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Fountains Of Wayne / Sky Full Of Holes

This week, I’m taking another look at reviews I wrote of various Adam Schlesinger projects, when my Quick Spins column ran in The Kenosha News. Adam’s recent passing due to the pandemic has really impacted me, so I’d really like to be a part of people discovering what made him such a special guy.

D.P.

Fountains Of Wayne

Sky Full Of Holes (Yep Roc)

http://www.foumtainsofwayne.com

The guys from Fountains Of Wayne sure do take their own sweet time releasing new music. Although Adam Schlesinger often keeps busy scoring T.V. shows and movies, it’s been nearly four years since the band produced Traffic and Weather. While that release left critics underwhelmed, their latest should allay any fears that they are in a downward spiral.

If you only know Fountains Of Wayne by their breakthrough single “Stacy’s Mom,” then you’ve only seen a small potion of what this band can do. Their speciality is writing clever character vignettes that somehow manage to describe an entire lifetime in a quirky, four-minute pop song.

Best among this batch is “Richie and Ruben,” a tale of two friends who go into business together, without two ounces of business acumen between them. Another is “Action Hero,” the account of a decent regular guy who gets some unfortunate news about medical test results. Lightening up the mood is “A Road Song,” in which singer Chris Collingwood admits his song is just as cliche as Journey’s “Faithfully,” but he’s going to sing it anyway.

What I really like about this band is that with each track, you almost feel as if you’re listening to a close friend describe his most important relationships. It’s as intimate and personal as music can get. Too bad this doesn’t happen more than once every four years.

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Quick Spins

Tinted Windows

This week, I’m taking another look at reviews I wrote of various Adam Schlesinger projects, when my Quick Spins column ran in The Kenosha News. Adam’s recent passing due to the pandemic has really impacted me, so I’d really like to be a part of people discovering what made him such a special guy.

D.P.

This review originally ran in The Kenosha (Wi) News in 2009.

Tinted Windows

Tinted Windows (S-curve)

http://www.tinted windows.com

Wow, did this album take me back. Tinted Windows‘ debut is a power pop feast that harkens back to the late seventies and early eighties. It’s no surprise then, to learn just who makes up this stellar group.

Tinted Windows are; Bun E. Carlos of Cheap Trick (drums), Adam Schlesinger of Fountains Of Wayne (bass), James Iha of Smashing Pumpkins (guitar)and Taylor Hanson of Hanson (lead vocals). Quite a line-up, to be sure.

“Kind Of A Girl” starts things off as one of the greatest singles I’ve heard in several years. With muscular guitars and drums propelling the ageless vocals of Taylor Hanson, it’s hard not to be suckered in.

You’ll find that most of these eleven tracks will blow by in what seems like seconds. They are catchy as all get out, especially the Latin-flavored “Cha Cha.” This is gonna sound great in the car this summer. Buy this. Now.

D.P.

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Quick Spins

We Grow Up

From Big Stir Records;

“Surprise Benefit Single Announcement! BIG STIR RECORDS is proud to assist THE WELL WISHERS and Jeff Shelton in offering a special benefit single benefitting Center for Disaster Philanthropy’s COVID-19 Response Fund. “We Grow Up” is a brand new track with all proceeds going to the fund, and it’s out now at www.bigstirrecords.com/big-stir-digital-singles for $1 or any additional donated price you care to set. WELL WISHERS mastermind Shelton says of the track:

Written and recorded during the second week of California’s “Stay In Place” mandate as a response to the 2020 Coronavirus Crisis, the driving force behind “We Grow Up” was reflection, hope, family, and charity…all bolstered by a four-minute blast of uplifting power pop melodicism.

Most importantly, all proceeds from this charity single will be donated to the Center for Disaster Philanthropy’s COVID-19 Response Fund. This fund focuses specifically on supporting nonprofit organizations working directly to respond to the pandemic among the most vulnerable populations in order to help build their capacity for response.
disasterphilanthropy.org/cdp-fu…/cdp-covid-19-response-fund/

Please give as much or as little as you can. Enjoy the music.
Spread the word. Help where you can.”

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Pop Co-Op / Factory Settings

Pop Co-Op

Factory Settings (Futureman)

http://www.popco-opband.com

From the band’s website; “POP CO-OP is a group of four geographically dispersed musicians who focus on making the music they want to hear. They formed in 2016 as a result of Spongetones bassist Steve Stoeckel inviting friends on social media to collaborate in songwriting: Stoeckel threw out titles and music, asked for lyric snippets, assembled the snippets from contributors into full song lyrics, and recorded the song. Along the way, Stoeckel enlisted the guitar talents of Joel Tinnel, who introduced him to Bruce Gordon (aka Mr. Encrypto). Gordon already had several CD’s to his credit and subsequently introduced Stacy Carson to the group.

The group had so much fun creating a first song together that they decided to form a band and release an entire album. The effort was truly cooperative: each member wrote, recorded, engineered, produced, and mixed these 12 songs in every combination. “POP CO-OP” was the obvious band name.”

If this had been the only positive result of the creation of the internet, it would have been worth it. These four acquaintances mesh perfectly together, in a musical melange that is equal parts friendship, fun, craftsmanship, and reverence for the very best of what is often humbly referred to as pop music.

“No Man’s Land,” which heralds these eleven splendid tracks, begins with a stomping Dave Clark Five beat and the best melody this side of Andy Partridge. Switching gears, “Keen To Be Near You” is a soft, Jane Austin-inspired ballad with lovely touches of mandolin and a vocal by Stoeckel that will melt even the hardest of hearts.

I think my favorite of the set, however, is the rollicking “Won’t Be Me,” which sounds like Billy Gibbons being backed by Chuck Berry and Rockpile. I really can’t get enough of this one, in particular.

Also, when you’re finished devouring “Factory Settings,” you’ll want  to pick up the quartet’s 2017 debut, “Four State Solution.” It’s a seriously inspired start to what will undoubtedly be an illustrious discography.

D.P.

http://popco-opband.com/

https://popco-opband.bandcamp.com/album/factory-settings

https://popco-opband.bandcamp.com/album/four-state-solution

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Gary Ritchie / Head On A Swivel

Gary Ritchie

Head On A Swivel 

garyritchie.bandcamp.com

When The Beatles broke big in America, American groups started cropping up everywhere, intent on capturing that same Beatles’ magic. Bands like The Knickerbockers and The Cyrkle were looking to do much more than most of the also-rans, though. Their aim, inspired by the lads from Liverpool, was to create something with the same level of enthusiasm and electricity.

Here, well-known popster Gary Ritchie continues that tradition, with a wink and a nod, and his heart in the right place. He is, after all, along with musical partner Jeff King, responsible for the cult-favorite release, Beat The Meatles.

“Maybe It’ll Be Tonight”, takes a post-punk stab at what might’ve been an early MTV hit, when power pop was really becoming a thing. The title track, reminiscent of The Dave Clark Five’s “Over and Over” is another winner, and gets seriously-close to that ’65 energy.

My fave of the set, however, is “Arms Around A Memory,” which boasts a catchy melody and jangly guitar sound that pop dreams are made of. In a perfect world, that’d be the A-side of Capitol Records vinyl single, spinning on the Dansette.

D.P.

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Kenny Rogers / 21 Number Ones

Kenny Rogers

21 Number Ones (Capitol)

http://www.kennyrogers.com

With the passing of Kenny Rogers, several of his compilation CD’s are back on the charts. 21 Number Ones is a pretty good one, covering his hit material from the 1970’s, into the early 80’s.

“The Gambler”,”Lady” and “She Believes in Me” are all here, freshly remastered. Also included, are his smash-hit duets, “We’ve Got Tonight,” with Sheena Easton, and “Islands In The Stream,” with Dolly Parton.

With 21 tracks in all, it’s hard to imagine that you could want more, unless you’re looking for his early tracks with First Edition. Kenny Rogers was one of country music’s biggest crossover successes, and his his gravelly baritone will be missed.

D.P.

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Robert Cray / That’s What I Heard

Robert Cray

That’s What I Heard (Nozzle)

http://www.robertcray.com

While Robert Cray has always been lumped into the modern blues category, the truth is, he’s always filtered everything he does through the heart of a classic soul singer. On his latest, That’s What I Heard, Cray teams with producer/drummer Steve Jordan, and the results  are positively electrified.

Cray masterfully slides his way through Bobby “Blue” Bland’s “You’re The One,” Curtis Mayfield’s You’ll Want Me Back” and the smokey original “Hot.” Perfectly accentuating his husky voice is Cray’s always-tastey Stratocaster, which flows through these songs like delicious gravy on a buttery biscuit.

What’s really got me scratching my head lately is Cray’s twenty-year history of hopping from one small record label to another. For crying out loud, how in the world is it possible that labels like Alligator, Blue Note or Verve aren’t trying to give him the stable, respectable, creative home that he deserves? 

D.P.

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Al Di Meola / Across The Universe

Al Di Meola

Across The Universe (earMUSIC)

http://www.aldimeola.com

For his 1975 album of classic rock ’n’ roll covers, John Lennon used a picture of himself as a young man, standing in a doorway. Guitarist Al Di Meola pays tribute to Lennon with his own recreation of that famous photo, and an album of Beatles’ covers, played in his own imitable style.

While I did enjoy the reinvention and progressive approach to these songs, I doubt that most casual fans of The Beatles will. Di Meola is an extraordinary guitarist to be sure, but his use of diminished chords and passing notes will make a lot of these famous melodies sound unfamiliar and dissonant to a lot of ears.

Musicians and folks with a bit of music theory knowledge, however, will marvel at the twists and turns Di Meola takes, especially in “The Golden Slumbers Medley” and “Norwegian Wood,” the later of which is brimming with Indian percussion. It’s also interesting to hear new takes on often-overlooked Beatle tracks like “Julia” and “Octopus’s Garden.”

D.P.

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The Vapour Trails/Lonely Man

The Vapour Trails

Lonely Man (Futureman)

Futuremanrecords.bandcamp.com

It’s snowing and blowing here in Wisconsin, so nothing could be more welcome than a shiny dose of jangle pop from The Vapor Trails. “Lonely Man,” from The VT’s upcoming album, is equal parts Rembrandts and Herman’s Hermits, and features a chorus that is both somber and uplifting.

This three-song outing includes “See You In The Next World,” from The VT’s last release, remixed by the always-brilliant Nick Bertling. With a nifty bit of Ringo-influenced drumming and a sitar-laden bridge, it’s simply irresistible to my ears. A quality live cover of George Harrison’s “Something” rounds out the release with a smile and a sigh. Well done, gents.

D.P.

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Mandy Moore / Silver Landings

Mandy Moore

Silver Landings (Verve)

http://www.mandymoore.com

Among the crop of teen singers she initially broke through with in the early 2000’s, Mandy Moore has taken the most interesting path. While the others became almost cartoonish in their willingness to hit the charts, Moore instead began a gravitation towards her own artistic satisfaction. 

Silver Landings finds Moore breaking free of Ryan Adams, and landing squarely in the somewhat-low-fi world of producer Mike Viola, who knows a little something about making nifty records. As co-writers, they’re a perfect fit, as these ten songs prove. “I’d Rather Lose” is slinky and cool, like a lost pre-MTV Fleetwood Mac track. “Trying My Best, Los Angeles” laments being stuck in life, and the beautiful closer “Silver Landings” is hopeful even as Moore sounds like she’s been crushed by sadness.

Her most mature work to date, Silver Landings is a record made to last, and I’m betting it will. The songs are just too deep not to.

D.P.