Come On Eileen (5/17/2002)
Kevin Rowland & Dexys Midnight Runners, Too-Rye-Aay (Mercury 1982/2002) - Dexys Midnight Runners frequently top the list of "one hit wonders," being remembered for the single, "Come On Eileen." Yet the 20th anniversary reissue of Too-Rye-Aay shows that the band was more than a flash in the pan - there was a generous spark of genius on this recording.
Dexys Midnight Runners was fronted by Kevin Rowland, a determined Irishman with a penchant for horn-driven soul. His earlier incarnations of the band had resulted in a pair of albums, including Searching for The Young Soul Rebels (1979).
By 1981, the band had regrouped, and featured Seb Shelton on drums, Giorgio Kilkenny on bass guitar, Billy Adams on banjo and guitar, Micky Billingham on accordion, piano, and organ, Big Jim Patterson on trombone, Paul Speare on flute, tin whistle, and saxophone, Brian Maurice on saxophone, Helen O'Hara on fiddles, and lead singer Kevin Rowland. (The only original players in the new lineup were Rowland and trombone player Big Jim Patterson.)
There are stories about how Rowland used to lead the band on calisthenics, gearing them up for fame. Which came with Too-Rye-Aay, a worldwide hit. Recalls Billy Adams, "At first it was incredible - I remember exactly where I was when I found out 'Come On Eileen' was Number One and how I felt like I was walking on clouds for a couple of weeks. So much excitement around everywhere I went and of course this seemed like exactly what we'd been aiming for all along."
Yet changes soon followed, says Adams. "The single became so important that it cast its shadow over everything we did - every TV show we did we'd have to play that song and every live show a big chunk of the audience would be shouting for that song. And I'm not talking about just a few weeks either, months later, even years it was still there. It wasn't just me either - some of the others felt the same way. The song that seemed to save us had started to feel like a millstone around our necks."
Millstone or not, Too-Rye-Aay stands as a testament. From "The Celtic Soul Brothers" to "Let's Make This Precious" through "Jackie Wilson Said" (a Van Morrison cover), the album has a unique freshness. Also included are five bonus tracks, including "Dubious" (the B side to "Come On Eileen") and "TSOP" (the B side to "Jackie Wilson Said").
I remember when Too-Rye-Aay was new on the shelves, and we all jumped to its fresh sound. Then it started to sound pretentious, like a novelty. But 20 years later, I can hear the greatness - this was a fine, inspired album. Too-Rye-Aay was everything to which "The Commitments" aspired. You'll flip for this album.
Shana Morrison, 7 Wishes (Vanguard 2002) - I'm a big Van Morrison fan, so I'm inclined to look favorably on the new release from his daughter, Shana Morrison (a resident of the Bay Area). But 7 Wishes is a lightweight recording, which doesn't hold up to repeated listenings.
Shana's mother is Janet Planet (aka Janet Rigsbee), she of Tupelo Honey fame. Shana holds a graduate degree in Business Administration, and matriculated at Cal State Northridge and Pepperdine University.
Recalls Shana, "I spent the last couple of years in college sitting in front of a computer. I hadn't done anything creative for awhile, and I was a bit burned out. So when I graduated, and my dad offered to have me do a tour and sing with him, I thought it would be fun."
That period led to a tour with her father in 1993 and 1994, culminating in the 1994 live album, A Night in San Francisco and a performance on the overlooked Van tribute album, No Prima Donna.
Shana then took the stage in her own right in the Bay Area, teaming with local guitar hero Roy Rogers and forming the band, Caledonia (both her middle name and the name of her dad's old record shop).
Following numerous personnel changes, the band now includes Chris Collins on electric guitar, Kenny Greenberg on electric and acoustic guitar, Bryan Sutton on acoustic guitar and mandolin, Shawn Pelton on drums, Michael Rhodes on bass, and Matt Rollings on Hammond B-3 organ.
I wish I could say more good things about 7 Wishes. But songs like "Mother" and "Cherry on Top" leave me unfulfilled. The best tracks are a pair of Van's songs: the dusty gem "Naked In The Jungle," and the album's highlight, a duet with her pop on "Sometimes We Cry."
I've heard that Shana's live performances are very good. The genes are good, so keep an eye out for this talent.
Blue Dogs and Friends, Live at the Florence Little Theater (Black River Records/Redeye Distribution 2002) - Now going on 15 years, the Blue Dogs are an institution in their hometown of Florence, South Carolina. Featuring a well-oiled jam sound, with influences of soul and bluegrass, Live at the Florence Little Theater is a testament to their skills.
The Blue Dogs consist of Bobby Houck on lead vocals, acoustic guitar, and harmonica, David Stewart on electric guitar and vocals, Hank Futch on acoustic and electric upright bass, and Greg Walker on drums and percussion. The vocal harmonies bring to mind the smooth sound of the Subdudes.
Live at the Florence Little Theater was recorded in May, 1998, and features former members of the band as special guests. Apparently the tapes were put into a closet and forgotten until recently.
The album starts on the right foot, opening with a cover of John Prine's "Picture Show," then moving into such comfortable jams as "On the Road Again" and "Cold Sheets of Rain."
By the time you get to "But Walls Come Down," you'll hear the band in more of a Grateful Dead groove, with an up-tempo beat. Yet the highlight for me is a cover of "Never Been to Spain," which starts small and builds tall.
Clocking in at more than 74 minutes, Live at the Florence Little Theater is a full serving. Jam fans will like Blue Dogs.
- Randy Krbechek © 2002
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