Categories
Pop Sunday

Nick Frater / Earworms

Nick Frater

Earworms (Big Stir)

https://bigstirrecords.bandcamp.com/album/earworms

Over the past several years, Nick Frater has assembled a gaggle of albums, EPs and singles that have collected gushing reviews from all those who have had the pleasure of experiencing these endeavors. Based in Croydon, England, the multi-diversified musician has always professed a penchant for seventies pop rock, but here on his latest album, Earworms, his love for the sounds of the decade is ramped up in full force. Although such influences are boldly expressed, Nick’s sharp-edged songwriting, combined with his industrious arranging and production techniques sit at the head of the class, preventing the material from coming off as mere mimicry.

 One of the first things that attracts listeners to a song is the singing. And Nick’s butter-melting vocals, which are squarely schooled in Beatlism, extending to the mannerisms of The Raspberries, Electric Light Orchestra, 10cc, Gerry Rafferty and Elvis Costello, certainly do give the songs on Earworms instant appeal. You couldn’t ask for a better frontman than Nick, who delivers these perfectly-tuned compositions with clarity and strength.

 A great choice as the opening number, It’s All Rumours, is a power pop marvel from the get-go. Ignited by slapping drums and stabbing riffs bleeding with distortion, the song is further engraved with twisty breaks and a fluttery falsetto. Jaunty piano chords jumpstart Lucky Strike, which transforms into a catchy vaudeville groove, while the rolling rhythms and punchy hooks of What’s With Your Heavy Heart? also features bluesy licks straight from the George Harrison playbook. 

A dreamy piano-driven ballad iced with a lightly-battered jazz flavor, Star-Crossed would have fit nicely on a Walter Egan album, where the absolutely infectious Buggin’ Out, beams brightly with twinkling guitars, spunky melodies and merry doo-wop harmonies.

In typical seventies fashion, Earworms concludes to a grand and majestic climax. Patterned after a glitzy Queen inspired presentation, How To Survive Somebody swells and soars to a chorus of melodramatic vocals, sweeping keyboards and thundering chords.

In a parallel dimension, the songs on Earworm would be parked neck to neck on the AM dial with chart-toppers  by Elton John, Paul McCartney and WingsThe Bay City Rollers, The Eagles and the Captain and Tennille. But good music is good music no matter what era it reflects, so there is no reason why Earworms  can’t be enjoyed now, and reward Nick Frater with the widespread success – both artistically and commercially – he so clearly commands. 

Categories
Boppin'

Give Me A Head With Hair, Long Quarantine Hair

As quarantine restrictions ease, I am still not in the merest hurry to get a haircut. My hair is now longer than it’s been since the mid ’80s, when I was managing a record store. Actually, it may even be longer than it was back then. If not, it’s close. It’s bushy and cascading, curly, voluminous. I’m still just about bald on top, mind you, but I have an increasingly lengthy mane nonetheless.

My reluctance to have someone go all Delilah on li’l ol’ Samson me has less to do with COVID concerns and much more to do with my…well, I guess with my satisfaction with my current shaggy ‘do. It feels good to have hair, the follically-challenged part of my North 40 notwithstanding. In times like these, any little trifle that can make us feel better is welcome, no matter how superficial that feeling may be.

As a boy in the 1960s, my hair was short. Every boy’s hair was short. Longer hair was for girls, unless you were either The Beatles or The Mighty Thor; the former was a pretty exclusive club, and the latter wasn’t from around here. As The Rolling StonesThe Monkees, and the male contingent within The Jefferson Airplane further modeled and popularized the idea of lengthier locks for the older boys (and The Monkees probably did more for that cause than anyone else, just via the mainstreaming familiarity of starring on a weekly TV show), those of us still in elementary school retained our exposed ears and close-to-the-head styling, and I doubt many (maybe any) of my peers objected. I never had a buzz-cut, but regular trips to the barber were routine, expected. Normal. The thought of having longer hair never even occurred to me.

(That said, I hated going to the barber. Sitting still was not what I did best, but my regular barber got the job done. I remember visiting a different guy exactly once, and he kept getting annoyed with me, and he kept forcefully jerking my head into position. Bastard. A session with any barber, including my regular guy, left my neck and shoulders itchy, as stray bits of short ‘n’ sharp debris nestled under my collar and under my shirt. On the bright side, my regular barber had comic books for me to read while I awaited my turn to be shorn. And afterward, I liked to run my hand against the grain of the hair just above the nape of my neck, the bristly light resistance providing a unique and fulfilling closure to the process of a haircut.)

Things changed in the ’70s. I was still as four-cornered as they come, but even a square such as I wasn’t immune to a shift in prevailing fashion, as longer hair become more and more common for guys. My barber became a hair stylist, a transformation no less remarkable than Clark Kent entering a nearby phonebooth and emerging as Superman. Dad was still not gonna allow me to start looking like a hippie or a rock star, but the accepted look of male grooming evolved anyway. By eighth grade, I decided that I would have long hair and a beard when I grew up. By high school, while still beardless and not much shaggier than Paul McCartney circa ten years prior, I was using a blow dryer regularly. 
Punk rock hit as I transitioned from high school to college. The Ramones had long hair, but the prevailing image for most of the young punks was the short and spiky hairdo. Over time, this replaced my ’70s notion of stylin’ like Haight-Ashbury. I never quite got to looking like Sid Vicious, and settled instead for a power-pop hybrid that aped the pre-1967 Beatles. It always comes back to The Beatles, man.

The jobs I had from 1978 to 1984 did not favor tresses hanging much over my ears. The record store job was different. My hair grew to the point that customers remarked that I looked like Neil Diamond. That ended in 1986 when I got a job in retail sales, which is still what I do today. That gig required shorter locks. The length of my hair has varied in the ensuing decades (as the hair on top gradually vanished), while rarely getting too long before a supervisor reminds me of my need to visit a barber. Stylist.


Until now. New York state has allowed salons to reopen within appropriate guidelines, but I’ve come to dig having my hair longer. My bosses have mentioned a preference for me to return to a somewhat less hirsute style. Still, there’s been no hassle, and my stated intent to remain the walking, talking embodiment of a song by The Cowsills is understood and accepted, at least for now. It’s getting wild, but it’s clean, and it’s mine. I don’t even mind the miles of gray streaked throughout. I run my hands through it, and the feeling is as validating now as it was when I rubbed the back of my head when I was six or seven. Give me a head with hair. Long, beautiful hair. Shining, streaming, gleaming, waxen, flaxen. Here baby, there Mama, everywhere Daddy Daddy. HAIR!

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This Is Rock ‘n’ Roll Radio with Dana & Carl airs Sunday nights from 9 to Midnight Eastern, on the air in Syracuse at SPARK! WSPJ 103.3 and 93.7 FM, and on the web at http://sparksyracuse.org/ You can read about our history here.

The many fine This Is Rock ‘n’ Roll Radio compilation albums are still available, each full of that rockin’ pop sound you crave. A portion of all sales benefit our perpetually cash-strapped community radio project:

Volume 1: download
Volume 2: CD or download
Volume 3: download
Volume 4: CD or download
Waterloo Sunset–Benefit For This Is Rock ‘n’ Roll Radio:  CD or download
Carl’s writin’ a book! The Greatest Record Ever Made! (Volume 1)will contain 165 essays about 165 tracks, each one of ’em THE greatest record ever made. An infinite number of records can each be the greatest record ever made, as long as they take turns. Updated initial information can be seen here: THE GREATEST RECORD EVER MADE! (Volume 1).

Categories
Pop Sunday

Bill Lloyd /Working The Long Game

Bill Lloyd

Working The Long Game (SpyderPop Records/Big Stir Records 2021) 

https://bigstirrecords.bandcamp.com/album/working-the-long-game

As one half of Foster & Lloyd, Bill Lloyd experienced a run of success on the country charts in the late eighties. Based in Nashville, Tennessee,  the acclaimed singer, songwriter and mercurial instrumentalist has further enjoyed a gratifying solo career as a pop rock artist.

Originally distributed by the SpyderPop label in the fall of 2018, Working The Long Game marked Bill’s ninth solo excursion. Earlier this year, SpyderPop joined forces with Big Stir Records, resulting in a partnership focusing on reissuing select albums, with Working The Long Game rolling in as the third release in the series.

 If there is any album worthy of a reprise, it is definitely Working The Long Game. Musically and lyrically, every song radiates spirit and substance. Bill’s lucid and lilting vocals, paired with in-the-pocket performances, equals dose after dose of melodious brilliance.

 A number of notable friends were also recruited to lend their craft to the sessions. Among these familiar figures are Cheap Trick bassist Tom Petersson, Freedy Johnston, Scott Sax of Wanderlust, Buddy Mondlock, Aaron Lee Tasjan, and Graham Gouldman, whose credits involve authoring hit singles for The Hollies and The Yardbirds, as well as playing in his own renowned bands, such as The Mindbenders, Hot Legs and 10cc

Guitars that simultaneously chime and crunch man the punchy Satellite, and the title track of the album shuffles to a merry vaudeville- inspired beat, which sounds kind of like a collaboration between The Kinks and Paul McCartney. A pinch of swagger and crackling power chords  stand as the engaging elements behind Yesterday, where the jagged riffage and rustling rhythms of Interrupted produces a bit of a funky tenor.

 Sealed to the seams with bracing hooks and a perky chorus, the slightly-country seasoned Make That Face, and the haunting glare of What Time Won’t Heal are additionally accented by sharp and spacious arrangements. Another attention-grabber on the album is the incredibly catchy Go-To-Girl, which romps to a youthfully exuberant bounce that crosses the sunny harmonies of The Beach Boys with the bright polish of The Smithereens

If you missed Working The Long Game the first time around, now is your chance to score a copy and sink your ears into a groovy guitar pop extravaganza. Nothing but the best is expected from Bill Lloyd, and here’s an album that delivers the goods on all counts.

By Beverly Paterson

Categories
Boppin'

THE GREATEST RECORD EVER MADE: Hey Jude

An infinite number of rockin’ pop records can be the greatest record ever made, as long as they take turns. Today, this is THE GREATEST RECORD EVER MADE!

For years and years, “Hey Jude” was regarded by many as The Beatles‘ crowning achievement among singles, the fabbest of the fab, the toppermost of the poppermost. No, wait–neither fab nor poppermost, for “Hey Jude” was far more mature and accomplished than that earlier yeah-yeah-yeah hold my hand stuff. It had depth! It had meaning! It had purpose! It had a big room full of people swayin’ and singin’ Na-na-na-NA-na-na-na!, as if they’d lost their way and forgotten the precise words to “The Batman Theme!”

And I loved it. Wholeheartedly.

“Hey Jude” was released in the summer of 1968, a double-barreled 45 with the raucous “Revolution” as its flip. The Beatles promoted it via a video clip aired by British TV host David Frost and subsequently in the U.S. on The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour. I missed all of this, and I don’t remember hearing it on the radio or anywhere until the early ’70s. That’s when I finally heard “Hey Jude,” as I was visiting my brother Rob in Albany, and listening intently to an oldies radio countdown of the all-time greatest songs. “Hey Jude” came in second, falling just short of the unstoppable juggernaut that was “Dizzy” by Tommy Roe. Or maybe it was the other around, but no matter. I adored both songs immediately.

There was never a time where I didn’t like The Beatles, at least no such time after Beatlemania hit the States in ’64, when I was mere lad of four. But the early ’70s was a huge period of discovery and rediscovery for me in terms of your John, Paul, George, and Ringo. I listened to the Beatles records I knew, sought out the Beatles records I didn’t know, saw the Beatles films I hadn’t seen, and re-watched the one I knew–A Hard Day’s Night–whenever it turned up on TV. The Beatley Badfinger was my favorite current group on the radio, and the Beatley Raspberries later became my favorite current group on the radio; in the period between Badfinger and The Raspberries, Paul McCartney & Wings was likely my favorite current group on the radio. But my all-time favorite group? There was never, ever any question about who that was. There still isn’t.

Granted, the onslaught of punk in the late ’70s prompted me to re-examine my ongoing allegiance to The Beatles. My newfound devotion to The Ramones rivaled my Beatlemania, but certainly didn’t replace it. I did grow tired of the solo careers of the former Beatles by that time, and even started writing a song urging them to never get back to where they once belonged (‘Cause you got a good reason/For staying apart just as long as you can/You got a good reason/All things must pass, you can’t do that again). I developed a distinct preference for The Beatles’ pre-1967 recordings, before they got too serious with the Sgt. Pepper and the “All You Need Is Love” and the goo goo ga joob. On the other hand: RevolverRubber SoulBeatles VI and Beatles ’65 and Meet The Beatles and the American mix of “Thank You, Girl” on The Beatles’ Second Album? Yeah, yeah, a thousand times yeah! 

In my 1980s Beatles milieu, “Hey Jude” was not here, nor there, nor everywhere. I still liked it, but it was no longer in my Top 100, not even close. Hell, when a rummage-sale dive at a church basement in Buffalo netted me an Atlantic 45 of Wilson Pickett testifyin’ his own take on “Hey Jude,” the Wicked, Wicked Pickett’s rendition instantly became the version in my mind. That remained the case for decades thereafter. And seeing Paul (now Sir Paul) haul the song out again and again for seemingly every TV appearance honoring The Beatles’ legacy eventually caused “Hey Jude” to grate on me. Na-na-na-NA-na-na-na. No. No-no-NO-no-no-no.

There was an exception to this recently. I don’t remember what show it was, what specific honor or accolade or day-in-the-life matter was at hand. But there was Paul McCartney, on my little 32″ TV screen, once again recommending that we take a sad song and make it better. I don’t know why. I can’t explain it. But after years of indifference, even disdain for this song…

…Well, all of a sudden “Hey Jude” clicked with me, for the first time in years. I may have even joined in with the na-na-nas, as I sat on my couch and remembered how large this song once loomed in my legend.

It would be difficult to name one track as the definitive Beatles track. I usually regard “Rain” as The Greatest Record Ever Made, but that doesn’t make it the definitive Beatles track. “Yesterday” is underrated in spite of its ubiquity, but it’s three Beatles shy of even being a Beatles record, let alone the definitive example. One could argue on behalf of the moptopped frenzy of “She Loves You” or “I Want To Hold Your Hand,” the mind-expansion of “A Day In The Life” or “Strawberry Fields Forever” or “I Am The Walrus,” the pathos of “Eleanor Rigby,” the elegance of “Penny Lane,” the sheer beauty of “We Can Work It Out,” the Utopian promise of “All You Need Is Love.”

But if it’s gotta be just one, it’s “Hey Jude.” “Hey Jude” is the definitive Beatles track. It captures one moment among many, just another snippet of time when The Beatles ruled the world. It captures it perfectly, the movement we need right there on our shoulders. It’s The Beatles still playing as a band, the fractures in that foundation still bonded together in a way only four specific people would ever truly understand. It’s The Beatles with nothing to prove, already reigning o’er their domain by divine right, the four kings of EMI sitting stately on the floor. It’s The Beatles proving it anyway, because they’re the goddamn Beatles.

So let it out and let it in, hey Jude, begin. You were made to go out and get her. Tonight, I will see Paul McCartney in concert for the first time. He’ll play some songs I know and love, representing a body of work I cherish above all others. He’ll sing “Yesterday.” He’ll command us to “Let It Be.” He’ll channel James Bond with “Live And Let Die,” a license to thrill. And a splendid time will be guaranteed for all.

And he will sing “Hey Jude.” Where once I dreaded that notion, I now embrace it and anticipate it as a highlight. And I will sing along, full voice, with over 30,000 of my fabbest friends. Na-na-na-NA-na-na-na. For well you know that it’s a fool who plays it cool by making his world a little colder. Better, better, better, AH!

Categories
Pop Sunday

The Weeklings / In Their Own Write

The Weeklings

In Their Own Write (JEM Records 2021)

http://www.jemrecordings.com/


Live albums are the next best thing to being there, especially when brought to you by a group as great as The Weeklings. Recorded on the stages of the Strand Theater in Lakewood, New Jersey and Daryl’s House in Pawling, New York, In Their Own Write truly does capture the widely adored combo in all their energetic and exciting splendor.

 Because The Weeklings are so adept at composing and playing heritage genres, you would swear on a stack of vinyl that their songs were platinum-plated hit singles from the golden age of pop rock. 
Bobbing with jingling guitars and cheery choruses, Little Tease, Don’t Know, Don’t Care and Little Elvis mimic the mop-topped Liverpool Class of 1963, where Morning, Noon And Night projects a stirring folk rock feel, accompanied by the tremor of a bluesy harmonica. 

Wrapped in rotating rhythms, surrounded by power chords  and drum drills snapping like rubber bands, In The Moment bears a potent Who presence, the chugging roll of 1,000 Miles Away rests firmly on Chuck Berry turf, and the melodic shimmer of Leave Me With My Pride would have been right at home on a Raspberries album.

No Weeklings’ gig is complete without greeting The Beatles. That said, In Their Own Write contains a pair of John Lennon and Paul McCartney covers, but rather than recycling the songs note for note, The Weeklings offer treatments that are far different from the original versions. Both The Word and Baby You’re A Rich Man are shaped of  a stately stance,  marked by weighty arrangements, a measured intensity and harmonica interludes, resulting in very unique and imaginative takes.

The Weeklings flex their stadium rock muscles to maximum momentum on the pulsing Running Away, which climaxes to a whirring jam, as well as the ultra-catchy 3, that bucks and bounces with stabbing hooks, elevated harmonies and a powerful and gritty lead vocal reminiscent of John Waite during his Babys days.

Intended to be experienced to at ear-splitting volume, In Their Own Right will have listeners clapping their hands, stomping their feet and singing along with these nifty tunes. The Weeklings have passed the audition. Here’s to a standing ovation and an encore! 

Categories
Boppin'

THE GREATEST RECORD EVER MADE: Thank you, Girl!

I put this piece together as a potential chapter for my (clearly imaginary) book The Greatest Record Ever Made! (Volume 1), but it is not included in the book’s current blueprint. That may change, but for now, it’s a blog piece instead.(And, considering the parts-is-parts manner in which Capitol Records cobbled together the American versions of The Beatles’ early LPs, it’s fitting that this chapter was itself stitched together from sections contained within two previous posts. Waste not, want not.)An infinite number of songs can each be THE greatest record ever made, as long as they take turns. Today, this is THE GREATEST RECORD EVER MADE!

THE BEATLES: Thank You, GirlWritten by John Lennon and Paul McCartneyProduced by George MartinOriginal release: Single (B-side of “From Me To You”), Parlophone Records [U.K.], 1963GREM! mix: From the album The Beatles’ Second Album, Capitol Records, 1964

Americans old enough to meet The Beatles‘ records in the ’60s (or even for a good while thereafter) were introduced to this forever fab sound via U.S. label Capitol Records‘ much-maligned and possibly Philistine muckin’ about with the original British tracks. The American LPs were shorter than their nearest U.K. counterparts, there were consequently more Beatles albums released here than in Her Majesty’s domain, and a lot of the tracks were tweaked and meddled with by Yankee hands indifferent to the intent of The Beatles and their producer, George Martin. One could imagine an American record producer chomping on a cigar and shrugging off criticism of such crass creative butchery: It’s not ART ferchrissakes, it’s a freakin’ pop record! Jeez, it’s for kids who don’t know any better; otherwise they’d listen to something good instead. But until they grow up outta this Beatle nonsense, WE know what the American kids wanna hear!

Philistines? Yeah Yeah Yeah. But I remain adamantly devoted to The Beatles’ American LPs. It’s how we heard The Beatles, how we fell in love with The Beatles. My Rubber Soul is the American Rubber Soul, the one that inspired Brian Wilson to create Pet Sounds. My two all-time favorite albums are the U.S. patchworks Beatles ’65 and Beatles VI. I prefer Meet The Beatles to With The Beatles. I recognize the purity of the British originals. I can’t and won’t shake my affection for the records that made me.

For all the (sometimes deserved) crap hurled at Capitol Records’ somewhat ham-handed treatment of The Beatles’ records before Sgt. Pepper, “Thank You, Girl” is one shining example of Capitol taking a fab song and making it better. The original U.K. version of this track is fine. But the U.S. version, on Capitol’s money-grabbing hodgepodge LP The Beatles’ Second Album? Man, that track explodes with more energy than even virgin vinyl can carry, adding extra harmonica parts, absolutely superfluous (yet paradoxically essential) echo, and a full-volume, full-throttle atmosphere that could be seen as over-the-top if weren’t so exactly, unerringly right. There are days when this is The Greatest Record Ever Made. And there are certainly occasional evening commutes when this is the only song worth playing, over and over, making me glad when I was blue.

The American mix of “Thank You, Girl” is better than the U.K. version. It’s not even close. I remember the first time I heard the British “Thank You, Girl.” I was in high school, spring of ’77, and I bought an import reissue of The Beatles’ Hits EP, specifically to own a copy of “Thank You, Girl,” a track I knew and loved from my cousin Maryann’s copy of The Beatles’ Second Album. And I was so disappointed with the relatively lifeless mix on the EP. AND IT HAD LESS HARMONICA! Heresy! Sure, it turned out to be heresy in reverse, I guess, but no matter. I knew which version moved me. I still do. I chalked it off to experience, and snagged a beat-up copy of The Beatles’ Second Album at the flea market. And all I’ve gotta do is thank you, Capitol. Thank you, Capitol.

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Categories
Birthdays

Trevor Horn

Born on this day in 1949, in Hetton Le HoleHoughton le SpringCounty Durham, United Kingdom, bassist and record producer, Trevor Horn. Horn was instrumental in producing many influential bands in the 80’s, including; Frankie Goes To Hollywood, The Buggles, Paul McCartney, Yes, Art of Noise and Seal.

Categories
Birthdays

Klaus Voorman

Born on this day in 1938, artist and musician, Klaus Voorman. Those familiar with the legend of The Beatles, will know that Voorman design the cover of The BeatlesRevolver Lp.

Categories
Quick Spins

Matthew Sweet, Braam Brothers & The Laurie Berkner Band

Matthew Sweet

Catspaw (Omnivore)

After 1997’s Blue Sky On Mars, Matthew Sweet just kinda fell off my radar. Although I enjoyed the covers records he did with Susanna Hoffs, I lost touch with his solo work. After hearing rave reviews from friends regarding Catspaw, I thought it might be time to get reacquainted.

Sweet’s voice is in remarkable shape, belying the fact that his ground-breaking Girlfriend Lp is 30 years old. Here, Sweet is stripped back to that era, with in-your-face dry production, framing that evergreen voice. That isn’t the sole reminder of his biggest past success. The songs are really, seriously good.

The opener, Blown Away, is a chugging White Album rocker that blisters with rough guitar and McCartney-inspired bass, both played by Sweet. Opting to cover lead parts himself, Sweet succeeds in pulling off what amounts to an amalgam of all the guitarists who’ve been his sidemen over the years. Challenge The Gods and Stars Explode both get the blood pumping with similar aplomb, chorus hooks and those trademark, double-tracked Sweet harmony vocals.

Catspaw is a strong outing that surprisingly improves with each successive listen. Highly recommended.

Braam Brothers

Landscapes

https://distrokid.com/hyperfollow/braambrothers/landscapes

For me, one of the joys of listening to and appreciating new music, is that you often get so much more than you originally anticipated. Such is the case with the latest by The Braam Brothers, Landscape.

The brothers were kind enough to send me a vinyl review copy, which is almost unheard of these days. Unpacking the Lp and peeling off the cellophane, I could already feel the anticipation growing. Coupled with a really nicely-designed cover, I hoped that the music inside would be equally as appealing. It would not disappoint.

As I went through the first listen, my mind seriously began to wander. Not because the songs or performances were lacking or uninteresting, but because the overall vibe of the production took me back to a very specific place and time. 

In the early 90’s, my best friend lived in a loft in Chicago, with two of his fellow Second City performers. It was everything you’d imagine, from a manikin serving as a coatrack, to a beat-up motorcycle permanently installed in the freight elevator. My friend’s roommates were obsessed with R.E.M., and their first record seemed to be playing in that place, 24 hours a day. It almost had the feel of being on the set of a hip indie film, or stage production. For me, it was always a cool hang, whether we were scarfing down pizza as we took in an old  monster movie, or making fun of the Johns nervously trying to pick up the girls that were always, literally, walking the streets below.

The Braam Brothers took me back there, to a place and time that I rarely ever think about these days. Those dusty memories were there in my head alright, though months, even years, go by without their remembrance. I can’t promise a similar experience for you, but I can promise that, at the very least, you’ll get to hear some top-notch music.

My picks to click on this are the stirring title track, and the haunting I Want Your Love, both of which will make this Lp a contender for any year-end best list. These are honest tunes, played with no filter, by real musicians.

The Laurie Berkner Band

Let’s Go!

https://www.amazon.com/Lets-Go-Laurie-Berkner-Band

Laurie Berkner has covered in the upper echelon of family music for years now. Her songs are always crisp, smart and tuneful, a trend that continues with her latest, Let’s Go!

The title track is a nifty bit of pop set to the hand-jive rhythm, which lists everything that needs to be accomplished before we leave the house. If you’ve got one of those kids that drags his or her feet getting ready for an outing, this one’s for you!

Got a kid that resists wearing a mask during these unique times? The Superhero Mask Song is here to save the day! Without fear or condescension, Berkner explains how every kid can contribute to making their world a better place. This is good, positive stuff! My fave of the set is When It’s Cold, a winter song about keeping warm that’s as fun as it is funky.

Taking in this release just on the strength of how it sounds, it’s expertly produced and lively. The musicianship is top-notch, too. Berkner’s also got a ringer in the  band’s line-up, with Brady Rymer on bass guitar. Top-notch.

By Dan Pavelich

Categories
Boppin'

My Guitars

An earlier version of this post appeared at Boppin’ (Like The Hip Folks Do) on March 24, 2018. It has been updated slightly, but is still prepared to string you along.

Meghan and my black guitar, though the date stamp is wrong.

Two of the guitars, the electric ones, stand virtually forgotten in a corner of my office at home. The older of the two–a red one I bought shortly after my fortieth birthday, more than twenty-one years ago–is in its hard case, missing a string, maybe two. It’s been missing strings before. A long time back, my then very young daughter Meghan had her Mom, my lovely wife Brenda, bring her to the music store, my red guitar in hand, to have its strings replaced as a gift for Dad. I was touched beyond description. I used to play it. Not very often, never well, nor even adequately. I had no talent, no technique, no musical acumen whatsoever. Still, I plugged in. I knew some chords, mangled as they were in my clumsy hands. I’d forgotten the notes I used to know, but I could still manage an inept G, an approximate C, the odd D, E, A, and D7, and I do mean odd. I turned up, and slammed. The result never quite sounded like “(I’m Not Your) Steppin’ Stone” or “Mr. Tambourine Man” or Lennon and McCartney’s “I’ll Be On My Way.” It was noise. But it was my noise.

And then I’d usually pop another string. So much for channeling Johnny Ramone.

The black guitar arrived in the mail in December of 2007, I think. It wasn’t a Christmas gift, just something I acquired via incentive points I needed to spend in a hurry. The memory is bittersweet. The day the guitar was delivered, I unpacked it and went upstairs to the office, where Meghan was at the computer with her cousin Stephanie, who was visiting Syracuse for the holidays. It was not the last time we would see Stephanie. She returned for a visit the following summer, when we took her to see The Flashcubes and to the New York State Fair. She was taken from us in October of 2008, the cruelest blow of our lives so far. Thinking of that black guitar makes me think of Stephanie, a pleasant memory that makes me cry, without fail.

The two acoustic guitars are in the garage, accumulating dust, both missing strings, neither played in years. All four guitars are out of tune. I can’t tune them properly, not even the black one with all six strings intact. I can’t play. I can’t make the music I wish I could make.

When I did try to play my guitars, there was a simple chord sequence I used to use, a G-A-D-G-A-D-G-E-A-G-C-A-D-G-A if I recall correctly. It was the presumed melody for a song in my head. The only lyrics it ever had have been with me for decades:

Sometimes in my dreams we still talk to each other
Although in real life I know we’re done with one another
I don’t know if I’d want you to return
I’d just feel better if I could learn
What became of you
Because I remember you

In my head, it was about the people who’d once been integral parts of my life before they slipped away. The high school confidante who killed himself. The teen co-conspirator who later severed her ties with me. The soulmate who was never really my girlfriend, though both of us wondered if we’d be married someday. The enigma who wanted to be my girlfriend, but I wasn’t ready for her. The college bud I discarded in anger. Pals and passersby. Lovers and friends I still can recall; some are dead, and some are living. Family. Regrets? I’ve had a few. I can’t say if they’re too few to mention.

Lovely wife Brenda, back in our guitar-lesson days

Yet I know I’ve been blessed as well. Brenda and I are still together. Meghan, no longer the little girl who dragged her Dad’s red guitar to the store for mending, graduated with highest honors from Ithaca College in 2017, and snagged a part-time job–in her field!–at Syracuse University Press. I acknowledge the bad. I embrace the good. And I try to keep on playing, in my own fashion.

My daily blog Boppin’ (Like The Hip Folks Do) debuted on January 18th, 2016, originally with the less-distinctive title CC Says. It took just under a year to accumulate 50,000 views, and just over another fourteen months to quadruple that figure. It’s over a half a million strong now–just like Woodstock! It’s a modest number still, but one I embrace as good. The road to relevance winds on. You’re welcome to travel along with me.

I can’t play. I can write. I’ll be here every day for as long as I can. Maybe I’ll pick up the black guitar for a bit, just to remember. And just to play, even though I can’t. But the noise I make remains my own.

(Oh, and for the full story of my life-long failed attempts to make music, I refer you to “I’ve Got The Music In Me [And That’s Where It’s Gonna Stay].” Many guitar strings were harmed in the making of this picture.)