Frank Gutch Jr: On the Road With The Lisa Parade and Maxine Dunn (Plus Them All-Important Notes)
I took a drive yesterday. I had been sitting in front of the computer screen too long and accomplishing little of anything at all and I needed a break. Usually when I hit the road I take music I need to hear for writing reasons but this time I needed time to myself. I grabbed one I had the urge to review by Town Mountain which when I pulled open the CD cover discovered was minus the disc. I had left it in my computer player at home. I have lost more than one disc that way. The other two were there though and I had heard neither all the way through for over a year: Lisa Parade‘s Finding Flora and Maxi Dunn‘s Edmund & Leo. I couldn’t wait.
Lisa Parade, for those unaware, was a project put together by Lisa Joy Pimentel, now wowing the world with No Small Children. I had found her amongst the new releases of cdBaby, listings I used to peruse daily, and was bowled over by not power pop but amazingly powerful pop— wall-of-sound in places. I found her website and talked her out of a copy and never looked back.
I found that she was a member of one-time rock hopefuls Heidi, a band I knew by reputation, they having signed a development deal with Warner Brothers, I believe (or it could have been Elektra), but to no avail. Many bands in those days were handed demo deals. Very few advanced to actual releases. Sometimes the bands weren’t ready, sometimes the demos were handled haphazardly or at least very poorly, sometimes the people involved (from the A&R guy to CEO) moved on and their prospective projects scrapped in favor of the new CEOs babies. For whatever reason, Heidi was kicked to the curb. Lisa (and friend and bandmate Jilly Blackstone) moved on.
I am sure there were other projects between Heidi and The Lisa Parade, but they amounted to little in terms of reality. Side projects which turned to mist in the winds. But when The Parade happened, Lisa Joy was ready. By then she had evolved and incorporated bits and pieces of a number of genres in her music, much of it hip hop, as far as I can gather (I am no expert). Rhythmic songs with beats quite beyond what she had done in the past. I got it right off the bat, the recording powerful and confident and strung together by some of the best lyrics I had heard in the newer releases.
I had forgotten the lesser details which made Finding Flora so remarkable. Like the very short oriental flavored music which begins the album. Maybe ten seconds long, it seemingly has nothing to do with the song which follows (Whatcha Gonna Do With Your Life?) but is the perfect setup. The song itself never returns to it nor is it even hinted at, but that ten seconds means something.
It’s Almost Time is a tune of a different color, driving pop with a flavor of Broadway, maybe, it alternates verse and chorus of extremes, the lyrics so upfront that they force you to listen. Pimentel has always had an ability to force any issue without you noticing, at least right away. Listen to this one ten times, though, and it begins to get to you. The production, thanks to Bob Marlette I am sure, is so layered you need a program.
To Beautiful Possibility 2, rap-infusion verse over horn riff and the chorus a mass of energy and beat phrasing. Watch this. Whew!
Song after song played and next thing I knew, the album was over. Each and every track made an impact. Some I barely remembered though I did recognize. Some were old friends I had not traveled with for a long time. One of my favorites, My Day Anyway, brought back so many memories I was overwhelmed. There is something in the chorus which I always loved— that feeling of Joy— see what I did there?
“I just feel up to it today/No way I don’t feel like going down/Who’s to say/It’s my day anyway/’Cause I don’t care who’s watching me today/Don’t even talk to me today/Who’s to say/It’s my day anyway” All of that and guitar and pounding rhythm and even a baroque-style acoustic guitar break. Who’s to say?
She has an earlier album which also floored me. Not quite as developed and a little more pop than powerful, but good. Of course, we know where she is now, but here is where she was back then.
I needed that drive if only to put the music in perspective. It has passed the test of time, for sure, and will always be an album I will return to when I need my batteries recharged. Oh, where she is now? In that power trio ready to take the world by storm now that they scored a track in the new Ghostbusters movie. You see it, she says, be sure and wait until the very end. Their music is evidently played over the closing credits. This ain’t Ghostbusters, but it is one of my absolute favorite No Small Children songs.
The song was written by the aforementioned Jilly Blackstone. I had contact with her a short time. We talked about putting together a timeline of Heidi and exactly what happened, but our correspondences were all by email and were intermittent at best. She mentioned something in passing about being ill but didn’t go into detail so I allowed for that and would check in every once in awhile. She actually sent me four songs she had been working on at one time, unfortunately just before my computer blew up in my face, I lost all four tracks. Luckily, she had posted Mystical on her Myspace page (https://myspace.com/jillyblackstonemusic/music/song/mystical-2070007) but it looks like they disabled the music though the page is still there.
I was plodding my way through Facebook one day and Lisa Joy had posted a remembrance of Jilly. It was a sledgehammer to the forehead. She was a very nice girl and so sad to have to deal with illness in the stead of working on her music. That, my friends, is tragedy. And I will always be grateful for Lisa Joy bringing the song to life in tribute to one of her favorite people and musicians.
It was both a joy and so strange to revisit those first weeks with The Lisa Parade. So many memories are attached to the music that it was a constant rush, beginning to end.
Which made it a bit hard to eject that CD and slip in Maxi Dunn‘s Edmund & Leo. It seemed a bit unfair in a way because I have so much attachment to Lisa and her music. But I loved Dunn’s album too and it turned out to be very comparable in an apple and oranges sort of way. While Lisa has a core of Pop and Power Pop in her veins, Maxine (who more than likely uses Maxi as her recording name due to the presence of another recording Artist named Maxine Dunn) has developed quite a different style. She is what I classify as a no-overlay songwriter in that I cannot find anyone to compare her to without stepping into the past. I know I have used Petula Clark and Sandie Shaw and even they are not a fair comparison for Maxi has a wider range of influences, though I cannot quite put a finger on it. It is at times quite theatrical and at times dramatic, but mostly it is anthemic, a term I save for music beyond the realm. Some of her tunes would be perfect for soundtrack background music or, better yet, segue music for a climactic movement between scenes.
The magic is in the arrangement and pretty much always is. She has this way of arranging the vocals for depth quite unlike I’ve heard and it takes the song into another dimension. I remember sitting at my desk trying to count how many voices there were at any given point.
And then there is the twelve-string-driven Change the Record with its semi-wall of sound sound (heh heh) and its sense of pop but more than pop. And the beat changes. And the guitar, ably handled by the very talented Peter Hackett, who by the way plays most of the instruments on the album.
And as I’m driving, just passing Triangle Lake, in fact, I’m so immersed in the music and the day because it was as nice a day as you could want that it was, in a sense, Nirvana. No, not thew band. The sensation! Moments like those come all too seldom and I would not have been surprised to have seen a unicorn.
I don’t know what it is about driving that opens me to music more than the norm. I could list a string of albums and artists I found while driving. Would I have appreciated them as much in other circumstances? I’m not so sure. Try these on for size.
Carolyn Arends/Father Thy Will Be Done
I’m driving down off the mountain and am listening to the beat and had no idea I was dancing— as much as you can while driving down off the mountain, anyway.
Old Californio/California Goodness
Driving the coast south from Newport, Oregon towards the land this song is about— Northern California. I have never experienced a better drive than the one through Big Sur. It is majestic.
Laurie Biagini/Another Old Lazy Lyin’ On the Beach Afternoon
I hadn’t had this disc more than three days before I headed to the coast. I played this puppy the whole trip—- four times through. By the time I got to the beach (we do have them in Oregon, they are just more broken up than in SoCal) I was a Biagini superfan.
Susan James/Goin’ to California
Sometimes it only takes on laid back song to win you over. This one had enough Norma Tanega in it to make me repeat it over and over and over. After a few listens, I swear to God it turned into Walkin’ My Cat Named Dog. James not only won me over but set me up for Sea Glass a few years later—- a pop/psych gem.
Watching James and her entourage of superb vocalists and musicians, it occurs to me that only 1,460 people have taken the time to watch this video. 1,460!!! Videos of teenagers with snot running out of their noses get more than that. I consider it an insult to the quality of this music. If I had a glove, I would slap every one of you who haven’t seen it with a glove and challenge you to a duel. I cry when I see music this good ignored, especially when music of a much lesser quality are racking up thousands of views.
Now, where was I? Ah, yes. Driving. Well, not all of the music I have was found driving. Some have come courtesy of fatigue (it is strange how open you become to the arts when you can barely stay awake) and others caffeine. I didn’t need the car to get into the artists who produced the music for the next bunch of vids. I only needed the music.
The Soundcarriers/Last Broadcast
I think I was on my third pot of coffee (sometimes I think my life is one long pot of coffee) back in 2011 when I heard this. It was like the music was a soul-sucking worm which invaded my brain at the time, all consciousness given to music. Somewhere along the line, the band put out an album titled Celeste which convinced me that I needed to live on that planet. On occasion the feeling returns. “Fix” is what I call it whenever I search these guys out, because it feels like I need one.
Norway has provided me with a substitute for The Soundcarriers lately. Undergrunnen they call themselves and whereas I can hear roots in their songs, I cannot lock them down regarding genre because they seem to change with the song. Last band from Norway which hit me this hard was Ophelia Hope, which still has hard copies (CDs) available from cdBaby (I recommend you pick one up before they are gone because thirty years from now it will be amongst the most collectible CDs going). Anyway, check out the Undergrunnen vids paying special attention to the sound.
I am overwhelmed by the similarities between this Daisy House song and those of the late Jimmie Spheeris. I became a huge Spheeris fan when radio Station KZEL in Eugene started playing tracks from Spheeris’s The Original Tap Dancing Kid back in ’73. His voice captivated me and his deep songs were deeper than deep. Listen to Daisy House. Then listen to Spheeris. It is eerie.
Those crazy Green Pajamas have just released a new album, or maybe it is a collection of songs from the past, titled If You Knew What I Dreamed: The Green Pajamas Play the Jeff Kelly Songbook and I am thrilled. Good old Pajamas sound, tracks I have not heard and on one of my favorite labels, Green Monkey. Here’s the thing, though. At present, it is only available as download or on vinyl! And vinyl copies are limited to 300! I would suggest you get your butts over to the Green Monkey website to listen and find out the details on how you can get yourself a copy. THIS, my friends, would be the ultimate Christmas gift for that closet Green Pajamas fan you know. Jeff Kelly is already in my Hall of Fame as a songwriter. Click here, listen to the album and follow the link to Pajama Wonderland! This is good stuff!!! In the meantime, in case you have never visited Pajamaland, here is one of my favorite tracks.
And speaking of the Pajamas, here are links to different versions of a song (well, they are actually two songs) from their Poison In the Russian Room album. For a time, I played these songs back-to-back-to-back in a Fairy Queen marathon. It was rejuvenating!
Green Monkey‘s Howie Wahlen sent me this link to this bit of chopped-up very early videoism featuring a band from the South Willamette Valley, Sneakers. Then buddy Joe Lee reminded me that they had a bit of run with jazz label Inner City Records, the only experiment with rock music the label undertook. It is rough, but these guys would catch my ear if I had been working A&R back in the 70s. Hell, I would look at them now, based upon this.
There is a new Paige Anderson & The Fearless Kin album on the horizon. This is the first song I ever heard by them. If I had had a label, I would have signed them on the spot. Then, they were three, but have added young sister Daisy on the dobro/resonator guitar since. They have an organ quality in their harmonies I keep coming back to.
You’ve read about The Silver Lake Chorus here, or maybe you haven’t. They have just released an album of remixes. Why remixes, you ask? Well, these guys may not know why but they know why they did what they did. The remixers, in their own words. Seriously, if you have not heard this group, you should. I am waiting for the popularity bubble to burst any day now.
And just so you can hear TSLC in their natural state, here is a track written especially for the Chorus by Tegan and Sara.
Hell, this is turning into The Notes section so what say we just continue? Ladies and Gentlemen, Notes (and there are plenty of them worth scoping out)…..
Still delving into Australia and the music scene down under. Digging Kate & Ruth, Anna Cordell, Bill Jackson, Pete Fidler (who normally teams up with Jackson but who has finally released his own solo album), Angharad Drake (who is completing a new album which I am anxiously awaiting), and a string of others. So what drops into my lap this past week but a new video by Sarah Belkner. Nice, light groove-laden track. Take a listen.
Speaking of Australia, Leah Flanagan is ready to make another move. I have been quite impressed with her past work and if this video is an indication of what’s coming, I’m all for it.
I am a Cowboy fan and have been since the very early 70s. If you ask me, they were one of the most undervalued bands of the classic rock era, individually and collectively. George Clark, their bass player, has left this mortal coil, but the rest of them keep on playing. Here is a live track from Tommy Talton, who joined the band shortly after exiting the famed We The People, one of a handful of excellent 60s bands out of Florida and who kept his dream alive, building a strong cult following throughout his long career with songs such as this:
I am not in the habit of backing artists and their crowdfunding (Okay, I am, but admitting it would defeat my purpose here), but these guys (The Monowhales) made me laugh and, as it’s an election year, that does not happen enough lately. Seriously, watch this video. It’s good for a laugh and more. And if you like it, check out the music and consider donating!
There should be more songs written about mothers from the mother’s point of view. Molly Parden has written a beautiful one.
This passed along from Alternate Roots Magazine caught my ear. I remember a time a band needed at least four members to make it sound good. Now we have bands like Hymn For Her and Crushed Out with only two, and they make it sound outstanding. Here is another. 7Horse.
I started watching this video and thought, well, I’ll move on, but I couldn’t. Something made me stay with it all the way to the end. Maybe the song is much better than I had thought. Maybe it was the sequence of pictures. Also via Alternate Roots— Wilderado.
I wonder why more people aren’t picking up on The Delta Saints? They are getting excellent response elsewhere but portions of the USA have yet to find them.
This is the first video I saw and heard by them and have been following them since. When they it, they hit hard.
I’ve been hearing about Seth Lakeman for a long time and trhis is the first time I’ve heard him. Funniest looking guitar I’ve ever seen, but I love the music.
Turin Brakes? What can I say? I dig the chorus.
Sometimes it only takes a soundbyte. I’m hooked. Courtney Marie Andrews.
Sometimes I think we will never learn. We kill the land in the name of progress but don’t consider the cost. It almost makes me ashamed to be a human being. For The Peace River.
Liz Stringer may be from Australia but she passed through Oregon not all that long ago and I’m claiming her in the name of The State. This song sounded good when I first heard it but many listens later I believe to be a lot better than just good. There is an AM radio quality to the simplicity of the music. And she has a lot more where this comes from.
Frank’s column appears every Tuesday
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“Frank Gutch Jr. looks like Cary Grant, writes like Hemingway and smells like Pepe Le Pew. He has been thrown out of more hotels than Keith Moon, is only slightly less pompous than Garth Brooks and at one time got laid at least once a year (one year in a row). He has written for various publications, all of which have threatened to sue if mentioned in any of his columns, and takes pride in the fact that he has never been quoted. Read at your own peril.”