTunes here.

Tuesday, 18 September 2018

Caper Clowns - A Salty Taste To The Lake

I know that I've been rattling on about what a great year 2018 is for Pop Rock. The end of year charts are going to be so competitive and there's more to come yet. One of the albums that I've been looking forward to most is Caper Clowns' second album and it doesn't disappoint. Quite the opposite in fact.

I loved the band's debut album, The Buca Bus, you can read the review here. These Danes have moved on apace, the maturity gained from all those gigs has resulted in one of the great Pop albums of this year.

A Salty Taste To The Lake has been trailed by two splendid singles, The Way I Dream, in which they out Finned Crowded House and the jaunty McCartney Pop of Sacre Bleu. A third single, Paper Trail is released next week in anticipation of the album's appearance on 5 October.

All three singles are worth grabbing, each includes an unreleased B Side.The Paper Trail flip, Just Another Supersonic Mastodon is particularly great, 4 minutes encroaching on Psych Pop with it's constant changes.

No difficult second album problems are present here. Whilst still mastering Beatles Pop, Caper Clowns broaden the range. Paper Trail is classic Difford Tilbrook, you can imagine a Boy Band grabbing hold of Loops and bringing it to the masses.

What If is an acoustic orchestral Windmills Of Your Mind sort of thing. Me For A Friend reflects a lot of what I feel about the album. It reminds me of one of those great Pop Rock albums of the 70's. Lifeline starts with a Roy Wood Move like riff, it's a fantastic piece of Psych Pop.

From the minute that I heard The Way I Dream earlier this year, I knew the album was going to be a stormer, I'm still singing the song six months on, it's a real earworm. A Salty Taste To The Lake is an upbeat melodic joy.

The biggest problem that I've had is keeping quiet about the album until now. It's been on constant repeat for the past few weeks. All of the things that were great about The Buca Bus are present, but the band have grown into an even greater outfit.

There is real depth in these 11 Songs. Caper Clowns may very well be my favourite band of the last couple of years. The album is a must have. It will be available as a 5 October release from both Kool Kat and Moby Disc.

You can pre-order by emailing I will update further links as I have them.

Big Sunset - Big Sunset

I think I know what's going on, but what always delights me more is discovering something that I had no idea about. I heard the Big Sunset album and loved it. It is a great example of a Pop Rock album that took chances.

None of the push button instrumentation is present here. You will hear Accordion, Tuba, Double Bass and Ukulele in some pretty stunning arrangements. Having said that, the stand out song is the stripped down, The Night I Was Murdered, a brooding hypnotic listen that just grips you.

Five Years in the making, this is a beautifully arranged affair. There is so much going on, but the album's themes and song structures never lose track of melody. Invisible Men comes in as a cross between Jellyfish and ELO, but with Beach Boy Harmonies and Accordion.

In all of these fine arrangements, there is very little electricity, so the big sound is even more admirable. I asked Jay Caruso about the album, how it started and came to completion. I was interested as I knew so little about the album and knew you would be too.

"I had the pleasure of recording, producing, and mixing an album for some good friends in a band called The Contestants.  In the process of recording the records I ended up contributing some extra instrumentation and vocal harmonies.  I found that I really loved the way JP Ramos wrote and that our voices worked well together.  After the album was finished, I reached out to JP to see if he wanted to write some songs together.  For me, it was a chance to explore the pop side of my musical tastes.  Both JP and I are huge Jellyfish (and associated acts) and XTC fans."

Writing together was a blast.  We would each bring fairly finished songs to the table and then take each others songs home to write our own take on them.  This process distilled a product we felt was better than our solitary vision had brought to the table.  As we continued to hone the songs an idea came to our minds to not play on our own album."

"If we broke out of that traditional songwriting mentality, where would these songs lead.  We were both established musicians in Portland and both had a roster of versatile friends who agreed to come to the table.  Notably was Don Schwarz, of Tales Untold - a band you simply must seek out if you have not heard, on Tuba and Todd Bayles on pretty much everything.  I had the pleasure of working with both of these guys over the years and they are both amazing."

"We did a few rehearsals with JP and I reworking parts to better fit the instrumentation then hit the studio for basic tracking.  Eventually we both caved and added our own performances back to the mix.  Drums, guitar, bass, and the occasional balloon track.  Todd was such an inspiration that we eventually asked him to just be a part of the project as a whole."

"The project was tweaked over a long period, in between works from our other projects, JP having a kid, and me taking on new responsibilities at my day job.  Ultimately I had become so close to the material that we opted to have our good friend Kevin Hahn mix the material, so we could get an objective mix.

The end product is a labour of love and an exercise in setting lofty expectations for ourselves.  We are working towards playing these songs live in a three piece setting of piano, drums, and bass with hopes of eventually creating another album in the near future.  Bigger Sunset anyone?"

I can't recommend this album highly enough. It's a cracking listen. You can buy the album at the likes of Google Play and iTunes. It's also available on Spotify and Pandora. You can buy the physical CD or download on CD Baby here. You can also listen to all the songs on You Tube by following the embedded songs above.