1)Picard, old Voyager 2 part segment on the Borg, THE BEST NEXT GENERATION FILM, SPREAD OVER 10 HOURS...
I've got a LOT of writing to do so stay tuned....
2)Different Drum ✨ The Orion Experience ❤️ Linda Ronstadt Different Drum ✨ The Orion Experience ❤️ Linda Ronstadt
by Joe Viglione [-] https://www.allmusic.com/album/ad-mw0000201019
This Boston-based alternative rock band could have gotten a better shake from Island Records, as they had a bit more punch than their contemporaries from the same region, O-Positive. Vocalist Ray Lemieux and guitarist/keyboardist Brian Hill wrote the songs that get propelled by the big sound of the 1980s, when A Flock of Seagulls were flying one way and edgier sounds were filling in the gaps. Producer Ross Humphrey, who worked with the Mighty Mighty Bosstones and Cliffs of Dooneen, keeps everything very to-the-point, though a little spice would have been of great value here. The choice of covers and their execution is always a telling point, and taking Marc Bolan's "Mad Donna" is a smart move; letting it border on hard rock, however, is not. Though not on any T. Rex tribute LP, it may have fit better on Resurrection of the Warlock than Exalted Companion, the latter a British release which featured another Boston act, Childhood, a group with a similar sound to Heretix. Ron Scarlett's quirkiness on the Childhood cover of T. Rex raises it above the usual tribute fare, and it's that distinctiveness that is missing on the Heretix effort. Their sound works better on the originals, "Always Darkest" overflowing with angst, a negative tune of no hope. The lighter alternative sound is there on Ray Lemieux's "Sheriff" and the cover of Donovan's "Season of the Witch." At five minutes and 46 seconds, "Season of the Witch" is the longest track, and though it is competent, it doesn't really give the listener a sense of what Heretix was all about. This was about three years before Nirvana would hit; the up-tempo Bo Diddley of "Promising Promises" has Heretix on the pulse of '80s groups finding an edge, the generation after new wave which anticipated modern rock. Interesting that "World Full of Tears" exemplifies the sound of the times and perhaps gives the best sense of what the band was trying to say. The purple CD cover has the four bandmembers' heads in north, south, east, and west positions, and it is all very interesting. They just needed a bit more personality and record company support.
Closeup Review by Joe Viglione [-]
Closeup is singer Frankie Valli again finding the magic without his Four Seasons, this time in the '70s with two big hits in two different genres. The album is very, very good, and in a roundabout way is a great example of why Clive Davis worked wonders with Bell Records when he turned it into Arista. Former Bell president Larry Uttal had it all in this project, and it should have been much, much bigger -- it should have been the album to firmly establish Private Stock Records as a major player. But for all the incredible cast members and all the artistry here -- Jim Keltner on drums, Bobbye Hall on conga, Clydie King and Patti Austin on backing vocals (seven years before Austin's own number one hit), and the brilliant idea of having Four Season Bob Gaudio producing half the album in Los Angeles with Val Garay engineering while Bob Crewe produced the hits in New York City with Michael Delugg on the boards (and Charles Calelo arranging on both coasts) -- it is all packaged with a cover that looks like it was thought up at the budget label Pickwick International, and with only eight songs it just feels on the surface like less than what it actually is. The ten-minute version of "Swearin' to God" is certainly fun, but the 18 minutes for three songs on side two go by too quickly. They are also the best songs on the album, all produced by Crewe. A couple of additional titles, perhaps a special remake or two, could have made this album so much more for the artist, for the label, for the fans. "My Eyes Adored You" was the first number one solo hit for Valli, and hard to believe it came eight years after "Can't Take My Eyes Off You." That 1967 hit just missed the number one spot, and a new rendition for this album would actually have been a very wise move.
All of Valli's first six Top 40 solo hits were produced by Crewe, and hearing the different sounds he and Gaudio came up with for the veteran singer is half the fun of the album. "In My Eyes" is just an excellent album track, unmatched by anything on the first side. Sandy Linzer and Denny Randell, producers of the Toys, show up here as songwriters, as does Kenny Nolan, on an album where easy listening ballads meet disco. The song "Why" is producer Gaudio's best moment, followed by "He Sure Blessed You," another decent middle-of-the-road album track. Gaudio should have come up with a couple more. In the crazy business that is the record industry, this important artist, Frankie Valli, put out three albums in 1975 (two on Private Stock and one on Motown), with a seven-year lapse in hits prior to all this new activity -- the same span his group the Four Seasons had in their chart action. Seven long years. Had the team consolidated the hits and positioned the ones to follow -- "Our Day Will Come" and the wonderful minor hit from 1976, "Fallen Angel" -- all on this album, Closeup would have been a monster. It's an important and forgotten catalog item that needs to be expanded and re-released with bonus tracks and liner notes that give it its proper place in music history.
In his August 1975 review for Stereo Review magazine, Peter Reilly remarked that:
Frankie Valli's album and his flabby performances have a fake Fifties sound that made me think of Fabian, Annette Funicello, beach party movies, Edsels, and, eventually, the Franco-Prussian war. This last because it holds even less interest for me than the goings-on in the Eisenhower Era—I grow listless at the mere thought of even trying to find out why it happened.
Frankie Valli's Timeless is a superb adult contemporary recording with stellar arrangements, great song selection, and Valli's distinctive vocal sound. It came after two minor solo hits in 1966 and 1967, "(You're Gonna) Hurt Yourself" and "I Make a Fool of Myself," as well as 1967's Top Five smash "Can't Take My Eyes Off You," none included here. "To Give (The Reason I Live)" from this album, did hit the Top 30 in 1968, but it is far from the best track on the record, being an overstated Bob Crewe/Bob Gaudio original flavored by "The Impossible Dream." The cover of Jimmy Webb's "By the Time I Get to Phoenix" is a nice reading, and no doubt appealed to housewives who liked Glen Campbell's original and Valli's voice. While Tom Jones and Engelbert Humperdinck were approaching this market with more bright uptempo pop, Valli took a more mellow route, performing that lively style with his group, the Four Seasons, whose only appearance here is in a photo (including Valli with Joe Long, Tommy DeVito, and Bob Gaudio, looking down at the solo Valli from a balcony. One of the album's highlights is a big production of Bobby Hebb's "Sunny," Hebb's original also on the Philips label. Valli changes the words a bit "wonderful and great are simple joys...ooh Sunny, you separate the men from little boys/your love was given/from an open hand/as nature intended from woman to man/way down to Earth with you, Sunny I love you." Outside of the last four words, it is highly unlikely the song ever included those other lyrics, it having been written for God or for Hebb's brother, the late Hal Hebb of the Marigolds. "Eleanor Rigby" is interesting, an amalgam of Andy Williams and the Bob Crewe Generation's "Music to Watch Girls By" sound, clearly part of Bob Crewe's formula -- here he has Valli singing like Andy Williams and reconstructing the Beatles to his own style of pop. The great Charles Calello conducts most of the arrangements, under Gaudio's supervision, but there are no Four Seasons harmonies here whatsoever, making it a total solo project, with Valli's voice way out in the mix. Artie Schroeck does the only non-Calello arrangement, and that is of the Neil Sedaka / Carole Bayer Sager composition, "Make the Music Play." It is very middle of the road '60s pop, kind of like her Mindbenders hit of 1966 drifting into Tony Bennett territory. Artie Schroeck wrote "Stop and Say Hello" here, and it is second to "Sunny" as the top song on this superb outing. "Stop and Say Hello" is really moving, and should have been the hit. It's another big production with something rare to this album -- backing vocals -- very faint in the background. G. Knight's "Donnybrook" ends the album on a nice mellow note. The band and strings brimming with some delightful and uplifting phrases to bring the program to a close. The cover photos by Bob Golden are included on a wheel which you can turn by hand, an expensive and elaborate package for an important artist from the '60s.
REVIEW BY JOE VIGLIONE
The pairing of guitarist/vocalist Craig Northey with vocalist/guitarist Jesse Valenzuela works very well on Northey Valenzuela's eponymous album, though the cover photo leaves a lot to be desired and doesn't give a glimpse of the great sounds within. The disc opens with a laid-back semi-driving "Talk to Yourself," a very appealing slice of pop drawing from Dwight Twilley and perhaps R.E.M. doing the Eagles' "Already Gone" at half speed. "Counting on You" borrows liberally from George Harrison's "Paperback Writer" riff, and that's a good thing on this bright and shiny music, sounds on that song representative of what you'll find here. "You gotta be cruel to be kind" is a line from track seven, "Let It Go," a little hint that Nick Lowe is an influence, and a positive one at that. Though not as immediate as Dwight Twilley's best moments, "Slow Goodbye" is a keeper (sounds like they're singing "I want to slow the vibe"), while "See Through Heart" and "The Little Things" have the earmarks of potential pop classics if underground radio could somehow blast them into the mainstream consciousness. There's a feast of melodic punch throughout the 13 tracks, music worth lending your ear. ~ Joe Viglione
"The tenth album from Nils Lofgren and his first for Columbia is a very polished affair with excellent production from Lofgren and Lance Quinn. The material is written by Lofgren, and it is all strong to very strong, with lyrics bordering on lecturing the listener. "Flip Ya Flip," the title track, and "Big Tears Fall" are the most commercial songs here, "Flip Ya Flip" a real odd one, though. Lofgren calls the guys "buddy," telling them to "lift your pretty head, hold it high" and the gals he calls "sister," terms of endearment for sure from a macho figure who has full-fledged membership in the "E Street" gang. Is the title track about an off-color gesture or life on a trampoline or indiscernible sexuality? Perhaps all of the above. "Secrets in the Street," "From the Heart," and "Delivery Night" have their moments as well, and if any of this material got consistent airplay, there's a good chance Flip could have found an audience beyond Lofgren's loyal cult. His guitar-playing is first rate, and the sonics are more pronounced than Jeffrey Baxter's ideas on 1981's Night Fades Away, though lacking the ambience of Bob Ezrin's 1979 work on Nils. "Sweet Midnight" has that ever-present '80s snare drum prominent in the mix with Lofgren's guitar right next to it, and the vocals perhaps a little too far in the background, no doubt one of the problems. The guitar slinger for Bruce Springsteen has a technically better voice than "the Boss," and that voice deserved to be up further than the drum in the mix. "Sweet Midnight" is another tune which should have been able to garner some kind of attention, if not on Top 40 at least in the dance clubs. An image of Lofgren in midair adorns the yellow cover, with the album title upside down -- anyone who witnessed the band Grin live got to see Lofgren do somersaults onstage. Had they re-cut the cover of the Beatles' "Anytime at All" from Night Fades Away with this thunderous beat rather than the light pop found on that disc, it could have done the trick. Lofgren is an important artist who deserves a breakthrough hit and a retrospective combining the most accessible tracks from his rich catalog. Flip is a decent outing worthy of more than a few spins."--Joe Viglione, AllMusic
The instrumental "Love Theme From St. Elmo's Fire" by mega producer David Foster from his self-titled album hit the Top 15 in 1985, following the number one success of Foster's production of John Parr, also from the film St. Elmo's Fire. Foster's work overshadowed larger-than-life producers who came before him -- Jimmy Miller, who was signed to a CBS label as a vocalist before his stellar career with Blind Faith and the Rolling Stones, as well as Bob Crewe, who was produced by Jerry Wexler when he released the Motivation disc. One would think Foster could have launched himself further into the mainstream given his tremendous success -- or the fact that, unlike Crewe and Miller, he actually had a hit with Skylark in 1973, the Top Ten "Wildflower." An instrumental of that classic would have lent itself well to this Atlantic recording featuring a bevy of name session players from Carlos Vega to the horn section from the group Chicago, as well as Olivia Newton-John appearing on the tune "The Best of Me." Richard Page helps out with backing vocals on the Asia-sounding "Who's Gonna Love You Tonight," and "Saj‚" is a very nice conclusion to the disc, which is all first class. ~ Joe Viglione
Recorded at Lighthouse Studios, North Hollywood, California.
DAVID FOSTER won the 1994 Grammy Award for "Producer, Nonclassical."
Personnel: David Foster (vocals, keyboards); Olivia Newton-John (vocals); Michael Landau (guitar); Rev. Dave Boruff (saxophone, synthesizer, programming); Gary Herbig (saxophone); Chuck Findley, Larry Williams , Gary Grant, Bill Rickenbach, James Pankow, Jerry Hey, Lee Loughnane, Walter Parazaider (horns); Marcus Ryle, Andrew Thomas , Willie Alexander, Michael Boddicker, Randy Waldman, Bo Tomlyn (synthesizer, programming); Lee Ritenour (guitar synthesizer); Gregory Hines (taps); Richard Page (background vocals).
Audio Mixer: Humberto Gatica.
Recording information: Lighthouse Studios, North Hollywood, CA.
Photographer: Aaron Rapoport.
Unknown Contributor Roles: Marcus Ryle; The Chicago Horns; Andrew Thomas ; Gregory Hines ; Willie Alexander; Jerry Hey; Michael Boddicker; Randy Waldman; Bernie Grundman; Bo Tomlyn.
Arranger: David Foster.
Review by Joe Viglione
Additional Information from Movie Mars / eBay https://www.allmusic.com/album/the-great-fatsby-mw0000815947
Released on Foreigner manager Bud Prager's RCA imprint -- Phantom records, it is one of two albums released by Leslie West on that label in 1975, the other being titled simply The Leslie West Band. The Great Fatsby's album cover has the rock & roll guitarist in front of a mansion surrounded by babes à la the F. Scott Fitzgerald character. It opens with a nice and bluesy Paul Kelly tune, "Don't Burn Me," and for the post-Mountain work here, that direction works best. "The House of the Rising Sun" features a duet with Dana Valery and is an interesting read on the traditional tune made famous by the Animals. Mick Jagger plays some guitar on a tune credited to himself, Keith Richards, West, Corky Laing, and Sandra Palmer. "High Roller" is a second cousin to "Brown Sugar," and for Rolling Stones fans, it's a must have, a rare '70s co-write and collaboration with another artist. For Leslie West fans, the album is a departure from the Mountain onslaught and a treat. "I'm Gonna Love You Thru the Night" has an elegant guitar riff and brings West back to the blues. Though it's an original from Corky Laing and his guitarist, the influence of the band Free is obvious. West does an admirable job on Andy Fraser's "Doctor Love" on side two, as well as the Free song "Little Bit of Love." Tim Hardin's "If I Were a Carpenter" is a total diversion for the hard rock guitar slinger, and it comes off very nicely. At five minutes and 20 seconds, "Carpenter" is the album's longest track. The instrumental "E.S.P." might be the strongest statement here (isn't that the name of label owner Bud Prager's management firm, E.S.P.?). With 12-string guitars and superb musicianship, it's the best of West on display. Gary Wright makes an appearance on this album on piano, and The Great Fatsby emerges as a unique look at an important rock & roll artist with some surprises tucked inside. ~ Joe Viglione
Review by Joe Viglione https://www.allmusic.com/album/gamma-1-mw0000232189
Gamma: Davey Pattison (vocals); Ronnie Montrose (guitar); Jim Alcivar (synthesizer); Glen Letsch (bass); Denny Carmassi (drums). Additional personnel: Genya Ravan (vocals). Originally released on Elektra Records. The second LP from Gamma, an unlikely hard rock group on Elektra Records, features future Robin Trower vocalist Davey Pattison doing his best to sound like Bad Company during Paul Rodgers' "Rock & Roll Fantasy" period. With Jim Alcivar on synthesizer and Denny Carmassi on drums, you have a goodly portion of the band Montrose, since the guitarist/producer is the guiding hand behind this project. "Skin and Bone" might as well be Bad Company, while the cover of Thunderclap Newman's "Something in the Air" misses the mark slightly. The revolutionary theme of that great tune from the film The Strawberry Statement gets lost in the translation and doesn't have Pete Townshend's clever production. Though the attempt is interesting enough, memories of the original are so strong that this version is a bit of a letdown, the risk of treading on hallowed ground snagging the group here. Ronnie Montrose, Alcivar, and Pattison combine to write the leadoff track, "Mean Streak," which distorts the "Jumpin' Jack Flash riff just enough to create something new with a metal edge. "Four Horsemen" is Black Sabbath with '80s polish, while "Dirty City" goes back to the Ken Scott sound of the first Gamma LP, copying Foreigner's "Hot Blooded" from two years earlier. Ten Wheel Drive vocalist Genya Ravan is listed on "Dirty City," but Pattison's voice is what producers Gary Lyons and Ronnie Montrose bring up in the mix. "Voyager" is a dreamy metal blues number, and it gives Ronnie Montrose a chance to shine. It and "Cat on a Leash" are two of the more original titles from a group that was highly derivative. "Mayday" ends the album with a hard rock mutation of the Knack's "My Sharona." For a group that sounds so much like two acts on Elektra's sister label, Atlantic, Gamma may have fared better elsewhere. Still, Ronnie Montrose's guitar work makes it worth a few spins, and there's no denying the craftsmanship on sounds you've heard many times before. ~ Joe Viglione
ROBBIE KRIEGER AND JOHN DENSMORE,
REVIEW BY JOE VIGLIONE
Additional Information from Movie Mars / ebay https://www.allmusic.com/album/the-butts-band-mw0000852407
Personnel: Jess Roden (vocals, guitar); Phil Chen, Robby Krieger (guitar); Roy Davies (keyboards, synthesizer); Mick Weaver (keyboards); John Densmore (drums).
The 1973 debut of Butts Band, produced by Doors engineer turned producer Bruce Botnick, is -- along with Ray Manzarek's 1974 release, The Golden Scarab (also produced by Botnick) -- the true fulfillment of what Other Voices and Full Circle initiated. A release of Golden Scarab and The Butts Band on one CD would be a good companion piece to the aforementioned post-Morrison Doors releases; it's most likely what would have evolved had the Doors' trio given us a third album in the early '70s. Make no mistake, this is very musical and great stuff, it just had no image, introduced us to new personalities, and was saddled with a terrible name (c'mon, the Butts Band? What was Jimmy Castor's line in "Troglodyte"? "Bertha Butt, one of the Butt sisters." It's just plain silly with the world watching the Doors' legacy). Before Robbie Krieger went on his jazz tangent, this folky blues group may have been a necessary diversion. There's none of the Doors' darkness or Ray Manzarek's manic intensity here. It's laid-back, well-played, perfectly recorded music on the Blue Thumb label. What is surprising is that Robbie Krieger was an integral part of the Doors' hit singles. He seems to have put that in the past on these compositions. "Baja Bus," with conga by Larry McDonald, might as well be the Allman Brothers. Side one was recorded in Kingston, Jamaica, with Botnick as engineer, while in London for side two at Olympic Studios they used Keith Harwood on the boards, though Bruce Botnick is the producer of the entire package. More of what you'd expect than the follow-up, Hear and Now, which changes all the musicians save the two Doors and completely reshuffles the sound. Gotta hand it to Krieger and Densmore; they can be as proud of this as Ten Wheel Drive's Zager and Schefrin can be of their post-Genya Ravan disc on EMI. That record wasn't Ten Wheel Drive with Genya Ravan, but it was competent and worth a listen, as is The Butts Band ~ Joe Viglione
BUTTS BAND https://www.allmusic.com/album/hear-now-mw0000851791
John Densmore and Robbie Krieger put together a second version of Butts Band for Hear & Now, which is really bizarre because Roy Davies, Phillip Chen, and vocalist Jess Roden did an admirable job on the first disc's folky blues sound. With Mike Berkowitz brought in as a second drummer, Karl Rucker on bass, and Bobbi Hall on congas, the band is expanded and substantially changed. Add Michael Stull and Alex Richman, both on keyboards and vocals, with Stull on guitar as well, and you may think you have what the Doors were up to on Other Voices. Almost, but not quite. The jazz element is definitely there, but subdued, for this is a soul record, an honest to God soul record by two of the guys who backed up Jim Morrison. Krieger and Densmore sound like they are sponsoring Barry White doing the songs of Percy Sledge. "If You Gotta Make a Fool of Somebody" is pure rhythm & blues, as is "Livin' and Dyin'," but it is not Butts Band that producer Bruce Botnick worked with. Sure it is dynamite stuff, but as the first go round for Butts Band had no image, this must have confused the hell out of radio programmers, retail workers, critics, and fans of the Doors. Botnick has been replaced by Jerry Fuller and is truly is the anomaly when it comes to Doors spin-off projects. Heck, even Ray Manzarek's work with poet Michael McClure contains Jim Morrison American Prayer elements, but the quasi-Steely Dan sound of "Caught in the Middle" could be early Lou Rawls cutting his teeth backed by a pseudo-pop band. It's commendable that Blue Thumb allowed rock stars to stretch like this, but no one familiar with Densmore and Krieger could get a handle on where Hear & Now was going. What might have been a nice calling card would be to take the Doors' "Touch Me" and let this crew send it up the R&B charts. For two members of a totally established group to create a new entity then switch genres is totally original and quite obscure. Butts Band would have been better off trying to get Tower of Power to do this arrangement of Bob Marley and Peter Tosh's "Get up, Stand Up." Robbie Krieger writes a majority of the songs, and female vocalist Alex Richman has a bit of Kathi McDonald in her for her composition "Everybody's Fool," but it is territory not embraced by most Doors aficionados. Labelmates with the Four Tops, this was moved to the Blue Thumb/ABC imprint (the Four Tops were on sister label Dunhill for their "Keeper of the Castle" phase). Gotta have it for the collection, but Manzarek's The Golden Scarab will get more spins.
Additional Information from Movie Mars / ebay https://www.allmusic.com/album/hold-the-fire-mw0000573917
Outside of repackages and live albums, original music from Tommy James is far too limited for an artist of his stature. 1980s Three Times in Love contained the sublime title track which hit the Top 40, while 1990s Hi-Fi on Aegis Records and 1995's A Night in Big City remain treats for hardcore fans. Hold the Fire deserves a better fate, and the team-up of James with James "Wiz" Wisner leads to some very creative moments. "Isn't That the Guy" has a great hook, a terrific hook, and some modern sensibilities, but may be a bit too avant-garde for adult contemporary radio. "It Keeps on Goin' " reveals the Tommy James his true fans appreciate, investigating pop boundaries and keeping the music different from track to track. One of the best titles here is the "bonus track," "I Love Christmas" which deserves a place next to Darlene Love's "All Alone on Christmas" and other latter day seasonal delights. "Ordinary Girl" is a strange hybrid of Elton John's "Hey Jeannie" meeting David Gates'
"Goodbye Girl," and on that level it works. "Angels & Strangers" begs the question of who wrote Lou Reed's "Sweet Jane" riff first? Those "Crimson & Clover" chords are recycled here prior to a soaring chorus. Why James decided to re-record "Megamation Man" from the A Night in Big City rock opera is anyone's guess -- the CD-single from the '90s already gave us two edits. What is understandable is "Sweet Cherry Wine," the remake of his Top Ten anti-war anthem from 1969, issued as a single a few months prior to Hold the Fire's release. Almost 40 years later the song is just as significant, but the slowed down rendition is not going to get the point across as effectively as the original. It's a missed opportunity, and is indicative of the album; this is a very good record from a great artist who delivered great albums whether they sold or not. The title track works, as does much of the music here, and it is great to have the pop maestro back. Where Lou Reed, truly James' underground dopplegänger, kept releasing product over the decades, the world has not yet had enough of Tommy James' creativity. If Hold the Fire marks his rebirth, it's a good first step. ~ Joe Viglione
Travelin' Review by Joe Viglione [-]
“TRAVELIN’” is a solid and respectable recording from the innovative and totally underrated group who became synonymous with bubblegum music. They didn't go out in a blaze of glory as the Beatles did with Let It Be, but this final album from the Shondells on Roulette before Tommy James went solo (enabling Peter Vale and Mike Vale to come up with their own production, a band called Hog Heaven) is a good study in creativity. The nondescript cover of James driving the horse and carriage away from outlaws hardly represents the music inside, but it is prophetic (the texture is like Elton John's Madman Across the Water, meaning Roulette spent some money on the heavy cardboard gatefold). Perhaps the man sitting next to James is co-producer Bob King, while the band is smiling and peering out of the small stagecoach. Maybe it's the music business executives chasing them, as James and King move on to solo careers. Inside is another story. "Candy Maker" and the title track, "Travelin'", are serious psychedelic episodes, with "Red Rover" excellent bouncy pop song and "She" a classic Tommy James ballad with guitar stops, hooks, great backing vocals, and a wonderful falsetto vocal. Sure, some of this album plays out like the forthcoming solo Tommy James, be it "Talkin' & Signifyin'" or "Moses & Me," and as good as these tracks are, it is clear that Tommy James wanted to stretch out. The dramatic work with Nashville legends on My Head, My Bed, and My Red Guitar probably would not have happened if there were still the Shondells in James' life and though the title track would have been a more cohesive follow-up to Cellophane Symphony if it led off this album, the work still stands as undervalued music that collectors and '60s fans in general should seek out and cherish. (Joe Viglione)
A Night In... Big City: An Audio-Movie Review by Joe Viglione [-]
This is an ambitious project by songsmith Tommy James featuring 11 songs and ten tracks of dialogue linking them together. Concept albums are tough -- a great example of a successful marriage of music and dialogue on CD being The Wizard Of Oz soundtrack. When Lou Reed released Berlin in 1973, the RCA label touted it as a "film for the ear." It was a soap opera set to music, a downer version of the "rock opera" format the Who launched with Tommy. In order to grab the listener, a storyline must be as compelling as the music. The narrative on A Night in Big City is confusing, but the music is among Tommy James' best solo work. This audio-movie has the smart pop Tommy James is known for, suspended by an unnecessary story thread. A natural evolution from his Christian of the World phase (which included the hit "Draggin' the Line"), the song "Baby Tonight" is vintage Tommy James with modern sounds. But it's necessary to get up and hit "next" on the CD player to skip the interruption and get to the next song, "Give It All," another hook-laden tune with James' great vocals and guitar work. It's nice to see he's still working with arranger and co-producer Jimmy "Wiz" Wisner (keyboards, synths, strings), who worked on the Christian of the World album. "Give It All" segues nicely into a revision of "I Think We're Alone Now," a very sparse, very cool "new wave" version. "Who Do You Love is ethereal Tommy James music, very nice indeed. James then picks up a chick for a ride in his limo, tuning his radio in to hear the single from this CD, "Megamation Man." This is a Ray Davies kind of "20th Century Man" that comes during the century after, a solid tune. "Madd Blue" is unique solo TJ. Unlike his Roulette discs without the Shondells, this is downright psychotic, sounding like Boris Karloff meets Richard O'Brien from The Rocky Horror Picture Show. In the comic book accompanying this disc -- which features a "3D" cover a la Chuck Negron's The Long Road Back -- Willoughby, the crazed maître d', attempts to explain the night's show. "Blue Bird" begins in a Tiny Tim-ish '40s style (which Mama Cass Elliot embraced so well -- this song would've been perfect for her). "Angels and Strangers," written by James and Glen Wyka, has a great hook that is classic Tommy James, a bit of "Crimson and Clover's riff speeded up a tad.
James is in excellent voice on this disc. "Tighter, Tighter" -- the hit he wrote for Alive 'n Kickin' (which became Brooklyn Dreams and appeared on Donna Summer's "Heaven Knows") -- is different than the version James re-recorded for his Fantasy Records debut in 1976. Co-produced by his old friends Ritchie Cordell and Kenny Laguna of "Mony Mony" fame, the Fantasy version is dreamier. This is more up-tempo and rocking. The band gets into a limo and ends up in a nightclub that burned down in 1937 -- some kind of script right out of Quantum Leap (not as much fun as the music, although it sounds good in theory). The final track, "In Slow Motion," is reminiscent of "Crystal Blue Persuasion." Despite the flaws in this endeavor, it is music that radio desperately needs. Maybe a new script for what comes between these songs upon re-release is in order, for without the interruptions, A Night in Big City is a classy effort.