Sunday, May 05, 2024

May Top 40 Mare Winningham, Planet of the Apes, Andy Mendelson


Happy Birthday Mare! Years ago Mare Winningham and her husband saw me at the Paradise Theater in Boston, a club I booked for many years. She gave me her cd. Like 15 years later I reviewed it for
What Might Be Review by Joe Viglione

What Might Be is an extraordinary track by film star Mare Winningham. Loreena McKinnit and Natalie Merchant share the delicate and precise style that Winningham puts into her voice and music. Bill Mapel co-wrote the lyrics to the title track, and it is the only song not composed entirely by Mare. Sid Page's violin brings the determination of "What Might Be" to a frenzy toward its conclusion, a song that works in so many ways, and more present than "Take My Word For It," which opens the album like a counterpoint to the work of Dan Fogelberg. "Well It's Gone" goes in another direction, folk music from a cabana in some film of Mare's perhaps, very light and friendly on the ears, cool backing vocals slide in unexpectedly to enhance this piece. Despite her fame, these 12 songs from the early '90s show a maturity and grasp of musical communication that demands radio attention and a wider audience. "If I Wanted" beautifully combines Winningham's acoustic rhythm guitar, Robert Carradine's acoustic lead guitar, Joel Hamilton's acoustic bass to good effect, but it's Mare's use of chords that endears the tune to the listener, her voice taking an early Judy Collins kind of turn. "Train Song" has that naive arrogance of early Janis Ian, "Far Away From Me" helps the album parachute to a gentle landing. This is an exceptional effort by a tremendously talented, multifaceted artist.

Maybe the Good Guy's Gonna Win Review by Joe Viglione

Two years before Harry Maslin produced Boston's Nervous Eaters for Elektra, the keyboard player for Andy Pratt branched out on this solo disc. There are some heavy players on here, from Greg Hawkes of the Cars to the legendary Tom Scott. There are some great pop tunes written by Andy Mendelson, but the comparisons with his former bandleader go beyond their sharing the same first name. This sounds like a lost Andy Pratt album. Mendelson sounds so close to Pratt vocally that you'd think they are brothers; Pratt's voice is better, though, and his material has also stood the test of time. Still, tunes like "Hold On" and "Sweet Persuasion" have great pop sensibilities. This is perfectly crafted music -- a little too perfect at times -- and Mendelson's voice is a paradox; it is not up to the standards of the playing, leaning more toward the new wave that was happening in Boston when this album was released (on a label best known for Melissa Manchester and Barry Manilow). It's a strange mix of adult contemporary pop with a street vocal. Where the Dwight Twilley Band pulled it off, Mendelson only almost does. "Outside My Window" is truly unique, a perfect tune for Art Garfunkel's solo albums being released around this same time period, and very much like Garfunkel's solo hit "Breakaway." It is too bad that Mendelson broke away from Pratt's ensemble. They had an energy and multiple major label albums, along with a minor hit single that generated interest. This album would have been dynamite if it had been made for a publisher to promote these tunes to other artists. If Pratt let Mendelson open for his shows and somehow kept him in the band, history may have been kinder to the fine music in these grooves. Maslin's production is full-bodied here, and superior to his homogenization of the Nervous Eaters, perhaps because he engineered that record as well, and Richard Mendelson did the engineering chores here. Richard also co-wrote one song, "We All Fall Down." The two brothers would eventually buy the Cars' studio, Syncro Sound, which the Cars purchased from people involved with the G-Clefs, at a time when the first Aerosmith album was tracked at Intermedia (to add a little more Boston rock & roll history to this mix). The Mendelson brothers were important elements of the scene, and command respect for their skills. As with the aforementioned Nervous Eaters, Andy Mendelson needed to be able to stretch his talents out over four or five albums. There are some very fine moments here; "Lifetime Woman" has some highs, but there are also flaws that Pratt could have fixed very nicely. Had they collaborated on this project, it might really have been something special. "Fire in the Night" is indicative of the merits and the problems with the album: It has a strong, strong hook but needed verses of equal power. Respectable, entertaining, but not quite there.

Lay a Little Lovin' on Me Review by Joe Viglione

Robin McNamara's album, titled after his big 1970 hit "Lay a Little Lovin' on Me," appeared on Jeff Barry's Steed label and features that singer from the Broadway show Hair along with his cast members. The 45, as well as its non-LP B-side "I'll Tell You Tomorrow," were both co-written by the singer and his producer, with songwriter Jim Cretecos helping out on the title track. That radio-friendly bubblegum confection brightened up the summer of 1970, but it is not indicative of the adult contemporary sound on the rest of this very listenable disc. The music on the Lay a Little Lovin' on Me LP is actually a better reflection of the hip Broadway shows of the day. Neil Goldberg's "Now Is the Time" would fit just as well on the Godspell album, so different from the number 11 hit from July 1970, which no doubt inspired the likes of Richard Mondo, aka Daddy Dewdrop, and his irreverent 1971 novelty tune "Chick a Boom" -- a frosty little bubblegum number like "Lay a Little Lovin' on Me." McNamara is a credible songwriter on his own and it is a wonder he didn't land a couple of other hits, but it's more a wonder that he faded so quickly from the musical landscape. He did show up on radio station WMEX in Boston, allegedly ripping his shirt off like some Hair promo for DJ John H. Garabedian (famous for discovering the hit "Maggie Mae" for Rod Stewart ) and appears as a musician on a Monkees compilation, but he just didn't reap the rewards promised by this very sophisticated endeavor. Side one ends with a tune co-written with Ned Albright called "Lost in Boston," a fun little ditty mentioning Fenway Park that's a lot like McNamara's solo composition "Beer Drinkin' Man." Albright and Bob Dylan cohort Steven Soles co-write a very the Band-ish "Together, Forever," and they were responsible for "All Alone in the Dark" from the Monkees 1970 disc Changes. Jeff Barry was a co-producer of that Monkees event and this album's engineer, Mike Moran, showed up there, as well, giving McNamara's 11-song collection a certain value for the fans of that TV show. There are some great lost moments here, unexpected on a disc that became popular by putting the cast of a Broadway show on a tune appropriate for the Partridge Family. "Got to Believe in Love" could have changed the perception as it fuses the gospel of "Hang in There Baby" and "Glory, Glory" with the pop that brought this LP to the attention of the masses. This is a solid effort all the way around.

May Top 40 Mare Winningham, Planet of the Apes, Andy Mendelson

  Happy Birthday Mare! Years ago Mare Winningham and her husband saw me at the Paradise Theater in Boston, a club I booked for many years....