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October Album Reviews: Bloody Red Baron
GUEST POST: Mike Baron
Mike Baron (aka Bloody Red Baron) was the longtime album reviewer for Pop Geek Heaven. With the closure of that legendary power pop newsletter, we are very happy to host his latest round of album reviews here at Remember The Lightning.
Gary Ritchie—Potpourri of Harmony, Volume 3 (The Good Music Club)
Potpourri of Harmony is a cornucopia of hummable, effervescent three minute power pop. Ritchie has an instantly identifiable sound due to his distinctive voice, penchant for descending melodies, and a balance of melody, bridge, and hook. He’s already released more power pop this year than most bands do in a lifetime. Potpourri holds twenty-five songs that hit the ground running and never let up. “Lonely Out In Space” is, like most of these songs, a fourth chord vocal harmony, bridge, hook, and sinker, perfect short guitar solo. Traces of early Beatles in “Because, Because,” Plimsouls thrust in “Matter of Time,” Beatlesque vocal flourishes in “Here We Go Again.” The segue between “Girl Like You” and “Real Good Feeling” is particularly sweet. When the mood changes from romance to rue, so does the music. “Living On Lies” doesn’t sound like the standard Ritchie song and “Friend Of Old” is a mournful song about loss. “Record Store” contains the immortal line, “I don’t want another loser from the record store.” He never disappoints.
Gary Sohmers—Beasties: A Sci-Fi Rock Opera (Self Released)
Gary Sohmers published a weekly newspaper in Madison, Wisconsin called the Mad City Music Sheet in the eighties. I read it religiously. When I recently contacted him on Facebook, I asked him what he was doing. “I’m promoting comic conventions,” he replied. That’s not all. Sohmers promotes toys, collectibles, rock and roll, tattooing and cannabis festivals as well. Sohmers has also written a rock opera that stands with other rock operas, in that it succeeds as rock and feels like an opera. It reminds me of Les Mis in social commentary, only Beasties songs are more user friendly. Much of it has a Gilbert and Sullivan feel in its playfulness and tunefulness, and the performers sing like opera singers, with a controlled vibrato, as on “Knock It All Down.”
Grā, a retired singer, lands the job of a lifetime working as a stagehand for the newly successful musician, Voice. However, during the band’s monumental concert in New York City’s Central Park, Grā becomes inhabited by an alien Impulse. Things get even stranger when a corrupt politician interrupts the show, causing havoc and confusion amongst the attendees. As surprises and chaos ensue, Grā and Impulse, along with Voice and his band, must rally humanity and their “Beasties” in order to save the planet. Will the power of music and unity be enough to succeed?
“Good Old Friend” opens the two CD set with a blast reminiscent of Jim Steinman’s “Bad For Good.” “Stand And Fight” is the type of powerful anthem you sing on the way out of a particularly good show. Sohmers uses a vast palette including cello and horn section. Dig that jaunty sax on “Empathy,” and the horns on “Dive” are reminiscent of a Jimmy Jam/Terry Lewis production. You don’t have to go the opera to dig this record. Gary, I hope there’s a live production soon.
Somerdale—Let’s Get Started (Kool Kat)
Seven years after Shake It Maggie, Somerdale returns with a monster slab that hits the ground running and only slows for a couple memorable ballads. The title track is the kind of rush you associate with Cheap Trick’s “Hello There” and Ed James’ “Welcome to the Show.” Like Rinehart, which we’ll get to shortly, Somerdale shows just how powerful a trio can be when at least two of them sing harmony. Their dense, kinetic sound showcases superb dynamics, as on “Crooked Roads” and the adrenaline-drenched “Better Without Her.” Ethereal harmonies permeate “Lulu” and “Time Speeds,” and “Taking You Back” is an instant classic. The whole album is.
Rinehearts—Full Bloom (Kool Kat)
Another Kool Kat power trio, reminiscent of Supergrass or Supraluxe, Rinehearts have a sound out of all proportion to their size, from the opening blast of “Goodness” through the sublime harmonies of “Call Me Up.” They sing in adjacent chords—A/B chords, like the dB’s or Rob Bonfiglio. Harmony so thick you can spread it on cracker. More harmonies on “Blue Jeans,” and on and on, through the Byrds-inspired “I Don’t Mind,” which could have come off the Notorious Byrd Brothers, to the swooning perfection of “Delilah.” Keyboard stitches “Piling On,” and the sweet little guitar riff they throw in at the end of “Coming True” is a lagniappe on a great record.
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The second volume of our semi-annual music journal features some of today's best music writers and the most talented modern musicians:
Ryan Allen on The Ties That Bind Hardcore Punk & Power Pop
Tyler Asay on the Philadelphia Power Pop Scene
Eric Beetner on Kate Clover's Bleed Your Heart Out
John M. Borack on The Muffs' Legacy
Walter Chaw on the Pretty Flowers
Nadja Dee on Fountains of Wayne
Marko DeSantis on Uni Boys
S.W. Lauden on The Replacements' Lasting Influence
Allen Lulu on Kurt Baker: The Spain Years
Aidil Rusli on Southeast Asian Guitar Pop
Other bands quoted and covered in this issue include Sloan, Young Guv, Supercrush, Extra Arms, Couple, Best Bets, the Speedways, The Tisburys, 2nd Grade, Hurry, Billy Tibbals and many, many more!
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