The Lost Album (Tollie)
I refuse to let The Smithereens’ Lost Album to be a bittersweet realization. As a diehard fan of these Jersey boys, I claim it as nothing short of a miracle. It’s a gift that 99% of Smithereens’ fans thought was an impossibility, a new album with original frontman Pat DiNizio’s distinctive baritone, front and center.
In between record deals with Capitol and RCA, in 1993, the band headed into the studio on their own dime. The twelve tracks we’re treated to here, are power pop gold. Slightly less-produced than 1989’s 11 and1991’s Blow Up, it’s chock-full of the meat-and-potatoes rock the quartet is famous for.
Out Of This World and Stop Bringing Me Down, find the band in their Marshall crunch mode, while Monkey Man and I’m Sexy are pure pop fun. The real standouts, however, are some of the more quiet numbers, where DiNizio lets his inner Buddy Holly take over. A World Apart and Face The World With Pride are among the best material The Smithereens have ever produced. Dammit, this is wonderful!
As a critic, I listen to a massive amount of new music, for the purpose of reviewing it. More often than not, though, the cursory consideration is more of a task that needs to be completed, and less, a moment of musical enjoyment. In a very small fraction of those instances, I am quite literally awe-struck by what I’m hearing. This, is that.
Diana Panton is an award-winning jazz singer, blessed with a voice that softly enters the room and then the ears, with a whisper that cannot be ignored. It is as similarly-captivating as the emoting of classic singers like Mindy Smith and Madeleine Peyroux, you simply hear it and want more.
The opener, a medley of Where Do You Start? and Once Upon A Time, is exquisite. Heartbreak has never sounded so good. Panton’s version of Lennon and McCartney’s Yesterday, is relevatory, with an arrangement that bends the familiar melody into new shapes and sizes. There are many other really savvy song selections here, like a wonderful reading of Armando Manzanero Canche and Norma Winstone’s classic, Just Sometimes. Very highly recommended.
Pressed & Ironed (Big Stir)
Big Stir Records gives us the debut from Crossword Smiles, a new collaboration comprised of Tom Curless and Chip Saam. These two gents are well-known in pop circles, a place where Pressed & Ironed will doubtlessly be embraced.
The opener, Feet On The Ground, is a nifty Gin Blossoms-styled rocker, followed by the somber October Leaves, which feels like more 90’s-inspired alt-rock, in the absolute best way. In fact, a lot of these tracks conjured up images of my own life, pre-marriage and responsibilities, when I was completely unattached and gigging around Chicago with my band.
My fave of the set, however, is the power-popping Lotus, which takes off like a jet engine, buoyed by crunchy guitars and a wide-open, unforgettable chorus. Though I prefer the faster-paced numbers, Curless & Saam are equally adept at switching into other gears, as evidenced by the atmospheric folk of Walk Softy, and the Zombies/Doors-inspired Parallel Lines, which is pop music at its ethereal best. Very well done!
By Dan Pavelich