The Stanleys Return to San Diego- The Black Cat Bar / November 15 2014
For Australian quartet the Stanley’s, it was a long way to come for a small turnout, but for the two dozen or so lucky fans who caught their set at the Black Cat Bar on November 15, it was powerpop nirvana.
This was the Stanleys second visit to San Diego, having previously played at defunct bar Eleven in 2012 and was date four of a fourteen gig trek across the U.S. The band borrowed gear from the other groups on the bill (my own True Stories and Los Angeles based group, the Lexingtons), putting on an excellent ten song set that hit all the classic points of good rock ‘n’ roll with melody. There was only a line check, so unfortunately the sound was a bit muddy, but their music’s youthful energy shone through. There is nothing remotely retro in their approach, but the Stanley’s most obvious musical influence is classic seventies styled power pop, ala the likes of the Raspberries or for the more indie minded 80’s music fan, Husker Du.
The set was a compact, but energetic 30 minutes, that really showed off the bands song hooks. Only one cover was included in their set list, “Just What I Needed” by the Cars (1978 / #27), but it was actually the comparatively weakest number of the night.
Opening with “Cigarette Glow,” the Stanleys have clearly honed their set down to pure muscle and melody, as it and pretty much every song played sounded like a single. There were no extended solos, no long intros, just nine short bursts of three minute pop gems. Favorite song of the night was, “Always” which adds a bit of new wavey keys to the mix, keeping the shout a long choruses intact, but anywhere the needle dropped on this particular record would make a powerpop fan smile. The Stanleys closed strong with the anthemic song, “Kids Gonna Rock,” highlighted by an excellent twin lead guitar break.
Post show, front man Mark DiRenzo was enthusiastic, despite the small crowd. “We’re not doing it for the money,” he said good naturedly. “If that was the case, we would’ve given up long ago. We like this,” he said, gesturing to the touring world. “We’ll be back.” www.thestanleys.com.au
Camille Bloom: Big Dreams
A six track EP of acoustic guitar and voice from Camille Bloom. These are spare arrangements, though there is some icing on the cake in the form of smatterings of electric guitar, harmonies and the occasional hand drum. I’ve been fortunate to catch Bloom live and can attest that she does indeed have a great voice, capable of reaching a sweet note or hitting on a growl as needed, with a touch of the world weary that commands attention.here it’s well balanced with her wonderful percussive playing style that really drives her music, perhaps most evident here in “The Zombie Song.” It’s a tune that also highlights one of Bloom’s great strengths, the topical nature of much of her music
That particular song deals with repercussions of the internet age, but much more direct is opener “The System Is Broken,” a bluesy observational tune, which gives it’s lyrical direction in it’s title. Great stuff – Bloom’s skilled song crafting and lyrical playfulness automatically put her way above the typical singer-songwriter.
The clear single is “Big Dreams,” an uptempo pop gem that sets two guitars and harmony vocals against a Laurie Anderson type backing vocal in the verse and the telling line “…happiness must be earned…” . It’s a great song. I’d love to hear a full band version of this, it reminds me a smidge of Suzanne Vega’s early singles. The disc closes with the more delicate finger picked, “To The End,” a song that draws you in on the strength of the emotion in Bloom’s voice.
Bottom line? Singer-songwriter fans will love this disc. It’s a great taster for Bloom’s music and confirms that she’s an artist well worth investigating further.
Recorded by Don Gunn @ The Office, Seattle WA. www.camillebloom.com
The Danny Green Trio: After the Calm (OA2 Records)
10 jazz originals from pianist Danny Green accompanied by his compatriots, bassist Justin Grinell and drummer Julien Cantelm. This is no mere frontman with backing situation here, the three work as one, driving the songs, moving together as they enhance the composition. Ever see a flock of birds fly and swirl through the air in unison? Like that.
The album has different moods, the melancholy lament of the appropriately named “In a Dreamy State.” the jaunty, almost pop number, “Two Ways About It,” a Latin- flavored tune, “Chro Pra Corrente,” and the moody title track, which features my favorite moment on the album, in the tempo and atmospheric shift at 4:00.
While Green’s playing is brilliant, both lyrical and expressive, it’s the mix of performances for all three players that makes this album such a wonderful listen. All three are virtuoso players, you could really pick any song as a showcase for their talents. Grinell has standout performances throughout the album, but the closing track, “I Got Kite” has some particularly tasty licks and playful lines
My favorite track is probably “March of the Ghouls,” which has a hip, early-sixties cocktail jazz vibe, the sort of tune you might hear in the background of a bar scene in a vintage Twilight Zone episode. Yes, that good. Also nice is “Song For Hailey,” Cantelm’s wonderfull brush work accenting the bittersweet sentiment in Green’s playing.
Unconditionally recommended to anyone who appreciates good jazz, instrumental music or soundtracks.
Produced by Danny Green. Recorded, mixed, and mastered by Peter Sprague at Spragueland in Encinitas, CA. www.dannygreen.net
Hall & Oates / SDSU October 25 2014
A near capacity house greeted Daryl Hall & John Oates at their concert on October 25 at the Cal Coast Credit Union Open Air Theatre. Backed by a five piece band, the duo played a tight crowd pleasing 15-song (11+ encores:2+2) set that focused on the hits but still managed to leave out some heavy favorites. Live the band has an even more soulful element to their sound, with the instrumentation allowing room to stretch out a little.
They haven’t released an album of original music since 2003’s Do It For Love, but based on a career that has seen 37 chart singles to date, Hall & Oates is still a major draw. On this night, they definitely pulled in an older crowd, but they were plenty loud and enthusiastic, up on their feet and dancing for much of the show.
Staging was basic, just colored lights on backdrop. It was in essence a greatest hits concert, with only two of the fifteen tunes, “Back Together Again” (1976) and “Las Vegas Turnaround” (1973) not Top 40 singles, and those were both well known enough that much of the audience was singing along. Nothing post 1985 was included.
High points included their version of Mike Oldfield’s “Family Man” (#6 /1983) and powerpop gem, “Did It In A Minute,” (#9/1982) , but this was a solid show from start to finish. Eleven songs in the main set may seem a bit short, but it was the right eleven. They flowed seamlessly together. And though the band must have played these tunes countless times, they all seemed to be having a great time.
There wasn’t a lot of banter, except for a few quick intros, “good to be back” at the beginning and a mention of Hall’s Darryl’s House television show, were about it, they let the music do the talking.
The biggest response from the audience came via “Sara Smile” (#4 / 1976) which had the crowd providing spontaneous harmony vocals, before closing out the main part of the show with “I Can’t Go For That” (#1 /1981)
The encores just added to the roll call of hits, with “Rich Girl” (#1 / 1977) and “You Make My Dreams” (#5 / 1981) up first, followed by “Kiss On My List” (#1 /1981) and “Private Eyes” (#1/1981)
It’s easy to forget just how big Hall & Oates was during their heyday. Their newer music, most recently 2006’s, Home For Christmas, is all pretty good and essential for Hall & Oates fans, but the run of hits that they had between 1976 and 1988, the bulk of this set, is just about unbeatable
The crowd definitely left happy.
Maneater / Out of Touch / Did It In A Minute / Say It Isn’t So / Family Man / Back Together Again / Las Vegas Turnaround / She’s Gone / Sara Smile / Do What You Want Be What You Are / I Can’t Go For That // Rich Girl / You Make My Dreams Come True /// Kiss On My List / Private Eyes
Rick Hromadka: Trippin’ Dinosaurs (Sodastar Music)
Maple Mars frontman goes solo with 10 excellent songs that slot well against the likes of Jellyfish, Cavedogs, Posies, ELO, Cheap Trick, Matthew Sweet and others of a similar musical influence. Soaring harmonies, chiming guitars, earworm chorus hooks, every note performed by by Hromadka himself.
Part of the problem with one man band albums is that they often sound like demos, but that not the case here – the album sounds first rate, with a particularly nice job on the vocals. The tunes are all good, but there are several standouts.
There are several songs here that I would pull as as a single, but “Twice A Sunny Day Tomorrow” tops the list, with a new wave feel not far from 20/20 or perhaps later Sweet. I love the electronic breakdown at 1:13, but the round robin ending vocals really seal the deal.
Meanwhile, “Dreams of a Hippy Summer,” is a jangly groovy number that reminds me a bit of Neil Innes meets the Association, particularly the dramatic instrumental break following the crescendoed vocals at 2:26. Meanwhile, “There She Goes” includes a bit of Glam stomp in it’s tremelo’d guitar and handclap intro – with shades of Grand Funk’s “Locomotion” in that reverb mix!
Another big favorite is the atmospheric ballad “Tough Love Letter Bomb,” it’s reverb drenched, acoustic pop perfection, a tale of loss that is the albums emotional heart. Nice wood block work, too.
Not everything works as well, “Face On” is a bluesy rock tune, that’s okay, but doesn’t match the brilliance of some of the other cuts. And “Circular Haze” is an interesting instrumental featuring what sounds like overdriven guitar – the song is not included on the maple Mars album of the same name. No matter, there is plenty here to explore. “Listen I’m Waiting To Sleep” would be at the top of the list. It’s opened with synthesizer blasts, propelled by a loping slightly psychedelic bass line, with fuzzed out guitars and electronica flourishes before hitting on a near pastoral acoustic interlude. The whole thing is six minutes long, sort of a slower tune inserted in the middle of a more powerpop oriented rocker. It works though and wraps up the album in a nice fashion.
Produced, Written and Performed by Rick Hromadka www.cdbaby.com/cd/rickhromadka
LBC Collective: Bad Ladders
A mix of rock and soul (the sounds of Otis Redding and Dr. Feelgood) adding up to thirteen original sixties inspired tracks that should please a broad spectrum of music fans from indie hipster to mod. The quartet (here augmented by keys and horns) wears it’s influences on its sleeve so it’s not hard to tell from whence inspiration for particulars was struck. Vocally, Smokey Robinson/ Steve Winwood rate amongst the vocal role models, with tunes that cover a pretty wide range of styles, the most “rock” of which is likely “Hollywood Star.” The single here is Hammond tinged garage rocker, “Just A Day” – based on a simple blues lick, topped by a wonderfully stuttering drum beat and Jonny Knowles solid vocals, the song is all hook. At 2:18 it’s just about perfect pop. Also good is the title track “Bad Ladder.” The instrumental break highlights one of the bands strengths – tune smithing. It’s in the little details such as the melody counterpoint / descending keyboard line that builds tension at 2:02. Simple but effective – this is clearly a group that likes to craft music, it’s evident in the arrangements, which while sometimes having familiar elements still manage to go places you don’t expect.
Recorded at Lee Wick Lane, Essex, England. Mixed and Mastered by Mark Fairfax-Harwood at Springvale Studios. www.facebook.com/thelbccollective
Wayne Riker: Ten Shades of Green
Does the world really need more holiday tunes?The answer is a resounding yes, if those songs are in the hands of guitarist Wayne Riker. Ten Shades of Green is all classics, with Rikers tasteful fretwork adding new shades to these evergreens. Favorites include “The Christmas Song,” “Jingle Bell Rock” and “White Christmas,” but all ten tracks add up to a terrific soundtrack to any holiday gathering. A suggestion? If there’s a volume 2, how about some Guiraldi?
Produced by Wayne Riker. Recorded and Mixed by Daryll Harvey at Studio West. Mastered by Lawrence Czoka. https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/ten-shades-of-green/id935406832
David Taylor: The Dishes (digital download)
Singer-songwriter with a twist. To my recollection there haven’t been many hit songs about house cleaning and probably fewer about doing the dishes. This tune is unlikely to break that pattern. However, it is nicely arranged and recorded, with “strings” and the occasional harmony backing Taylor’s earnest vocals. It’s a simple acoustic folky tune about doing the dishes, with Moon/June lyrics and a campfire song chord structure – that is until it hits 1:33 and it goes into a thirty second rock interlude and then back into the opening verse. The song is relationship centric, doing dishes a way of say “I Love You,” but it would also make a nice kids song. Maybe not something you’ll play often, but something that will make you smile when you hear it 🙂