Wednesday, July 3, 2013
Wadsworth Mansion - Wadsworth Mansion
Sussex SXBS 7008
When I was a kid I really liked this Rhode Island band's lone hit single "Sweet Mary" which I heard on the radio. When I stumbled across their album many years later, I bought it, happy to finally have my own copy of the song. I was disappointed when I actually gave it a spin, the song seemed a lot less vibrant than I remembered. I chalked that up to the folly of youth until I heard the single again and realized it was different from the album version. I'm not sure if they used a different take, but the single has instrumental overdubs and the vocals sound like they are higher in the mix. The single is punchy and exciting, the album version sounds heavy and slow although in truth the songs move at about the same pace. The ending is different as well, although curiously there are also two different endings for the single version, one fades out and one ends abruptly with a brief instrumental flourish on guitar and piano. The album ends with a longer and different flourish on guitar followed by an elongated piano flourish and then some light applause. I don't think there is any question that the single version is superior, but the album version has grown on me a bit, it has a sludgy quality I kind of like. If you've never heard the song, it is a riff-driven rocker with a swampy groove and elaborate, almost doo-wop style vocal harmonies, sort of like Creedence Clearwater Revival crossed with the post-Capitol Beach Boys. It is a simple song about a guy returning to his girlfriend back on the farm. It was written by the band's lead vocalist and keyboard player, Steve Jablecki who also wrote most of the songs on the album with some assistance from his bandmates; Mike Jablecki (drums), John Poole (bass) and Wayne Gagnon (lead guitar.) Nothing else on the album comes close to "Sweet Mary" most of it is generic early 70s rock. The album sounds bland, there is very little variety in the instrumentation or musical texture, it could use more of the overdubs that brightened up the single version of "Sweet Mary." My favorite song after "Sweet Mary" is "Let It Shine," an upbeat hippie-flavored song. Some of that good feeling extends to "Havin' Such A Good Time" which has a weak melody, but a joyous chorus. "City Gardner" [sic] is another nondescript tune redeemed by a catchy chorus. "I Like It" is a solid, hard rocking tune reminiscent of Sugarloaf. It really cooks. "Long Haired Brown Eyed Girl" is the only song not written by a band member, it is credited to Leo Genereux who was in a fellow Rhode Island band called Benefit Street. Oddly enough, considering its New England origin, it is a pretty convincing slice of southern boogie, not particularly good but it does rock. "Michigan Harry Slaughter" is a blatant retread of "Sweet Mary" but without the hooks or the charm. "Queenie Dew," "She Said She Would," and "Goodbye" bore me. Is this album worth seeking out? Probably not unless you are really into the 1970s. Most people should just pick up the 45 of "Sweet Mary." Recommended to fans of the Doobie Brothers.