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Action Now: 20/20 Re-Envisioned
(Futureman Records/Big Stir Records 2020)
No matter how commercially successful or how wildly obscure, there seems to be a tribute album for just about every group or artist imaginable. Nesting somewhere between the two extremes is 20/20, a band that reaped regional attention and acclaim amid the thriving Los Angeles power pop scene of the late seventies and early eighties.
Throughout the years, numerous groups have cited the band as an inspirational presence. Therefore, Action Now: 20/20 Re-Envisioned holds forth as a long overdue love letter to the group. Aside from the great music marinated within the grooves, all proceeds from the disc will go to MusiCares, which is 20/20’s chosen charity.
From Plasticsoul’s take of the energetic bristle of “Nuclear Boy” to Pop Co-Op’s cover of “Yellow Pills,” which sounds like David Bowie performing the cult classic at a somewhat slower stride than the initial version, Action Now: 20/20 Re-Envisioned is crowded with tasty treats. Despite the grim theme, The Armoires slap a bright and jingly spin on “The Night I Heard A Scream,” and Popdudes deliver “She’s An Obsession” in a pure and punchy pop rock manner bubbling with radio-rich qualities.
The fist-pumping title track of the collection is brought to you by Librarians With Hickeys, while The Brothers Steve’s remake of “Beat City” projects an appropriately catchy beat. Irene Pena’s interpretation of “Tonight We Fly” swings and soars with melodic excitement, and Chris Church’s copy of “Remember The Lightning” crackles and crunches with solid brass guitar riffs and robust hooks.
The Toms pour a splash of new wave quikiness onto their reprise of “Out Of This Time,” where Ransom and The Subset’s reading of “Fast Car” races with driving rhythms and high-octane harmonies, and The Hangabouts season the utterly infectious “A Girl Like You” with a sweetly-scented fragrance.
Sterling selections from Coke Belda, The Slapjacks and Joe and Tracy Sullivan are additionally included on Action Now: 20/20 Re-Envisioned. After sinking your ears into these credible homages, you will not only be spurred into revisiting 20/20’s deftly-crafted catalog of righteously rocking pop tunes, but you will also want to give a listen to the original recordings of the musicians who contributed their time and talent to this mighty fine effort.
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(Twist Records 2020 )
For the past couple of decades, The Eddies have been composing and performing premium grade pop rock that has deservedly drawn worldwide praise. The Orange County, California based band’s latest album – “Waiting” – proves to be another exciting audio chapter in their long-running career. As an added perk, the disc contains alternate mixes of the featured tracks.
One of the numerous nuggets heard on “Waiting” is “In The Sunshine,” which is powered by a paralyzing swirl of crushing drums, trippy patterns and reverb-soaked vocals. A stinging guitar solo subsequently highlights the intense workout.
Grounded in an entirely different setting, “Wishing On A Star” and “Can I Be With You” are founded upon danceable rhythms, the brassy blast of a trumpet, bubbly harmonies and lashing hooks that incorporate moptopped Mod moves with swinging soul grooves into a tidy package.
A soft and silky tone is applied to the dreamy “Hey Baby,” which is laced with Latin-flavored trumpet interludes, and “Show Me” romps and rolls to a new wavish pop beat, radiating with melodic merriment.
Heightened by the classy reveries of a violin and French horn, “A Girl Like You” steps in as a sweet and tasty pop piece, and cuts such as “I’m Waiting” and “I’m In Love With You” pair ethereal textures with spare arrangements, resembling the quieter moments of Big Star
Now that “Waiting” has been discussed, it is time to meet the musicians behind the dynamic songs. Twin brothers Dean and Dale Hoth are the vocalists and also play bass and guitar respectively, while Len Curiel is the drummer and noted producer Earle Mankey is the rhythm guitarist. Hooray for The Eddies and the joy they bring us with their great tunes!
The Lemon Clocks
“Time To Wake Up” (Rock Indiana 2020)
Here on their fifth album, “Time To Wake Up,” The Lemon Clocks proceed to explore and embrace varied late sixties and early seventies musical forms with remarkable results. Self-contained and self-assured, the band’s adventurous songs expand on the concepts they are so dearly enamored with. Each new Lemon Clocks album reveals growth and depth, and “Time To Wake Up” is no exception.
In case you are not familiar with the band, Jeremy Morris handles lead vocals as well as a slew of different instruments. Stefan Johansson and Oscar Granero are also multi-instrumentalists, while Carlos Vigara plays bass, and Dave Dietrich is on drums and percussion.
Directed by Jeremy’s mega-melodious vocals based in the Beatles-Badfinger range, “Time To Wake Up” takes listeners on an enchanted expedition of magical shapes and sensations. Captivating chord changes, shifting grooves, reverb-soaked trimmings, spinning synthesizer passages, haunting Mellotron motions, ringing glockenspeils and the warm tones of mandolins contribute to the interesting and exciting sounds housed within the album. Inspiring and surrealistic lyrics further illustrate the songs, producing a presentation vibrating with color and wonder.
Every single track on “Time To Wake Up” possesses memorable qualities, but for starters, there’s “Sleepwalkers” that simultaneously tip-toes and trembles across a bed of spacey squiggles, underlined by an eerie riff that is plucked over and over again. Imagine The Electric Prunes rubbing shoulders with Pink Floyd, and that should give you a good idea where the creepy-crawly confection is coming from.
Thieving the jaunty lick of Them’s “I Can Only Give Everything” and nailing it to a wall of trippy and hypnotic patterns, “Floating Free” signs on as another stroke of psychedelic genius, along with “You Are The Cosmos” and “Infinity Dream” that shimmer and swell with atmospheric elements. A shot of mind-bending ingredients arrive at the end of “Flowers In My Hair,” where the title cut of the album jingles to a clinging arrangement, and the salty temper of “Buzz Off!” duly buzzes with strange sonic figures and venomous verse aimed at a character suitably called Mister Mosquito.
Songs featuring hanclaps are always fun, and “Time To Wake Up” offers a couple of such efforts. Bouncing and bopping with optimism, “Brand New Day” reflects the bubblegummy blush of The Archies, and the popping garage rock of “Stop!” is powered by an utterly infectious hook and bright and breezy harmonies.
Set to a swaying rhythm and delivered in an easygoing manner, “People Come And Go” dispenses sage and spiritual commentary, “How I Miss You” slides in as a gorgeous mid-paced ballad rich with heart-tugging emotion, and the comparably thoughtful and effective “This Is Love!” would make John Lennon beam with paternal pride.
The closing number on “Time To Wake Up” is a cover of the Tommy James and The Shondells paisley-phased classic, “Crimson And Clover.” Stretching out the song to nearly fifteen minutes in length, The Lemon Clocks turn an already brain-twisting tune into a tapestry of epic proportions. The beginning of the band’s version of “Crimson And Clover” remains true to the original recording. But about halfway through the song, gears are switched and a celestial Moody Blues styled symphony enters the picture. The Lemon Clocks eventually return to “Crimson And Clover,” which proves to be a fitting finale to an album big on daring tricks and kicks.
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Big Stir Singles: The Yuletide Wave
(Big Stir Records 2020)
Nobody in their right mind has to be told 2020 has been a major downer. But the year is ending on a great note, because Big Stir Singles: The Yuletide Wave has arrived! Offering twenty-two holiday-related songs, the collection is primed to lift the spirits and restore hope and faith.
It’s only fitting Big Stir Singles: The Yuletide Wave begins with a song addressing the situation we are currently experiencing. And that track is Nick Frater’s Wash Your Hands Of Christmas, which speaks of the lack of lovely things we normally celebrate during the season. Despite the subject matter, the song sparkles and shines with beauty and bliss. Alison Faith Levy’s All I Want For Chanukah Is A Ukele strums and hums to the noggin-nodding burr of a ukele, and The Brother Steve’s I Love The Christmastime weighs in as a peppy piece of power pop perfection. Michael Simmons channels Frank Sinatra with impressive effects on the crooning Christmas Waltz and from Spygenius, there’s Revels Without A Claus that jumps and jerks to a wonky dance hall shuffle.
Wrapped in atmospheric attire, involving jazzy horns and novel melodies, I Remember You At Christmas by Anthanor plugs in as a poignant paean to a former sweetheart, while The Decibels cleverly combine the traditional hymn, Angels We Have Heard On High with segments of the sixties garage rock nugget, Gloria with hard-hitting appeal.
The Stan Laurels crib a cue from the warm vocals and detailed construction of The Beach Boys on the shimmery Noche Buena, and Kai Danzberg & Scott McPherson’s frisky The Day Before Christmas vividly recalls the anticipation felt as a child waiting for the fat man on a sleigh to deliver wish list toys and games.
Swinging and spinning with gripping chords and happy harmonies, Groovy Time Of The Year by The Bobbleheads is indeed groovy. Propelled by a bouncy beat and a sugar-coated bubblegummy chorus, the absolutely irresistible. All I Want Is You For Christmas by Kimberely Rew and Lee Cave-Berry sounds like a joint effort between The Archies and Fountains Of Wayne, and Blake Jones & The Trike Shop’s String The Lights And Hold On pitches an ear-pleasing repertoire of choppy drumming, incisive licks and fetching hooks.
Excellent entries from Librarians With Hickeys, Irene Pena, The Forty Nineteens, Anton Barbeau, Dolph Chaney, The JAC, Addison Love, The Stillsouls and Kelly’s Heels with Steve Rinaldi further complete this prized package of sonic greetings. Stuffed to the pores with catchy songs, Big Stir Singles: The Yuletide Wave can actually be enjoyed anytime of the year. You don’t have to practice a certain religion or believe in Santa Claus to appreciate these tasty treats. Every day is a holiday when it comes to a record flashing the Big Stir imprint, and here’s yet another production asserting their care, knowledge and recognition of quality music.
Living The Dream (JAM Records) 2020
He’s a singer, songwriter, multi-dimensional instrumentalist, record producer and owner of the Portage, Michigan based JAM label. That’s Jeremy Morris, who is known to music fans all over the world for the highly accomplished albums he has been spooling out on a regular basis for the past few decades. To say Jeremy releases a new effort every couple of months is no exaggeration.
Although Jeremy is a master of many musical fashions, his latest album, Living The Dream, concentrates on the pop rock side of the pole. Keying in at a whopping seventy-six minutes in length, the twenty-five track collection offers a nice mix of original and cover material.
Costumed in a coat of chiming guitars and sparkling sensations by the score, the title cut of the album launches the set off on an optimistic note, both sonically and lyrically. The aptly coined Keep The Faith also broadcasts Jeremy’s sunny attitude, Devil Next Door races with skittish spy styled rhythms, and Can’t Buy A Thrill imparts the pitfalls of substance abuse to an edgy and electrifying tenor.
Beaming with vibrancy and color, Your Sweet Relief could pass as a Badfinger classic, and the catchy ring of Can You Hear Me Calling? features Jamie Hoover of The Spongetones handling guitar, drums, keyboards and harmonica, as well as chipping in on vocals.
The similarly-christened I Want To Stay and Here To Stay further bear a rather like-minded sound, as the songs are spotted with bluesy George Harrison influenced licks sweeping and weeping with humming melodies. Then there’s the hypnotic pulse of the acoustic-laced Flying Away that blooms with perennial beauty and bliss.
Jeremy’s music has often been defined as Beatlesque, and a generous portion of Living The Dream certainly adheres to such a description. In fact, one of the remakes on the album is Dear Prudence, which melts into another Beatles song, Baby, You’re A Rich Man, before returning to Dear Prudence, resulting in a very cool and unique move.
Jeremy acknowledges his Byrdsian roots on a loyal take of So You Want To Be A Rock And Roll Star that includes his recently dearly departed dad, Bill Morris, on trumpet. Rick Nelson’s delicately poignant Are You Really Real? is revisited with utmost taste and grace, and The Flamin’ Groovies are saluted on the power popping nugget I Can’t Hide.
Jeremy’s shredding abilities are showcased to amazing effects on blistering readings of Rick Springfield’s Speak To The Sky and Norman Greenbaum’s Spirit In The Sky, where The Status Quo’s Pictures Of Matchstick Men is seriously as great as the initial trippy version.
Raining mettlesome hooks and pitch perfect harmonies, supported by inspiring arrangements and energy to spare, Living The Dream exposes Jeremy in a full-on poptastic mode, leading to an album that is a staple of its genre.
Howl (Big Stir Records) 2020
Formed 2012 in Cumbria, England, mylittlebrother features lead singer and pianist Will Harris, guitarist and vocalist Dan Mason, bassist and vocalist Robin Howson and drummer and vocalist Simon Buttress. The quartet recently released their long-awaited second full-length album, Howl, which is rich with sterling surprises.
Armed with a lovely voice emphasizing his British accent, Will sings his shrewdly-scripted songs on Howl with equal measures of warmth, charm and intensity. The band is truly terrific, delivering daring instrumental stunts, complemented by waves of in-the-pocket harmonies. A perfect pop song from head to toe, Responsibility romps and rolls to a biting hook, punctured with a burst of whistling sixties styled organ thrills. Built upon an attractive arrangement, a giddy chorus of “ba ba ba ba ba’s” and a flicker of freaky guitar gestures, Janey further embodies mylittlebrother’s knack for producing catchy pop rock. Quirky fret-fingering also arrives on the ear-splitting backwards distortion of Fallen, while Goldmine shakes and shuffles to a rather funky feel.
Starting off in a streamlined rock setting, Chicago is actually three songs mashed into a suite of sorts. The track ultimately transpires into a ravishing piano piece, flooded with melody and light. Majestic piano work is once again exercised on Time Of Our Lives, a sweeping ballad sure to steal the soul, and the title cut of the album favors a hard-edged rhythm and temper.
Comparisions to artists such as The Coral, The Granddaddys and Teenage Fan Club have often been pinned on mylittlebrother. But as Howl attests, they really sound like nobody except mylittlebrother. And that in itself is a good enough reason to give a listen to these engaging songs.
Leslie Pereira & The Lazy Heroes
Good Karma (Big Stir Records) 2020
Comprised of lead singer and guitarist Leslie Pereira, her wife Paula Venise on vocals and percussion, Rob Lontok on bass and Jeff Page on drums, Leslie Pereira & The Lazy Heroes have been deservedly deemed one of Los Angeles, California’s finest bands. Exciting live performances, bolstered by the quartet’s fantastic 2017 debut album, “Fight For Now,” securely sealed their royal reputation.
The band’s long-awaited sophomore effort, “Good Karma,” clocks in as a relevant companion to their first album. While acknowledgments to the punk-padded power pop philosophy of acts such as Blondie, The Go Go’s and The B52’s are present, Leslie Pereira & The Lazy Heroes modernize their insanely catchy songs with maximum value.
Firing on all cylinders, the group celebrates the joy of playing in a band on the suitably christened “Time To Rock” that simultaneously rolls and roars to a nagging beat. The title track of the album ping pongs with pogo-worthy rhythms, and “If I Could” springs forth with ringing riffs and sugar-sweet melodies.
A sense of suspense steers “Chrome” that grinds and glides with adventurous curves, where a sense of snarky humor marks the bold and brazen “Race Car,” which is aimed a sorry individual who has apparently failed at every aspect of life. Proving to be a dazzling duo, Leslie and Jeff alternate vocals – with Paula contributing a curtain of cool harmonies – on the absolutely awesome “Slip,” an angst-ridden sentiment of love gone bad featuring a shot of crunchy ACDC styled guitar gyrations. A bit of a swagger, a hint of a smirk and a gripping groove direct “Hot Tamale,” which posts as another standout number included on the collection.
Leslie’s tuneful vocals, projecting a sweeping edge, combined with the band’s killer instrumental instincts, are the stuff that makes “Good Karma” tick and click. Produced by Karen Basset of The Pandoras fame, the album embraces the band’s talent and passion from top to bottom. Twitching and bouncing with electricity, “Good Karma” deposits a dozen hook-happy songs that demand instant bodily reactions. So get the feet moving and rock on!