Brendan Benson: My Old Familiar Friend (ATO, 2009)
I hope it’s time for Brendan Benson to step into the spotlight. I don’t have anything against The Raconteurs. In fact, I really like them. But while I like The Raconteurs, I absolutely love Brendan Benson as a solo artist. Therefore for me the most important thing about The Raconteurs has been the fact that it just might make the name Brendan Benson better known and people will start to notice what a great songwriter he is. This is already his fourth album and all of them are near-perfect pop albums (obviously because I’m a typical indie boy, I think the first one is the best, but I do love them all). My Old, Familiar Friend is again a hit record. It should be a hit record. In my dreams this kind of albums are the ones that would top the charts. Even in my dreams I’m not high enough to realistically dream about my beloved small power pop groups suddenly hitting the charts, but albums like this seem to have all the needed ingredients in my fantasy land. It sounds damn good, it’s catchy as hell, it’s radio friendly, it’s beautifully crafted, melodic and simple pop music and Brendan is a pretty boy as well. .There shouldn’t be anything stopping him from getting a worldwide success.. While waiting for the day when I wake up into a world where Metarie ringtones and Alternative To Love t-shirts surround me in the crowds, I can listen to this strong pop album. The opener A Whole Lot Better is one of the songs of the year and the quality of the music remains almost equally high throughout the record. My Old, Familiar Friend is again a real pop gem.
Brendan Benson at myspace
(yeah, I do know that this so called “review” didn’t really describe the album, but as you might have noticed in the past and will notice in the future that I’m no real reviewer. Just a little pop fan who after a long break again started to write about the music he loves eventhough he doesn’t generally know much about music. I still don’t know whether I’m going to keep on doing these regularly. I might quit any day, but as long as I enjoy writing them.. why not).
Emitt Rhodes: The Emitt Rhodes Recordings (1969 – 1973) (Hip-O-Select, 2009)
Now here is a release that deserves one of those imaginary onechord culture awards. Most of Emitt Rhodes‘ material has been out-of-print for years and it has been a real struggle to find his amazing pop albums. Thankfully Hip-O-Select saw the light and released his four solo albums The American Dream, Emitt Rhodes, Mirror and Farewell To Paradise on this beautiful 2-CD set. It really is one of the most important reissues of the year. For me, it will probably be the reissue of the year.. well unless rumours about that The Left Banke anthology is true. Then we will have a tie.
Emitt Rhodes first entered into the general knowledge as the frontman of The Merry-Go-Round. A great pop group from Los Angeles that never gained a huge success but did release one album that contained a bunch of great songs (Rev-Ola have released a great The Merry-Go-Round compilation, well worth picking up eventhough if I would have to choose I’d say that I prefer Emitt’s solo albums over The Merry-Go-Round. But both are absolutely great). After The Merry-Go-Round split up Emitt Rhodes became a solo artist who recorded four fabulous albums that are now available on this wonderful release. All albums are excellent, but the biggest treasure is the somewhat legendary self-titled album Emitt Rhodes that is one of the greatest albums ever released. To write such a stunning pop masterpiece at the age of 20 is quite an achievement. Unfortunately the critical success of the record didn’t turn into money and Emitt didn’t got the big break he so much deserved. On top of that, his record contract stated that he needs to be able to write two albums every year and because he wasn’t able to do it, the label ABC-Dunhill started a law suit against him. Now there’s a bloody good way to support a young pop genius who was just starting out and had the talent to become one of the best pop singer-songwriters. Despite all this Emitt Rhodes still managed to write two excellent albums Mirror and Farewell To Paradise before vanishing from the spotlight he was never on. It really is a huge shame that some bad contract signings and the cruelty of the music business drove such a talented songwriter away from the world of pop music at the age of 23-24.
However, now is not the time to think about what could-have-beens and just celebrate his brief but wonderful career by listening to his beautiful albums. Emitt was a multitalented artist who wrote all the songs, played every instrument and recorded the albums in his home studio. He gave birth to a huge amount of perfect pop songs that still sound fresh and melodically rich. A lot of his music does sound very “McCartneysque” eventhough I shouldn’t bring it up, because it easily gives the feeling that he was some kind of second grade Paul McCartney which was not the case. Emitt Rhodes was the real deal and made better music than any Beatle did in the seventies. The Emitt Rhodes Recordings is one of the most important releases of the year and it contains beautifully crafted melodic and sensitive pop music that still sound fresh as a daisy.
(if you want album grades separetely it would probably be five hearts for Emitt Rhodes and The American Dream, 4 1/2 hearts for Mirror and Farewell To Paradise)
Emitt Rhodes at myspace
P.S The great news is that Emitt Rhodes is back in the studio and making new music again. Hopefully this will lead to a brand new Emitt Rhodes album.
Radio City: Class Of ’77 (Radio Heartbeat, 2009)
This is a lost power pop gem from the late seventies.. or can you lose something that was never released. Radio City was too pop for the punk scene of New York and never got the break they would have deserved, but they did record a fantastic bunch of songs that finally thirty years later see the light of the day. Especially the opening tracks Don’t Mistake Love (recorded 1980) and Little Runaway (recorded 1978) are really wonderful pop songs that should be listed among power pop classics. The next eight songs are from Radio City’s demo tape that was recorded live in winter 1977. It still sounds good to me and there’s some really good songs like Tomorrow, It’s Ok, Bleecker Street and She’s A Heartbreaker among them. Class Of ’77 ends with three songs from their live rehearsal tape. I’m not 100% sure was it a good idea to add them, because eventhough the songs are good the sound quality isn’t and it doesn’t make it that enjoyable to listen to them. However, the first one So Easy is such a great song that I suppose it would have been criminal to leave it out. Not as criminal as not giving this great band a record deal back in the seventies though.
Radio City at myspace