Jim Basnight: We Rocked and Rolled

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Jim Basnight: We Rocked and Rolled – The First 25 Years of Jim Basnight: The Moberlys and Beyond (Disclosed Records 2008)

Jim Basnight is a Seattle-based musician who has been making great pop music for 25 years and has now put together a career spanning collection of his finest songs. Like all compilations should, We Rocked and Rolled goes on in chronological order and therefore it’s time to set the time machine to late 70’s and early 80’s and give The Moberlys the first chance to win my heart over. It’s a rather easy task to them, because The Moberlys played my kind of music. This is just fabulous rockin’ garage pop / power pop that has everything I need. There’s great catchy songs that do rock hard but do not forget the importance of gorgeous harmonies and sweet melodies. Half of this collection is filled with songs by The Moberlys which is a good idea, because all of these are great and there’s some (should-be) power pop classics and jewels like You Know, I Know, I Wanna Be Yours, I Need Your Love and Last Night among them.

Leaving The Moberlys behind and moving on to the 90’s and Jim Basnight’s solo album Pop Top that was a very fine guitar pop release. Hello Mary Jane and Stop The Words continue on the same catchy as hell path that The Moberlys set up, but Opportunity Knocks is a bit of a boring rocker as far as I’m concerned. There would have been a lot better stuff on the album Pop Top. In the late 90’s Jim formed a new band The Rockinhams that lived up to its name. The Rockinhams delivered simple almost punky power pop songs and released one album on Not Lame Recording Company.  Four songs made the cut and this is all really good stuff even though I’m a little bit surprised that the wonderful opener Played A Trick isn’t included. Out of the ones that made the cut, the biggest applauds goes to Rock and Roll Girlfriend. Simple, almost hilarious, but oh so enjoyable rock anthem in the vein of Slade or early KISS.

The Jim Basnight Thing is next in line. During this time Jim added some jazzy and folky moods to his music. There’s hardly any rock in here and it takes some time to get used to that trumpet that often makes an entrance.  The only Jim Basnight Thing album is bit of “a hit and miss” record for me. However, both songs that are on this compilation belong to the hit category.  The last two songs of this compilation are from Jim Basnight’s Recovery Room album that gathers together songs he wrote during 1999-2004. As an album it’s my least favourite. It does have it’s moments, but all these flutes and string quartets are making me dizzy. I prefer that simple but brilliant rock’n’roll of the early days.

In overall, We Rocked and Rolled is a really good introduction to the music of this underrated tunesmith. He certainly has an ear for melody and has written lots of wonderful power pop songs during his career. I probably would have been even more thrilled about some The Best Of The Moberlys compilation but the later stuff is also very enjoyable.

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Jim Basnight Discography:

The Moberlys: Sexteen (Wonderful debut album full of great rockin’ power pop / garage pop, 4 hearts for this 23 song version I have here. The finest stuff on this is worth a lot more though)
Jim Basnight & The Moberlys:  Seattle – New York – Los Angeles
(collects together recordings The Moberlys did during 82-89, not all are perfect but you could form a stunning 12-14 song album out of these 23 tracks, 4 hearts.. but that imaginary 12-14 song album would be close to 5)
Jim Basnight: Pop Top
(A really good guitar pop album, 4 hearts)
Jim Basnight Thing: S/T
(Adds a bit jazzy and folky moments to Jim’s pop music. Sounds scary, but works pretty well. 3 hearts)
The Rockinghams: Makin’ Bacon
(Played A Trick, Need A Car and Rock’n’roll Girlfriend is one hell of a song trio, but this rock’n’roll rocket does have some “only ok” material as well. 3,5 hearts)
Jim Basnight: Recovery Room
(The latest effort that compiles together tracks he did during 5 year period 1999-2004. A bit incoherent maybe, but does have some great moments. The string arrangements and such goes a bit too far for a fan of simple pop music and this isn’t totally my cup of tea as a whole. 3 hearts)

Jim Basnight Website
Jim Basnight at myspace
Jim Basnight and The Moberlys at myspace

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Janne Laurila’s album hits the stores.. and your heart

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Janne Laurila’s solo debut Kultaisia pisteitä was released today 23rd of september by Ranka recordings. If you’re not yet convinced that it will be one of the finest finnish albums of the year, check out his songs on his myspace or watch these beautiful music videos below:

Janne Laurila: Kultaisia pisteitä
 

 
Janne Laurila: Tauti ilman hoitoo (live)
 

 

Janne Laurila Website
Janne Laurila at myspace

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John Doe & The Sadies: Country Club

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John Doe & The Sadies: Country Club (Yep Roc, 2009)

John Doe and The Sadies joined forces to make this beautiful old-fashioned country album. Country Club has three songs by The Sadies and one by John Doe & Exene Cervenka, but basicly this is a cover album of old country classics. They cover songs made famous by legends like Johnny Cash, Kris Kristofferson, Waylong Jennings, Hank Williams, Merle Haggard and Tammy Wynette (just to name a few). The focus often seem to be on the country balladry, but uptempo numbers are there to lift your spirit if the idea of opening another whiskey bottle starts to become too tempting. Highlights include that John Doe & Exena Cervenka original It Just Dawned On Me (guest vocalist Kathleen Edwards adds some great female harmonies to the song), Kristofferson’s Help Me Make It Through The Night, Tammy Wynette’s ‘Til I Get It Right and Johnny Cash’s I Still Miss Someone.  John Doe gets through the vocal duties very convincingly and The Sadies does a great job as the backing band. However, it would have been more interesting, if they had chosen more obscure country songs instead of well-known classics. The best thing about cover albums is that they might introduce you songs that you don’t know, but you don’t get much help from Country Club on that department. It’s still one of the better cover albums I’ve heard during the last few years and it does a good job as a pleasant sunday morning record.

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John Doe at myspace
The Sadies Website
The Sadies at myspace

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Rhett Miller: Rhett Miller

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Rhett Miller: Rhett Miller (Shout Factory, 2009)

Rhett Miller is also the frontman of alt.country / rock outfit Old 97’s, but I’ve been more interested in his solo adventures as a pop singer-songwriter. I missed his debut album, but the previous album The Believer and this third self-titled album Rhett Miller are both very fine pop releases. Rhett Miller seem to be going into a bit more subtle, sophisticated and sensitive direction. Basicly this new album has less instant hit material than The Believer and it doesn’t rock as much (not that The Believer was a big rocker either, but it did have several maybe radio friendly but still rockin’ power pop tunes). Happy Birthday Don’t Die is pretty much the only real rock song on the new album. However, I think that’s only a good thing because that particular track is the only I don’t like on the album. I especially enjoy the latter half of the album. I think it contains some really wonderful mature,  sensitive and melodic pop songs like Haphazardly and Lashes. There’s just some magical subtle beauty in the songs. This is not for those who want their pop delivered with rockin’ lo-fi aesthetics, but if you’re looking for beautiful mature pop music with a truckload of marvellous gentle melodies.. Then you know who to turn to.

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Rhett Miller Website
Rhett Miller at myspace

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The Shazam: Meteor

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The Shazam: Meteor (Not Lame, 2009)

There are a lot of so called power pop bands that don’t take the “power” part of the term very seriously. The Shazam has never been one of them and they’ve been one of the finest rockin’ pop bands since the late 90s. The band went quiet for some time, but thankfully the year 2009 dropped a new pop meteor into our hands. It’s a first The Shazam album in six years, but the quality of the band didn’t fade away during the break. Despite adding a couple of ridicilously bad songs to the album, The Shazam is still among the finest bands in the power pop genre.

Let’s start with the bad things. I really can’t stand Disco at The Fairgrounds one bit. It’s just way too goofy for me and incredibly annoying. On Latherman Saves The World, the glam goofiness actually works and the song is actually really really good. But Disco at The Fairgrounds is just a nightmare on a pop record. Other not-that-good moments are NFU that is destroyed in the chorus by repeating that “not fucked up enough” line over an over again and a boring psychedelic rocker Dreamcrush Machine that never has anything going on that even could be destroyed. However, that’s just three songs. What about the rest? Well let’s rule Time For Pie, Hey Mom I Got The Bomb and that Latherman above as really good stuff and then there’s five songs left.  And this is where the rockin’ power pop heaven starts. Power chords, gorgeous singing, huge amount of hooks and thoughtful arrangements. Songs that might seem straightforward rock songs at first can contain surprising amount of details & depth and anything can happen within the songs. The opener So Awesome is a gorgeous rock anthem, while Always Tomorrow throws in some Big Star influences in the verse and angelic chorus on top of that.  Let It Fly’s sensitive beginning bursts into a drop-dead-gorgeous power pop chorus while A Little Better is a bit more playful, but equally wonderful. Don’t Look Down makes the tempo a little slower, but don’t alter the quality. Just fabulous stuff altogether. During their finest hour, The Shazam is absolutely wonderful.

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The Shazam Website
The Shazam at myspace

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The Campbell Stokes Sunshine Recorder: Make Your Ears Smile

Campbell Stokes Sunshine Recorder

The Campbell Stokes Sunshine Recorder: Makes Your Ears Smile (Jack O’ The Green, 2009)

Besides being a major contributor to a) the greatest music magazine Shindig! b) the greatest reissue label Rev-Ola, Andy Morten is also making pop music under the name The Campbell Stokes Sunshine Recorder. Unlike Shindig! and Rev-Ola, The Campbell Stokes Sunshine Recorder might not be one of the greatest things in the world, but it’s truly enjoyable pop music nevertheless. Andy Morten used to be in a great british psychedelic power pop group Bronco Bullfrog that released some fine albums before breaking up some years ago. He wrote a major share of their great songs so he has proved himself as a great pop tunesmith even before The Campbell Stokes Sunshine Recorder.

Makes Your Ears Smile does what the title promises. It’s a really good uplifting pop record that contains melodic pop treats that somehow keep the sun up even though your calendar states that sunset should have happened an hour ago. Only minor flaw for me is that there a couple of lyrics that I don’t like at all. Especially the opening track entitled Track One tries to be a bit too witty and it manages to spoil that otherwise good song for me. But mostly Makes Your Ears Smile contains really good pop music with traces of psychedelia here and there.  Songs like Olivia’s Plaything and She Looks Good In The Sun are marvellous, but I must say that my favourite The Campbell Stokes Sunshine Recorder so far is that psychedelic pop jewel Elliot Sunshine from the Shindig! compilation. If that song is from the upcoming up second album, the sun is indeed shining for Andy Morten and things look really promising.

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The Campbell Stokes Sunshine Recorder at myspace

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