Suffer No More (8/07/98)
The Ted Hawkins Story: Suffer No More (Rhino 1998) - Street troubadour Ted Hawkins packed a lot of living into his 58 years. Hawkins died, tragically, on New Year's Day 1995, following the release of his widely-acclaimed major labor debut, The Next Hundred Years.
For Suffer No More, Rhino gathered 20 tracks from throughout Hawkins' recording career. With liner notes by friend Jimmy Guterman, the retrospective is a loving tribute.
Ted Hawkins had a hard life, starting when he was sent to a prison camp in Mississippi at age 15. In the 60's, Hawkins sought a recording career in Los Angeles: During the next 30 years, he made a living by busking in such diverse locals as London and Venice Beach. (It appears that Hawkins also did time at Vacaville (CA) prison in the 1980's.)
Suffer No More is a good overview of Hawkins' career. Hawkins recorded Sam Cooke-style soul numbers early in his career ("Whole Lot of Woman"); he recorded spirituals ("Be With Me Jesus"); and he recorded some gritty drinking songs, including "Happy Hour" and "There Stands the Glass."
No stranger to acoustic sessions, the man and his voice are featured on such solo numbers as "I Got What I Wanted." But I think Hawkins' best work came in the studio with other musicians, as on such tracks as "Who Do You Love" and "Strange Conversation."
The album includes three previously-unreleased home recordings (including "You're Beautiful to Me"), and an acoustic version of "Watch Your Step," from Hawkins' "debut" album of the same name. [The album Watch Your Step had an unusual history, as it was recorded in 1971, but not released until 1982, when Rolling Stones magazine recognized it as a significant find.]
Hawkins once said, "In some ways, the beach is better practice than a concert hall. On the boardwalk, I've got to stop them, and then I've got to get them to stay there. In the club, I've already got them."
Ted Hawkins was an original voice; part soul, part blues, and all heartfelt. For a thorough going look at this honest talent, try Suffer No More.
Sonia Dada, My Secret Life (Capricorn 1998) - Chicago-based Sonia Dada returns with their third album, My Secret Life. The new disk features the band's free-wheeling, Southern blues-and-gospel sound on 15 relaxed tracks.
Formed in 1991, Sonia Dada now features three vocalists, Michael Scott, Paris Delane, and Shawn Christopher - together with guitarist Dan Pritzker and Dave Resnik, keyboardist Chris Cameron, bassist Eric Scott, and drummer Hank Guaglianone. The eight personalities melt together on My Secret Life, which has the chemistry of a live performance.
Strong cuts include "Don't Go Giving Your Love Away," featuring female vocalist Shawn Christopher, and the grinding boogie of "Cold."
Capricorn looks for hard working live groups that have developed a concert following. Sonia Dada fits within the label's trademark Southern-rock-and-boogie sound, and is a welcome addition.
Stegosaurus, Stegosaurus (Reprise 1998) - Stegosaurus is a band from Southern California that plays good old, three-man power rock. Since they've written a song about Fresno, we need to give them a nod.
Stegosaurus consists of Jesse Rhodes on vocals and guitars, David Liker on drums, and Drew Ross on bass. For the new recording, Stegosaurus enlisted Adam Kasper (who has worked with Soundgarden) as co-producer.
With Kasper at the helm, Stegosaurus delivers a solid rock sound on songs like "Time is Wine" and "Elephant." Stegosaurus received additional help from Matt Cameron from Soundgarden, who plays tambourines and shakers on three songs, including the radio-friendly, "Candy." The band also brought in Alita Rhodes (Jesse's mother) to play cello on "Tree," and local Santa Barbara engineer Angus Cooke to play cello on one track.
Stegosaurus digs traveling, as reflected by the "Pet Sounds"-style train sounds at the end of "Go Cart Man" and the ballad, "San Francisco."
But what caught my ear is track ten, the catchy "Long Way to Fresno" ("Fresno is the place/Where all the oranges taste the same"). It's good to hear our home town get some positive press, and Stegosaurus has current bragging rights.
- Randy Krbechek © 1998
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