Saturday, May 15, 2010


By Mike Baron

There have been Beatle imitators and acolytes as long as there have been Beatles. Beatle imitators are legion. Three of the best are the Vinyl Kings, the Merrymakers, and The Rembrandts.

For the Beach Boys it’s another story. It took a long time for the collective musical consciousness to absorb Brian Wilson’s innovative chord progressions but finally, through osmosis and the ever-expanding pool of ever more sophisticated musicians, bands have finally caught up with the Beach Boys. Among the earliest and best of the Beach Boys pastiches is “Pale and Precious” by the Dukes of Stratospheare: Chips From the Chocolate Fireball.

The Dukes are actually XTC slumming. While most of Dukes deals in psychedelia inspired (again) by the Beatles as well as Jefferson Airplane, Floyd, Squeeze and a host of other bands, “Pale and Precious,” the album closer, draws inspiration from both early and late Beach Boys, combining the doo-wop choruses of “Let’s Do It Again/I Get Around” with the Van Dyke Parks collaboration “Surf’s Up.”

The first half of “Pale” features the advanced chord structures and fragile vocals of “Surf’s Up.” Midway the song breaks down into primordial Beach Boy doo-wop. This is an essential track for anyone who loves “Surf’s Up,” “Heroes and Villains,” and “Good Vibrations.”

Jeffrey Foskett has toured with the Beach Boys so he comes by his sound honestly. Foskett has his own voice which is apparent in any cover he does, but he is also the author of “Thru My Window,” the ultimate short and sweet Beach Boys song. Play this for the non-cognoscenti and they will swear it’s a long lost Brian Wilson composition. “Thru My Window” appears on several Jeffrey Foskett CDs including Stars in the Sand and Thru My Window. The latter used to be “the best Beach Boys album they never recorded.” No longer. That honor now belongs to Explorers Club.

Explorers Club’s Freedom Wind goes beyond the Beach Boys to build a near perfect distillation of everything that makes the Beach Boys great. Freedom Wind was my album of the year in ’08 and each new listening brings greater joy, the sign of a classic. If you love the Beach Boys you’ve got to get this record. No mere imitation, every song uses Brian Wilson chords to build unexpected yet logical pay-offs with stacked harmonies that pack a sneaky and unexpected emotional punch.

Sunrise Highway is another new band that uses the Beach Boys as a jumping off point. Less purely Wilsonian than Explorers Club, Sunrise Highway nonetheless effortlessly evokes the Beach Boys with its sunny harmonies and bittersweet chord progressions Songs like “Endless Summer” and “Lonely Guy” are obvious tributes. The rest of the album never strays far from the reservation while remaining totally fresh. “Big Brown Eyes” could easily be an Eagles song. The rest of the record is sui generis and pure delight.

The Sunchymes out of Northampton, England is another modern band eagerly following the Beach Boys trail. (Sunchymes is actually Aaron Hemington.) We are at the stage where Beach Boys-inspired bands are no longer a novelty. Their collective sound buoys the state of contemporary music

Thursday, April 22, 2010



I saw Fools Face open for John Hiatt in Madison, WI in 1982. I had their two vinyl LPs, Tell America and Public Places on the Talk label. Fools Face did not disappoint, putting on a galvanizing fifty minute show.
They have now released a live record, Fools Face Live at Last (Talk, 2005) that is among the greatest rock recordings ever made. The recording is superb, the audience is electric, and the music itself is timeless fist-pumping power pop, song after song after song.
“To Be Someone” leads with pure rockin’ roots, a song from the heart of America, poignant bittersweet power chords like the Hawks or Spooner.
“American Guilt” should be the national anthem. It has a massive hook and invites sing-alongs. “Cherokee persuasion, Navajo town, got my reservation for the burial ground… Tell America her heart is in the right place, tell America be sure not to hate, tell America to move at her own pace, tell America it might be too late…when push comes to shove and we don’t have love…”
Guitars foam and snarl throughout. Listen to the guitar break on “Diamonds and Pearls.” It gave me a nosebleed. “Land of the Hunted” is a masterpiece of propulsion combining the urgency of 20/20 with the musical sass of the Buzzcocks. The recording was made in 2000 when these guys were in their forties and fifties. For anyone who loves rock this record will plunge you deep into your youth for sixty minutes.

Thursday, December 10, 2009


Two weeks ago, Not Lame Prez Bruce Brodeen shared the sad news with me that pop singer/songwriter and pop music archivist Jeff Glenn had recently passed away. Ironically, this news came a week after I had mentioned Jeff and his band the Retros in my most recent “Jangle On!” column. Like many of the other pop artists that I have come to know, Jeff was a talented, sweet and unselfish individual who believed that music is meant to be shared. And, like many of the other pop artists that I have grown to be long-distance friends with, I never met Jeff in person. We corresponded on numerous occasions via snail mail and email, and we even chatted a few times over the phone. The closest we came to meeting each other was August 2005, when Jeff hosted a Buffalo Springfield tribute show at the Mint in Los Angeles. I had airline tickets to fly to Los Angeles for a long weekend, but something came up and I never made that trip. I remember calling Jeff to let him know that I wouldn’t be able to attend the show, and in spite of his disappointment he let me know that he understood my circumstances. Come to think of it, I don’t believe that I ever heard Jeff express any ill will or convey negative thoughts toward others. The indie pop world was truly fortunate to have him as an ambassador for all things that are pop related.

I’m not sure how Jeff and I first “met” – but Jeff was kind enough to share the recordings of his band – the Retros – with me. The CDR that contained the Retros’ original songs and several cover songs blew me away. The songs had a crisp, jangly pseudo-60s sound, and the group’s harmonies on tunes like “Girl” and “Hey, Don’t Go Looking For Love” were terrific. The group synthesized the sounds of two of my favorite 60s bands – the Beach Boys and the Byrds – in a magnificent manner. I found it hard to believe that an indie label hadn’t released the band’s material on CD, and I began a decade-long campaign with Jeff to release the Retros’ original songs on a commercial CD. I was equally impressed with how well the band covered classic pop tunes from the Beatles, Byrds and more obscure 60s artists’ catalogs.

Although I never succeeded in my efforts to encourage the release of the Retros’ recordings, Jeff and his band mates were kind enough to record three wonderful cover tunes for each of the three tribute disc projects that I have been involved with. The Retros contributed “Long Time” (originally recorded by the Rose Garden in 1968) to the two-CD Full Circle: A Tribute to Gene Clark that was released by Not Lame in April 2000. Jeff and the Retros recorded another chestnut – “We’ll See” – for the Five Way Street: A Tribute to Buffalo Sprinfield that was released by Not Lame in May 2005. Last but not least, the Retros contributed a beautiful choir-like version of “He Was A Friend Of Mine” to the four-CD Timeless Flyte: A Tribute To The Byrds set that was released by RRO Entertainment in 2007.

Jeff also contributed regularly to my own music library by sending me 240 Jeffrey Glenn’s Lost Jukebox CDR compilations. Each CDR contained roughly 30 songs from the 60s, and the CDR color graphics displayed a 45 label from one of the featured songs. Many of these compilations had themes – ranging from Beatles knock-offs to name songs to holiday songs to novelty songs. Nearly every one of the 240 CDRs had a jangly nugget within the featured tracks. Jeff was an avid collector of vintage 60s pop, and I suspect that his vinly collection exceeded 50,000 records. Jeff also volunteered to convert material in my own vinyl collection onto CDR for me. When I asked him to do a compilation of obscure Phoenix-area bands and he listened to the records I had sent him, he asked me if he could incorporate this material into his Lost Jukebox series of discs. Needless to say, I was flattered that he asked! Jeff also sent me eight Under The Covers at Hawthorne High CDRs – which included numerous covers of Beach Boys songs done by artists around the world.

For those of you who had the pleasure of seeing Jeff and his Retros band mates perform at one of the Los Angeles International Pop Overthrow shows … or at a car show or at a party or at a wedding, you should count your blessings. You had the good fortune to see one of the nicest pop artists in his generation. Now, more than ever, I regret the circumstances that kept me from meeting Jeff in person four years ago. But every time I hear a Retros song, and every time that I play one of the many compilation discs that Jeff sent me, I will smile. Although my feelings may be melancholic, my day will be brightened by the musical legacy that Jeff has left all of us. Long may you run with your peer Spirits in the Sky, Sir Jeff!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

More Eisele

As if the previous weren't enough, James Eisele writes:
You are gonna freak when you hear my new cd (Perseverance). We purposely kept it all guitar - there are no keyboards or sax in any of it. My engineer said we should just focus on my guitar playing. He told me he wanted it to be the recording best representing my guitar playing. I think we achieved that. The recording is loosely based on Hendrix's Axis: Bold As Love, although we had to drop two songs off the cd because of possible copyright infringement. The songs will appear on our next cd when that gets worked out. It's too bad tho', those two songs are killer.
I'm also finishing up my next jazz/pop cd, Smooth Sailing. I think that's gonna be pretty good too - I've got Bob Corbit on that one as well as Tom McCarty on bass and Karri Daley (the gal that's sings on New Age). The songs are more recent so they have a little bit more to offer.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009



James Eisele is a gifted guitarist from Madison, Wisconsin who has been playing in blues bands for three decades. His blues guitar is drenched in bittersweet flletness with dazzling runs and shocking arpeggios. Now James has released two CDs, one devoted to the blues and one to jazz.

3rd Degree Blues is the type of music you’d expect to hear at Blue Chicago, Buddy Guy’s Club, or the Buffalo Chip during Bike Week at Sturgis. Michael BB on keyboards and Bob Corbit on sax make this an ass-shaking, deeply moving experience.

Coming Into a New Age is a collection of jazz originals that evoke a smoky night club in Harlem late at night. James’ warbly voice is an acquired taste but those who acquire it can’t get enough.

Both CDs are available from CD Baby. On Facebook, check out James Jeffrey Eisele.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Mike Baron's Top Ten 2009

By Mike Baron

The world have entered a gigantic metaphorical sphincter but there is progress in at least one field. Power pop has never been better. We are living in one of the great musical flowerings of history and it shows no sign of abating. I had a real problem picking just ten records for my top ten, so I kept on going. Just a little bit. We’ve still got a ways to go so I might have to update this list.

The qualitative differences among the top five are nugatory. One could easily choose any of them as the record of the year.

#1 The Shazam: Meteor. These big-hearted stadium rockers have been building toward this titanic yawp of iconic anthems for years.
“So Awesome” opens the record with a twenty-one guitar salute to the joy of living, lead guitar as hard and elegant as the Golden Gate Bridge. “Don’t Look Down” is a power ballad with every lick carved in stone. You could climb the notes like a staircase. Hans Rotenberry’s vocals are winsome and masterful, going from cooed aside to anthemic bellow in a heartbeat. “Disco at the Fairground” is the best Move song the Move never recorded. Alternating sinister, earth-chewing minor chords with drunken sailor music hall choruses it crunches euphorically. Zappa would approve.
“A Little Better” is a self-improvement song that might have come off Workingman’s Dead with a harder rock edge. “Always Tomorrow” is one of those bittersweet masterpieces built around a simple repeating guitar motif overlaid with Rotenberry’s pliant vocals filled with inchoate longing as is all great pop.
“Let it Fly” is an emotionally potent paean to hope harking back to “Squeeze the Day” from Tomorrow the World. The hushed beginning telegraphs its hortatory heart before that heavy bass cuts in. The chorus with its muffled kettledrums sends chills down your spine. This is life affirming rock that will have you grabbing an invisible Telecaster and yelling “YEAH!”
“Hey Mom I Got the Bomb” contains the lyric:

I got The Bomb, yeah I got The Bomb
If you don't think I'll use it you're ridiculously wrong

You have to hear this to get the full effect.
“Time For Pie” is a distillation of every great arena rock solo you ever heard.
As far as I know you can only order the record from and Should be available from shortly. You won’t hear about the Shazam in Rolling Stone or Spin. You won’t hear them on Big Radio, certainly not on MTV or VH-1. The Shazam are merely the tip of the iceberg. And the hardest part of the iceberg too.

#2 Campbell Stokes Sunshine Recorder: Makes Your Ears Smile

One man band Andy Morten conducts a clinic in power pop dynamics dancing unerringly from hook to bridge to chorus with the grace of a psychedelic Fred Astaire. “Track One” opens in off-hand manner but within the space of a heartbeat transforms into the first of many thrilling anthems. Morten does everything well. Aside from the obvious songwriting and singing his drums are propulsive and mellifluous and his guitar playing is melodically spot on.
“She Looks Good in the Sun” nods to the Beach Boys but Morten’s style is as unique in its own way as Brian Wilson’s. His songs take unexpected but wholly appropriate turns. The one note wah-wah adds a delicious tension. “Tony Hazzard” is a goof on the disposable nature of pop music but the melody and dynamics are anything but. Like the other songs on this record they will echo in your skull.
With its McCartneyesque bass pops and progression of elegantly thrilling chords “Mrs. Bumble” is an instant classic, a mini-suite reminiscent of “Suite Judy Blue Eyes” or any number of Beatlesque freak-outs. A bridge as delicate as spun sugar segues into a chorus that’s all get up and go. Simply sublime.
“Everybody Loves the Good Times” is another insanely ambitious pop saga reminiscent of XTC without the clash of class warfare. Pitch perfect guitar adds poignant piquancy to a song with more changes than the second side of Abbey Road. This guy’s a pop Tchaikovsky.
“Feel the Sunshine” is merely the fifth astonishing song on one of the best records of the year. Any year.

#3 Fun: Aim and Ignite

Highly original orchestral rock with elements of Broadway musicals, Beach Boys, Sly and the Family Stone, Van Morrison, Dexys’ Midnight Runners, and Dylan. A song like “Benson Hedges” with its soaring harmonies and spectacular lead vocal performance lends weight to an eloquent, incoherent rant about the singer’s fucked-up life.
“All the Pretty Girls” could have come off Mika’s new CD, an irresistible dance ditty to a standoffish girl who threatens to leave. Very effective use of strings. “I Wanna be the One” matches Sly in its clever use of nursery-rhyme melodies incorporated into a larger structure. Fun is three guys: Jack Antonoff, Anderw Dost, and Nate Ruess. Doesn’t say who does what, but whoever sings lead has a commanding voice reminiscent of Freddie Mercury.
“At Least I’m Not as Sad” incorporates children chanting an elemental tune embellishing a horn chooglin’ reggae that grabs your attention like a desperate meth freak with vocal pyrotechnics and myriad rhythmic changes.
“Walking the Dog” also has reggae in the riddum and singing, a joyous paean to a woman who’s thinking of leaving, with a hook big enough to snag Moby Dick. “Barlights” has an almost gospel feel.
”The Gambler” is one of the most emotionally powerful songs I’ve ever heard. This is one of those great sui generis records like Dexys’ Too-Rye-Aye or Bryan Scary’s Flight of the Knife.

#4 Broken Promise Keeper: Ice Cold Pop

Straight-ahead pop rock as addictive as crack. Rob Stuart sounds effortless in everything he does, difficult to do when you’re providing your own rhythm section. Not only does he sound effortless he sounds unique in a way I haven’t heard since the first Marshall Crenshaw album. He defines his territory—the half acoustic straight ahead rocker (Tom Petty, Crenshaw, Billy Joel) and hits you with a triple combination that leaves you dazed and wanting more.
“Directions,” Worship From Afar,” and “Kristine” constitute three of the most killer first songs I’ve heard in years. BPK is instantly likeable and instantly identifiable. Some bands play their entire careers without forging an identifiable sound. All those American Idol winners.
“I Blame James,” call-checks James Kirk, James Bond, and James West as it speaks to the power of TV. Stuart’s take on “spy guitar” is pretty funny. The songs run one into another without breaks which I always like especially when they keep turning up the heat as they do here. Dig Stuart’s crazy bass line on “Look Out Hollywood.”
Effortless ass-kickin’ mastery.

#5 Throwback Suburbia

Instantly memorable series of great songs reminiscent of a thousand bands and yet unique. Craftsmanship is old school—distinctive melodies, powerful choruses, and satisfying hooks. These guys have studied their Brill Bdlg.
Keyboards give them country vibes, big guitars give them drama and tension. Jimi Evans’ honeyed tones sell everything from power ballads to lawn mowers and most songs feature three part harmonies. “Rewind” is a power ballad with guitar like the leaf spring off a Chevy truck smacking you in the head. I mean that in the best possible way. “Head Over Heels” is a joyful hand-clapper with sing along chorus. “Same Mistake” is a deliriously sweet castanet clappin’ dirge to self-destruction. I can almost see Lou Christie belting this at the Flamingo Lounge.
“All About Me” is a pitiless self-examination of narcissism that ought to be the official anthem of the Y Generation.
There’s more, much more and every one is a gem. The whole CD is a home run.

#6 Roger Klug: More Help For Your Nerves

‘Nother (mostly) damned one-man band. This is a mammoth selection of songs showing off Klug’s writing skills and musicianship. Every song has a chorus and a hook which we take for granted but you’d be surprised how many Billboard and EW hits get by on one chord or less. “Tinnitus” is an opening guitar blast that leads into the exuberant “Dump Me Hard,” among the most upbeat of failed relationship songs.
“I’m So Worried About Time” is an all-out rock onslaught that slides into a bluegrass break in the middle, then back to the avalanche. “For the Kids” is a heart breaker about a young woman geared toward motherhood. It’s not so much what Klug says but how he says it in elegiac chords that scream irony. Strong contender for Song of the Year.
“The Day I Had My Brain Removed” jolts with an unexpected but deliriously sweet hook, then marches off to a Scottish breakdown. A guitar duel highlights “Hi-Hat” which features one of Klug’s more unexpected hooks containing the memorable phrase, “Bored as Ohio.”
“When Dreams Dry Up” is another oxymoronic celebration of sadness alternating whispy Victorian regret with surprising vocal and instrumental vehemence. Klug is a clever wordsmith with unexpected rhymes, shifts, and dodges.
And so it goes, one great song after another.

#7 Curtains for You: What a Lovely Surprise to Wake up Here

Lilting melodies, soaring harmonies, and a liquid lead guitar that strokes the hypothalamus producing waves of pure pleasure land this Seattle quintet in the Top Ten. Like Explorers Club they mine the Beach Boys for inspiration but have a unique sound built around killer songs and Mikey Gervais’ sinewy guitar. I wish they’d mixed the vocals a little more upfront. Some lyrics remain opaque. Mikey and Matt Gervais with Nick Holman (b) and Peter Fedofsky (k) have an undeniable Everly Brothers vibe. .
The first four songs are joyous celebrations of all things hooky, building one on another into an stoppable locomotive of power pop which barely slows for the plaintive “Chain Link Fence.” “Dumb Angel” is an instant classic, as is this record.

#8 Paul Steel: MoonRock

This record begins on such an impossibly high note it would seem impossible to sustain at album length. And Paul Steel doesn’t quite make it but his sheer pop exuberance coupled with impressive compositional skills makes MoonRock one of the year’s most exciting releases. “In a Coma” begins with irresistible hand claps, great tonic and a hook that ratchets up the tension. Steel stacks vocals into towering harmonic wedding cakes.
The coda to “Moon Rock” is so overwrought as to overshadow the song, but the next song, “Oh No! Oh Yeah!” more than makes up for it with pop smarts, soaring harmonies and a honkin’ kazoo section. “Summer Song” is a bittersweet entry in the languid, end-of-summer blues similar to the Beach Boys’ “The Warmth of the Sun” or Scott Sax’ “I Am the Summer Time.”

#9 Lamar Holley: Confessions of a College Student

Lamar Holley’s musical-on-a-disc dedicated to the trials and travails of a first year college student contains several jaw-dropping mini-suites. “Biology” is a twelve course feast in itself, a mid-tempo winner about what the narrator’s really thinking about in a boring biology class. The record’s mostly about girls—how to get them, how to lose them, their unobtainability.
Holley’s got that Tin Pan Alley. vibe which yields well-balanced songs. He never cuts loose or rocks out, but charms with melody and crystalline arrangements. “Secretly” pines languidly to an oblivious girl, steel pedal guitar echoing the singer’s anguish.
“Madame Shamrock” is so rich in harmonic variation you may wish to consume it in tiny bites, like triple XXX dark chocolate. Holley has stumbled onto a set of harmonics that affect the lizard brain. It is difficult to stop listening. You may play this song all day. A fire could start and you wouldn’t notice. While there’s nothing else here that matches “Shamrock,” there is plenty to thrill.
Great production too.

#10 Vinyl Candy: Land

Land, a “rock opera” about an aspiring musician, presents a compelling narrative through an elegant succession of mini pop masterpieces that segue from one to the next. “All Along the Way” is typical of Vinyl Candy in that it which eschews the familiar first, fourth and fifth chords in favor of something fresher and more jazz-like. It’s not jazz—it’s fist-pumping rock with blistering guitars and intricate harmonies. But Vinyl Candy’s distinctive songwriting skills accompanied by monstrous guitar swirls give them a unique sound, one that does not suggest Jellyfish. Vinyl Candy sound more homogenous, more straight-ahead rock without Jellyfish’s charming eccentricity. .
Vinyl Candy occupies a sweet spot all their own, each song an intricate mosaic of brilliant chords, musicianship and singing. Listened to all at once they tend to blend into each other. Listened to individually they sparkle. Vinyl Candy also shows what can be done with album art in a small package, although I would dearly love access to the lyrics, either through an insert on online.

#11 The High Dials: Moon Country

Insanely ambitious psychedelic twofer from the Montreal quartet incorporating their whole arsenal of buzzing guitars, stacked vocals and Zombie-like song structures. The guitar riff that opens “(Do the) Memory Lapse” attaches itself to your brain like the Alien face hugger. With songs like “Killer of Dragons” and “Oison my Bastard Brother” the meaning is sometimes obscure but the breadth and the scope of the music are enormous.
At turns mesmerizing and threatening, Moon Country is as vast and mysterious as an undiscovered continent. The standing here doesn’t really reflect the quality of the music but the competition this year has been ferocious. The package is awful—a double cardboard sleeve from which the discs tumble every time you look at it, dark, muddy lettering and a cover painting that looks like a misprint. Produced “with the participation of the government of Canada (Canada Music Fund.” At least the Canucks know how to spend their stimulus money.

#12 Jeff Litman: Postscript

Heartfelt, personal and extremely melodic debut needs no lyric sheet because of the upfront intimacy of Litman’s voice. Acoustic power through excellent song structure—listen to “Complicate” and “Open Arms,” material that recalls Josh Rouse ca. 1972.
Kelly Jones joins Litman for “Maine.”

#13 Valley Lodge: Semester at Sea

Friday, October 30, 2009

Eric Sorensen's JANGLE ON for October 2009!!!

By Eric Sorensen‏, written exclusively for NOT LAME

PhotobucketI wanted to share a few “discoveries” with fellow jangleholics before I head north to relax and enjoy the Hudson River Valley, Maine and Vermont fall foliage. We’ll be taking plenty of CDs along for this autumn road trip. Before I discuss the latest in jangly discs and songs, top billing this month goes to the Roger McGuinn LIVE AT THE BASEMENT DVD released by ABC Entertainment. This DVD, which includes fourteen songs interspersed with Roger’s commentary, is available from numerous online sources for less than $15. McGuinn alternates between his signature Rickenbacker 12-string electric guitar and his signature Martin 12-string acoustic guitar on the featured songs. The DVD concludes on a very strong note – with McGuinn performing “John Reilly” and “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door” on his Rickenbacker 370RM. This DVD is a MUST for any McGuinn or Byrds fan!

And now, the best of the rest:

The Tabasco Flowers-UNREST
As the liner notes explain, all songs are written, arranged and performed by Gregory A. Latinette … who is the sole member of the Tabasco Flowers. Latinette is pictured playing a Rickenbacker 12-string guitar in the jewel case insert so it should come as now surprise that this disc is overflowing with jangly, chiming tracks. “Easy Time,” “My Affirmation,” “Spark In Bethany,” “I Am Near” and “Should Never Come The Day” are the standout tunes. Latinette’s nasal vocals remind me of the Dashboard Saviors and the Bodeans, and his Rickenbacker chops are reminiscent of the Flamin’ Groovies. Long may you run, Sir Gregory!

Speaking of the Flamin’ Groovies, Groovies alum Cyril Jordan and his new bandmates with Magic Christian have released their stellar sophomore effort – EVOLVER. This disc is overloaded with chiming, ringing songs: “All The Stars,” “In Your Arms,” “Run And Hide,” “Sha La La,” “Come And Go” and a lively cover version of the Beatles’ “Anytime At All.” The Rickenbacker 12-string sound is alive and kickin’ in the San Francisco area again thanks to Cyril Jordan and his new posse.

PhotobucketMark Cronk - PLAYING KATCHUP
The chiming “She’s The Girl” takes “Song of the Month” honors this month … and it is representative of a terrific pop disc that jangles from start to finish. Other standout tunes include “I’ve Seen Your Face Before,” “How Many Times” and “Irene.” Bruce Brodeen compares Mark’s work to the Spongetones … but I also hear some similarities with AM radio hits by Gary Lewis and the Playboys … and similarities to one of the most unheralded indie pop bands of our time – the Retros. Note to self: remind Jeff Glenn to release that superb Retros album that is already recorded! Until that occurs, PLAYING KATCHUP will keep fans of cheery, toe-tappin’ pop music happy.

Add this disc to one of indie pop’s most impressive resumes. The very talented Jeff Larson shines again with the usual supporting cast (America’s Gerry Beckley) and yet another assortment of cream-of-the-crop songs. The singing and instrumentation are always spot-on, and chiming guitars sublty enhance “Sudden Soldier” and “Minus Marci.” Jeff Larson has long been a member of my Pop All-Star Band; this disc is further evidence that he stands head-and-shoulders above many of his peers.

PhotobucketMaplewood - YETI BOOMBOX
This NYC-based band shows its affection for “canyon rock” once again. “Dust” and “Over The Hills And Down The Hollow” showcase the greatest amount of 12-string guitar and pedal steel guitar jangle’n’twang. For those too young to remember the Flying Burrito Brothers, Maplewood is the contemporary band that will definitely turn you on to the “canyon rock” genre of music.

While First In Space doesn’t fall into the jangle pop artist category, their new disc GERONIMO is top-notch pop/rock from start to finish, and the song “It’s All Gone To Hell” does feature some chiming lead guitar riffs. The band represents a crisp blend of the Gin Blossom, Miracle Legion and Better Than Ezra.

A country crossover pop tune that is achin’ to be played on mainstream radio is the very jangly “Amazing Love” from the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band’s latest disc – SPEED OF LIFE.

Although I haven’t heard the disc yet, the concept of A TRIBUTE TO RICH HOPKINS is quite appealing because it features the songs of Rich Hopkins – AKA the Godfather of Desert Rock. Rich was a founding member of Tucson’s legendary Sidewinders/Sand Rubies; he has released numerous discs on a solo basis or with the revolving members of the Luminarios; and he has produced many other groups in the southwestern music community. Rich is also a very unselfish artist who has contributed his efforts to homeless shelters and migrant worker causes. A TRIBUTE TO RICH HOPKINS is no different – all proceeds will go to the Greg Goode Scholarship Fund. You can order this disc from the website.

PhotobucketLast, but not least, I will mention that Maura Kennedy’s first solo album, PARADE OF ECHOES, will be officially released in January 2010. Fans don’t have to wait until next year to hear these terrific pop tunes – you can order the disc online from The same gorgeous voice, strong songwriting and textured guitars that the Kennedys (Pete and Maura) are known for are still here in abundance, but with a bit more edge and confidence. Catch the Kennedys in concert to enjoy the best of their collaborative and solo efforts.

For those who like to surf the net and view YouTube videos, check out Scaler Wave’s great renditions of the Byrds’ “Turn! Turn! Turn!” and “Eight Miles High.” The Rickenbacker 370RM riffs and the video’s vintage touches are quite impressive.

Until next time, jangle on!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Eric Sorensen's JANGLE ON for August 2009!!!

PhotobucketJANGLE ON!
By Eric Sorensen‏, written exclusively for NOT LAME

Just when it appeared that chiming Rickenbacker guitars were falling out of favor, I discovered a surfeit of jangly albums and jangly tunes this past month – proving again that the "feast or famine" cycle still occurs in pop music scene. New discs and new tunes that have made my "Jangle Pop" play list over the past month include:

Wow! Sometimes a CDBaby search unearths a gem such as this 2003 release that features Darryl Everitt and a supporting cast. There are chiming, jangly tracks throughout this disc that merit comparisons with Dom Mariani and the Someloves, the Connells, the Gin Blossoms, Guadalcanal Diary, Smart Brown Handbag and Matthew Sweet. Standout tunes include "Don’t Talk To Me About Love", "I’m Not Following", "Everyone’s Allowed A Little Dreaming", "That Girl Is For Another Day" and "Sunday Night’s Goodbye". This is superb power-pop album that features a rich tapestry of chiming guitars in all the right places. Long may you run, Sir Darryl!

Speaking of Dom Mariani – check out the stunning instrumental track he recorded with the Majestic Kelp, "The Byrds Have Flown". A very nice nod to Roger McGuinn and the Byrds!

The Wonderwheel - SAFE AND SORRY
The good folks at Rainbow Quartz have discovered a Norwegian duo – Oyvind Holm and Ulf Risnes – who combine their talents to conjure up Simon and Garfunkel, Seals and Crofts and Matthew Sweet references. The twelve original tracks feature plenty of strummy acoustic riffs and catchy layered vocals. This disc deserves "Top Ten" consideration for 2009. My favorite track: "If She Don't Mind" – which features jangly electric guitar and smooth vocals that hearken back to the Lennon/McCartney era of songwriting. Many thanks to Rainbow Quartz!

Another recent Rainbow Quartz release worthy of mention is MAGIC CIRCLES by the June. "Sir Eugene Maddog" is as close to a jangly track as this album has to offer, but the disc lives up to its Rainbow Quartz pedigree by featuring excellent pseudo-60s psych-pop.

When he’s not recording gorgeous instrumental albums, producing the works of other artists and attending to JAM Records matters, Jeremy Morris still finds the time to release primo pop that is overflowing with jangly guitar riffs. His latest solo release – JOURNEY TO THE CENTER OF THE HEART – will definitely please Rickenbacker fans! "Church of Byrds", "Love Is Gonna Win", "Vanity Fare" and "Sweet, Sweet Relief" all showcase Jeremy’s love for chiming 12-string guitar. I cannot think of another pop artist who is as prolific or as on top of his art form than Jeremy Morris. Long may you run, Sir Jeremy!

It’s hard to use the word "prolific" without also mentioning guitar virtuoso Les Fradkin. If you’re in the mood for Bob Dylan tunes that feature an updated Rickenbacker 12-string sound, look no further than Les’ 2006 RRO release IF YOUR MEMORY SERVES YOU WELL. This disc features Les’ interpretation of ten Dylan songs, and every track should make Bob (and Roger) proud. Here’s hoping that Les will book a show date on the east coast and I will finally get the chance to meet him and hear him perform!

In the "blast from the past" category is MASTERING THE ART OF FRENCH KISSING by Euphoria’s Id. I love it when indie labels dig up vintage material from the mid-60s. This disc features a Byrdsian version of "Morning Dew" and a cover of another jangly favorite from that era – "Hey Joe".

Another, more current "blast from the past" is ON THE FLOOR OF HEAVEN by the Blue Shadows. The group featured the terrific Everly Brothers-like harmonies of Billy Cowsill (the Cowsill brother who sadly died during Hurricane Katrina) and Jeffrey Hatcher. The album has some wonderful ballads whose poignancy is strengthened by Hatcher’s Rickenbacker 12-string riffs. "Is Anybody Here" is one of my favorite all-time country crossover tunes.

Robert Gray - BORN READY
Yet another CDBaby find. Although it’s not jangly, this album has a strong appeal due to its the Beach Boys-inspired melodies. Gray’s vocals remind me of Richard Snow...and to a lesser extent, Arthur Lee of Love. This is a very pleasing listen from start to finish.

PhotobucketI have always been a big fan of cover tunes when they are performed with reverence for the original songs. Three recent albums are loaded with excellent cover songs from the 60s and 70s: UNDER THE COVERS VOL. 2 by Matthew Sweet and Susanna Hoffs (AKA Sid and Susie); OUT OF THE BOX by Dwight Twilley; and COPY CAT by Andrew Gold. If you dig how Andrew covers Lennon/McCartney and Brian Wilson tunes, you will also enjoy his 1998 LEFTOVERS album...and his classic GREETINGS FROM PLANET LOVE by the Fraternal Order of the All. Andrew Gold is a one-man Pop All Star Band!

"Song of the Month" honors go to "New Driftwood" by the Trap. Runner-up tunes include "The Rain Inside" by the Electric Marmalade, "False Prophets" by the American Hot Club Band and "Hey Gene" (in memory of Gene Clark) by the Choir.

PhotobucketLast but not least, this year’s INTERNATIONAL POP OVERTHROW VOLUME 12 compilation includes many pop gems and a few jangly sparklers. Look no further than "His Vision Of Her" by the Smiling Eyes, "Fishwife" by Plasticsoul, "Thank You" by the Starfire Band, "Anna" by Jeff Littman, "Sorting Out The Rules" by K.C. Bowman, "My Star" by Sugar High and "See About Me" by the Shamus Twins.

For those of you who are fortunate enough to attend the IPO Festival in Los Angeles this month, I am envious that you may see some of these artists perform live. For those of us on the east coast, there is always the Charlotte Pop Festival the last weekend in September to look forward to.

Until next time, jangle on!

Mike Baron's Review of the new SHAZAM album!!!

PhotobucketThe Shazam - METEOR (Not Lame)

Nashville’s The Shazam have been around since 1993, stunning audiences with anthemic, hook-laden rock in the spirit of their two poles, The Who and The Move. They moved beyond those obvious influences on ‘03s stunning TOMORROW THE WORLD, a blast of rawk big enough to fill ten Olympic stadiums.

The Shazam are part of the underground independent pop scene, the guys who gather for the Charlottesville Power Pop Festival, International Pop Overthrow, or SXSW. Shazam have been with Not Lame since 1999’s masterful GODSPEED THE SHAZAM. This is the first disc Not Lame has produced in three years, not counting their annual
INTERNATIONAL POP OVERTHROW compilations. METEOR is a titanic yawp of brilliantly executed hard rock anthems alternating with hooks so sweet they take your breath away. Hans Rotenberry, who wrote and sings the songs, has carved style from extreme rock dynamics crossed with a sweet, supple voice.

"So Awesome" opens the record with a twenty-one guitar salute to the sheer joy of living, lead guitar as hard and elegant as the Golden Gate Bridge. "Don’t Look Down" is a power ballad with guitar written in rock. You could climb the notes like a staircase. Rotenberry’s vocals are winsome and masterful, going from cooed aside
to anthemic bellow in a heartbeat. "Disco at the Fairground" is the best Move song the Move never recorded. Alternating sinister, earth-chewing minor chord guitars with drunken sailor music hall choruses it crunches euphorically. Zappa would approve.

"A Little Better" is a self-improvement song that might have come off WORKINGMAN'S DEAD with a slightly harder rock edge. "Always Tomorrow" is one of those bittersweet masterpieces built around a simple repeating guitar motif overlaid with Rotenberry's
pliant vocals, filled with inchoate longing as is all great pop. "Let It Fly" is more of the same only better, harking back to "Squeeze the Day" from TOMORROW THE WORLD. This is life affirming rock that will have you pumping your fist in the air and yelling "YEAH!"

"Hey Mom I Got the Bomb" contains the lyric:

I got The Bomb, yeah I got The Bomb
If you don't think I'll use it you're ridiculously wrong!

You really have to hear this to get the full effect.

"Time For Pie", the closer, is a distillation of every great arena rock guitar solo you ever heard.

As far as I know you can only order the record from, just as all the underground indie popsters are only available online, most with You won’t hear about the Shazam in Rolling Stone or Spin. You won’t hear them on Big Radio, certainly not on MTV or VH-1. But the Shazam are merely the tip of the iceberg. And the hardest part of the iceberg too.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Have you heard the new Cheap Trick...on 8-TRACK???

PhotobucketCheap Trick's latest album, THE LATEST, is available digitally, but the pop-rockers are going back in time to also release the album as a, get this, 8-track! You always hear people decrying the demise of vinyl, but aren't 8-tracks best left to 70s nostalgic reminising? I remember the stereo in my mom's car and how, as the 80s went one, one by one her Carpenters and Neil Diamond 8-track were eaten and spooled all over the front seat until she broke down and bought a cassette player--in 1988!!!

Here's a preview widget of the new album!!! What do you think? Rocks pretty hard--pretty sure I'll be buying it on CD! Or possibly reel-to-reel.