Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Christmas Party - The Monkees

Christmas Party
The Monkees
Rhino RI 573134

This was my go-to record this past Christmas.  Even though I knew this would not really be a Monkees album when it came out, I was still excited to get it last year.  It is basically a Micky Dolenz record with cameos from Michael Nesmith and Peter Tork, plus some archival recordings by Davy Jones.  To be even more accurate it is closer to being a Fountains of Wayne album with lead vocals by Dolenz which I think is probably good thing.  I love the Monkees but I have my doubts about Dolenz on his own and besides I am also a Fountains of Wayne fan.  That band's Adam Schlesinger played bass and keyboards for most of the tracks and produced most of it as well.  He brought in bandmate Brian Young to play drums on the record and Jody Porter for a track as well.  Schlesinger had also had a big role in the prior Monkees' album "Good Times!"  He died last year of Covid-19 which along with Peter Tork's passing in 2019 gives this record a special poignancy for me.  The album opens with "Unwrap You At Christmas" by XTC's Andy Partridge which features a bouncy poppy tune to accompany mildly salacious lyrics.  "What Would Santa Do" was written by Rivers Cuomo of Weezer.  It is a punchy tune with an ebullient chorus and amusing lyrics in which the singer gets cuckolded by Santa Claus so you know this record is not directed at the kiddies.  Davy Jones sings "Mele Kalikimaka" by Robert Alex Anderson.  The vocal is lifted from a Christmas cassette Jones made in 1991 with Chip Douglas featuring new instrumental backing from Schlesinger and crew.  It is the sort of music hall type song Jones excelled at and his performance is very charming.  "House of Broken Gingerbread" was written by Schlesinger and Michael Chabon.  It is power pop with psych overtones featuring an inspired vocal from Dolenz that reminds me of the Monkees' "Porpoise Song."  The lyrics describe more Christmas debauchery.  Michael Nesmith croons the venerable classic "The Christmas Song" by Robert Wells and Mel Tormé which is given a lush interpretation with country embellishments courtesy of Pete Finney's steel guitar.  Even in his prime Nesmith did not have the chops to handle this song, but I find his clumsy yet sincere vocal rather endearing.  His son Christian produced and arranged the song and plays guitar and keyboards on it as well.  "Christmas Party" was written by power pop heavies Peter Buck and Scott McCaughey.  It is the most raucous and hard rocking song on the album as is appropriate for a song about a wild Christmas party that name checks James Brown, Darlene Love and, in a nod to Monkees fans, Auntie Grizelda.  The song opens with some Monkees dialogue that I assume was lifted from their TV series.  The side concludes with a lovely cover of Big Star's "Jesus Christ" by Alex Chilton.  Prior to this album I would never have believed that Micky Dolenz would someday be singing a song from "Third" but here it is and he does it very convincingly.  Side two opens with a cover of Wizzard's "I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday" by Roy Wood.  It is an exuberant  song with a sunshine pop sound worthy of the Turtles.  Jones takes on another Christmas classic with Jay Livingston and Ray Evan's "Silver Bells."  Once again the vocal is lifted from Jones's Christmas cassette with tasteful new instrumental backing.  The song suits Jones very well.  Dolenz returns with a delightful cover of Paul McCartney's "Wonderful Christmastime."  It sticks pretty close to the McCartney version and is one of my favorite tracks on the album.  Nesmith dips into the past with his version of Claude and Ruth Thornhill's "Snowfall" which dates back to 1941.  The song was produced by Nesmith's son Jonathan who also plays all the instruments and sings back up.  Nesmith's vocal is pretty weak but his son covers up for him with a very dense and rich arrangement.  Peter Tork finally makes an appearance humbly warbling "Angels We Have Heard On High" in a bare bones country arrangement featuring Tork on banjo.  Tork's voice sounds frail presumably due to his illness, but I nonetheless find his performance moving and charming, easily the most authentic moment on the album.  Dolenz gets to break out his soul man schtick for the rhythm and blues Christmas classic "Merry Christmas, Baby" by Lou Baxter and Johnny Moore.  The song is given a heavy lumbering treatment that gives Dolenz plenty of room to emote.  The record concludes with a 1967 acapella performance of the 16th Century Spanish song "Riu Chiu" which was taken from "The Monkees" tv show and is the only track to feature the group performing together on the record.  It is a little jarring to hear the lads sounding so young, but it does give the record a memorable and touching finish.  I love this album but I have to admit it is not very cohesive.  The Dolenz tracks and the tracks from his bandmates sound like they come from entirely different albums.  On the other hand you could say that about some of the original Monkees albums as well.  I dig the eclecticism and there are no tracks on here that I do not thoroughly enjoy.  It will be spinning on my turntable for many Christmases to come.  Recommended to fans of Sloan and the Posies.

Monday, November 30, 2020

John Prine - John Prine

John Prine
John Prine
Atlantic SD 8296

As Covid-19 rages unchecked through the country, I feel fortunate that no one close to me has come down with it or succumbed to it.  For me the Covid gut check came back in April when I heard that John Prine died from it.  It really brought home to me the danger of the virus.  I've admired Prine for many years although I have to admit that when I first heard him back in the 1970s as a teenager I was turned off by his homespun voice.  Eventually as I developed a taste for country and folk music, I came to appreciate his grit and authenticity.  This is my favorite of his albums.  It was his debut album and it is stunningly impressive, one of the great debut albums of that era.  It is loaded with classic songs that reveal Prine's sensitivity and insight into the lives of ordinary people.  Americana doesn't get any better than this.  The album opens with the catchy "Illegal Smile" which I always thought was a drug song although Prine claimed it was more about mental escapism.  I think it works either way.  I assume the reference to being in court with a judge named Hoffman is a reference to the biased judge who presided over the trial of the Chicago 7.  "Spanish Pipedream" is another escapist song with humorous lyrics set to a perky country melody.  "Hello In There" is one of Prine's best songs.  It is a poignant description of an old man's loneliness supported by a very lovely tune.  I think "Sam Stone" is Prine's greatest song.  It is an incredibly bleak and tragic tale of the downward spiral of a drug-addicted veteran.  It is so depressing I would find it unbearable were it not for the brilliance of Prine's unforgettable words.  Even though Prine delivers it in a matter-of-fact laconic style the song is absolutely riveting.  "Paradise" sounds like an old country classic particularly with Prine's brother Dave driving it with his fiddle.  You can easily imagine the Carter Family covering it and I am partial to the covers of it by Jackie DeShannon and the Everly Brothers, but Prine does sing it with more feeling than is typical with him probably because it was a highly personal song for him.  It is about the Kentucky town his parents were born in being ravaged by coal company strip mining.  The side concludes with "Pretty Good" which is about as close as Prine comes to rocking out on the album.  It is slow but noisy and punchy with loud electric guitar and organ runs.  It reminds me of Bob Dylan with the Band or Neil Young when he is leaning country.  That is even true of the lyrics which are slightly surreal and tongue in cheek.  Side two opens with "Your Flag Decal Won't Get You Into Heaven Anymore" which features humorous and understated criticism of supporters of the Vietnam War.  "Far From Me" is a mournful country song about a disintegrating relationship driven by Leo LeBlanc's sorrowful steel guitar lines.  "Angel From Montgomery" vividly describes the unhappiness of a disillusioned middle-aged woman.  My favorite version of this much-covered song is Bonnie Raitt's performance on "Streetlights" but Prine's version is very affecting, particularly Bobby Emmons melancholy organ accompaniment.  "Quiet Man" is more vague than most of the songs on the album, but it makes up for its lack of focus with a forceful rock sound that reminds me of the Band.  "Donald and Lydia" depicts the love affair between an overweight country girl and a young soldier who though separated in their real lives, meet in their dreams to make love.  It is a beautiful song that shows Prine's gift for evocative language.  "Six O'Clock News" is a grim song about a troubled young man who kills himself.  According to Prine the youth kills himself when he finds out that he was born because of an incestuous relationship between his mother and grandfather.  The song is enigmatic enough that I did not realize this from the lyrics, but listening to it after learning about it I can perceive the clues that indicate this.  The album concludes with "Flashback Blues" which is a jaunty upbeat tune with a western swing sound courtesy of Noel Gilbert's fiddle playing.  In contrast to the cheerful music the lyrics look back on a hard-living past with poetic imagery.  If this had been the only record Prine ever recorded he would still have to be considered one of the greatest songwriters in rock.  His gift for generating powerful emotions with understated evocative lyrics is almost unparalleled and as a rock wordsmith he ranks with the best American songwriters like Dylan, Randy Newman, John Fogerty, Bruce Springsteen and Dolly Parton.  No song on this album is less than good, many are great and four of them, "Hello In There," "Sam Stone," "Paradise" and "Angel From Montgomery," are immortal classics.  To my mind that makes this album a masterpiece that everyone ought to own.  John Prine was an American treasure and I greatly mourn his passing.  Recommended to Springsteen fans whose favorite album is "Nebraska."

Saturday, October 24, 2020

Jim Brown Tells It Like It Is! - Jim Brown

Jim Brown Tells It Like It Is!
Jim Brown
Main Line Records MLP 101

I bought this at a garage sale in West Hollywood for fifty cents about thirty years ago.  I bought it out of curiosity, gave it a single spin and then eventually it ended up on my purgatory shelf of records I'm thinking of discarding.  I pulled it out this summer and gave it another spin in the wake of the turmoil and racial activism that was sweeping the country.  I was impressed and also depressed that it still sounds relevant today.  The record was made to benefit the Negro Industrial and Economic Union (later renamed the Black Economic Union) which Brown founded.  The record consists of recordings of Brown's speeches as well as interviews with journalist Bill Jorgensen who also acts as a narrator for the record.  The record opens with some football highlights featuring Brown and recordings of civil rights activism before segueing into his speech at Jim Brown Farewell Day at Cleveland Municipal Stadium upon retiring from the National Football League.  The speech excerpt contains no reference to football but rather is devoted to racial equality and Brown's beliefs regarding the proper approach to it which involves economic betterment and earning respect.  This is followed by Brown explaining his program to Jorgensen in an interview which involves getting black Americans and supportive whites to join his union and providing the members with education, training and financial support through loans.  Brown believes economic self-sufficiency will lead to greater racial equality and social integration.  Jorgensen next interviews Brown about black nationalism.  Brown expresses respect but also distances himself from them because of their lack of organization and their attempts to separate from mainstream society.  Brown also makes some general comments about racism and how it deprives black males of their ability to be a "man."  The side concludes with some comments about racial violence.  He states that the violence is one-sided, that blacks are always on the receiving end of the violence.  He also criticizes riots as being unconstructive and a senseless destruction of property.  At the end of side one Jorgensen calls Brown a revolutionary and endorses his approach of equality through economic achievement.  Side two opens with Brown interviewing a new member of his union in his office.  He talks about the membership process.  Next Brown discusses the benefits of his union for young people and black businessmen.  This is followed by Brown talking about the people who have helped him in his life noting that some of them were white.  He argues that although racism is prevalent in American society, that there are sympathetic white people who can help the movement.  The next track is about black pride.  He approves of the expression of pride in their African heritage by young blacks.  He talks about his use of the term "negro" instead of "black" or "Afro-American" (which he does throughout the record) which I don't understand.  He doesn't justify it, just notes that you can get away with it if you don't act like an "Uncle Tom."  He again addresses black nationalism which he associates with young people on the West Coast.  He is sympathetic but rejects economic separatism considering it an impossibility.  He next speaks about black Muslims whose popularity he attributes to racism.  He believes they would be irrelevant if there was racial equality.  This leads into a discussion about Muhammad Ali whose defiant position he attributes to the historical emasculation of the black man.  I'm not sure why he feels a need to defend Ali or why he chooses such a convoluted defense.  He doesn't agree with Ali but he does not oppose him either.  He positions himself somewhere in between Ali and Martin Luther King Jr. who he also does not agree with.  The record concludes with Jorgensen outlining and defending Brown's positions presumably addressing white listeners which is reinforced by a clip of John F. Kennedy asking white people to try to relate to black Americans' frustration and impatience with racial inequality.  I suspect that white people are the principle target of this record.  It is so defensive and wary about being offensive that I think some black listeners of the time would have found it condescending or wishy-washy.  It is also extremely male-centric.  Brown's perspective is defined by a macho interpretation of masculinity.  He rarely has anything to say about black women.  He even complains about black men's authority being usurped by black women in their homes, not allowing them to be the "pillar of strength" in their families.  Given the prominence of women in the Black Lives Matter movement and the current civil rights struggle, this is the most dated aspect of the album along with Brown's insistence on using the term "negro."  Brown's entire ethos revolves around a man being a man.  This is clearly his problem with Dr. King's movement, the idea of being passive and non-violent in the face of aggression is an anathema to him - hardly surprising when you consider the style of football he played.  I think it is also at the core of his economic position.  A man should not take hand outs or complain about others, he should earn his own way in order to gain respect.  Fifty years later Brown's economic solution still makes sense to me.  It is why I find this record relevant.  I wish it was more of a historical artifact, but most of the problems that Brown talks about are still around today.  It is an interesting record and Brown is an engaging speaker, so I moved it off the purgatory shelf and back into my collection.  That said, I would only recommend it to black Republicans and misogynist liberals.

Saturday, October 10, 2020

Live Peace In Toronto 1969 - The Plastic Ono Band

Live Peace in Toronto 1969
The Plastic Ono Band
Apple Records SW-3362

My longtime hero, John Lennon, would have turned 80 yesterday if he had not been murdered 40 years ago.  I find that staggering and a little depressing as well.  I like to imagine what he might be like if he were still with us.  I hope he would still be making music, but I'm pretty sure it would not sound anything like this record which I think is unquestionably the hardest rocking album he released outside of the Beatles and that includes his album actually titled "Rock 'N' Roll."  The album was recorded under chaotic circumstances at a rock festival in Toronto by an ad hoc band with little rehearsal time.  The record begins with Lennon announcing that they are only going to play songs they know because they have never played together before.  It gets off to a roaring start with Carl Perkins' "Blue Suede Shoes" which features a sizzling guitar solo from Eric Clapton.  I enjoy Lennon's enthusiastic vocal.  It is followed by an extremely heavy version of "Money."  I like the power of the new version but the vocal is much weaker than the version Lennon sang with the Beatles.  Lennon does better with "Dizzy Miss Lizzie" which is also heavier that the Beatles version but retains the intensity and charisma of that version.  The band tackles an original Beatles song with "Yer Blues" off of the "White Album."  Lennon and Clapton had performed the song together previously on the Rolling Stones' television show "Rock and Roll Circus."  The arrangement is similar to the Beatles' version although the song does benefit from the heaviness of the Plastic Ono Band sound and Clapton offers up another smoking guitar solo.  The next song is Lennon's solo single "Cold Turkey" which had yet to be released at the time of the concert.  Yoko Ono makes her presence felt with banshee wails and bleats in the background.  I prefer the studio version, this sounds a little sloppy which is hardly surprising since Lennon says they have never performed it before.  Side one concludes with a lumbering version of  Lennon's first solo single "Give Peace a Chance."  It is messy and Lennon apparently couldn't remember the words to the verses but it gets the job done.  Side two features Yoko doing "her thing all over you" as Lennon puts it.  Like many Beatlemaniacs I loathed Ono's music when I was younger and almost never played side two of this record.  I grew to like her music however as I got older and now play the second side as well.  The opening track "Don't Worry Kyoko" is my favorite Ono song although I prefer the studio version.  Ono howls away over a plodding riff from the band that I think ought to be taken at a little faster tempo.  I still find it compelling though, especially compared to the next song "John, John (Let's Hope For Peace)" which had been introduced in the "Amsterdam" segment of John and Yoko's "Wedding Album."  It features Ono running through her throat shredding bag of tricks over drones of guitar feedback.  If I am not in the right mood it sounds interminable and torturous and even if I am in the right mood it can be kind of grueling but it offers an inspired performance from Ono that impresses me.  She and the band exit the stage but leave their instruments on emitting a prolonged cycle of ringing feedback to conclude the song.  This is definitely a young man's album - loud, heavy, confrontational and experimental.  It is hard to believe that the same two artists were responsible for the cozy domestic bliss of "Double Fantasy" a mere 11 years later.  I assume that if Lennon were still around making music it would be a lot more like "Double Fantasy" than this which would be fine, I'd be thrilled to have any kind of music from him.  But this album represents many of the qualities I most admire in Lennon including his fearlessness, his honesty, his brashness and his sincerity.  Listening to it 80 years after his birth I'm reminded of how much I miss him and how much he has meant to me throughout my life.  Recommended to Kabuki theater fans who dig rock and roll.

Sunday, September 27, 2020

Teach Me Tiger! - April Stevens

Teach Me Tiger!
April Stevens
Imperial LP-12055

Even though I have records by Donna Summer, Mae West, Marlene Dietrich, Julie London and Brigitte Bardot, I think this is the sexiest record in my collection.  I was surprised and even a little embarrassed when I first played it.  I bought it because I am a fan of the albums Stevens recorded with her brother Nino Tempo in the 1960s.  On those records she comes across like a sweet girl next door.  On this album she seductively croons sultry ballads in a breathy voice that borders on a cartoonish interpretation of female sexuality.  In the liner notes she disingenuously asserts that she does not understand why people comment on the sexiness of her singing claiming that this is her natural voice and she has been singing like this since she was seven.  Sure.  I often see this record selling for a relatively high price, much more than the Nino and April records tend to sell for, even though I think the Nino and April albums are better.  I assume the difference is due to the album's sexy quality.  The album consists largely of pop standards delivered at a languorous pace with subdued and tasteful accompaniment that places all the focus on Stevens' vocals.  Among the standout tracks are George Gershwin and Buddy De Sylva's old chestnut "Do It Again" which she sings in a alluring manner similar to Marilyn Monroe's interpretation of the song.  It definitely gets me a little hot and bothered when I spin it.  "When My Baby Smiles At Me" is an even older song dating back to 1920.  The song is given an uptempo almost jazzy arrangement with more silky vocals from Stevens that makes it sound almost modern (for 1960 anyway.)  Bart Howard's "In Other Words" is well-known from Frank Sinatra's swinging version under the title "Fly Me to the Moon."  Stevens gives the song a more yearning and exotic quality that I find very compelling.  The arrangement of "I Get Ideas" evokes the songs origins as an Argentine tango although Steven's vocals are pure torch song.  I slightly prefer Peggy Lee's perkier version, but this one is very worthwhile.  Cole Porter's "I'm in Love Again" was published back in 1924 but sounds contemporary when Stevens amorously whispers and sighs her way through the lyrics.  Kim Gannon and Max Steiner's "It Can't Be Wrong" dates back to the early 1940s when Steiner composed it for the film "Now Voyager."  It is one of the most energetic songs on the album and Steven's insistent and sensuous vocal is tremendously appealing.  There are three new songs on the record.  "I'll Wait for Your Love" was written by Jeffrey, Joseph and Marilyn Hooven.  It is a pedestrian song but benefits from an atmospheric arrangement that evokes exotica and a steamy vocal from Stevens that makes it enticing.  Brother Nino contributes two songs that I consider the best tracks on the album.  In "I Want a Lip" Stevens seductively describes her desire for her lover supported by a hypnotic torch song arrangement.  I find it to be the sexiest track on the album.  "Teach Me Tiger" is the most memorable song on the record.  It should have been a hit single but apparently was too sexy for the airwaves.  Stevens coos and moans her way through lyrics that invite her lover to teach her the ways of physical love.  It is a stunning song but so over the top that I find it a little embarrassing though still lots of fun.  If you dig torch songs, this is definitely your album.  Stevens excels at conveying smoldering passion and desire.  Her voice is warm and expressive and if I listen to this record in the proper mood and setting, Stevens absolutely slays me.  The kids might find it corny or dull, but I think you older folks might want to try giving it a spin next time you are having a romantic evening and see what happens.  Recommended to fans of Marilyn Monroe.

Saturday, September 5, 2020

The Holiday Inn Tapes - Roky Erickson

The Holiday Inn Tapes
Roky Erickson
Vinyl Lovers 901028

This is my belated tribute to the great Roky Erickson who died last year in May.  I regret that it has taken me more than a year to get around to this, it is more a reflection of my laziness than a lack of respect for Erickson who I have greatly admired since I was a teenager when I first heard Erickson singing "You're Gonna Miss Me" with the 13th Floor Elevators on the "Nuggets" compilation.  I worshiped the Elevators when I was in college and they remain one of my favorite bands.  I think the best records for a tribute to Erickson would be the first two albums by the Elevators: "The Psychedelic Sounds of the 13th Floor Elevators" and "Easter Everywhere."  I already wrote about those two masterpieces however so I have opted for this more humble solo record.  It was recorded by Patrick Mathé of France's New Rose Records in a hotel room in Austin in 1986.  Erickson stopped by with his acoustic guitar to serenade Mathé with 10 songs which he recorded for posterity.  Mathé issued the recording on a record in 1987.  For this reissue those ten tracks have been supplemented with the "Mine Mine Mind" EP which was issued by Sponge Records in 1977.  I imagine many Erickson fans would illustrate his solo career with some of the highly charged horror-inspired tracks he performed on records like "The Evil One."  I would not dispute that, I admire that music too.  I find those songs exciting and compelling, but they do not really speak to me the way this record does.  This album emphasizes the more sensitive and romantic side of Erickson which was expressed back in his Elevator days on the songs he wrote with Clementine Hall like "Splash 1" and "I Had To Tell You."  There are exceptions to this on this recording most notably the opening track "The Singing Grandfather" which describes a homicidal maniac in lurid detail that belies the jaunty folk melody and Erickson's mellow crooning.  Erickson reprises the song at the end of the recording.  "The Times I've Had" is a hard-travelin' type folk song enlivened by Erickson's lively guitar playing.  "That's My Song" is a similar sounding track.  It is basically a song fragment notable for its optimism and Erickson's perseverance in the face of adversity.  "Mighty Is Our Love" is a pretty song but unfortunately the lyrics are monotonous and banal.  "I Look At the Moon" is one of my favorite tracks.  Erickson sings about how the moon inspires him and supports the song with kinetic fret work.  Most of these tracks are obscure and as far as I am aware were never recorded in a studio.  The two exceptions are "Don't Slander Me" which he recorded in a rocked up version in 1982 and "May the Circle Remain Unbroken" which appeared in a haunting psychedelic version on the 13th Floor Elevators album "Bull of the Woods" back in 1969.  The original tracks are definitive but I enjoy the intimacy of these acoustic versions especially "May the Circle Remain Unbroken" which I find very moving.  Roky also does a pair of Buddy Holly covers, "True Love Ways" and "Peggy Sue Got Married."  I find his earnestness very charming on these tracks and it does not surprise me that this Texas boy admired Holly whose influence I think I can hear in his work (on this album it is most noticeable on "Don't Slander Me.")  The four songs from the EP were recorded in a studio and feature a full band on three tracks.  They are all terrific.  "Two-Headed Dog" and "Click Your Fingers Applauding the Play" are among his best known songs.  They are driven by noisy hard rock riffs and feature Erickson bellowing out horror-themed bizarre lyrics.  "Mine Mine Mind" is more power pop in its sound, but it plows through similar lyrical darkness with its description of demonic possession.  "I Have Always Been Here Before" is a solo acoustic performance by Roky.  In it he sings about the devil in a surrealistic and poetic manner.  I am very fond of this record although it is essentially a bootleg.  Erickson was performing informally for a friend obviously not intending the music to end up on a record.  I doubt it would have bothered him though and the performance is so delightful and unusual that I am glad that Mathé put it out.  If you wanted to introduce someone to Erickson's work this is definitely not the place to start, but I think most fans will dig it.  I listened to it a lot following Erickson's passing and it reaffirmed my devotion to his work.  Recommended to people who prefer Erickson's cover of "It's All Over Now, Baby Blue" with the Elevators over "Bloody Hammer."

Sunday, August 30, 2020

Beau Brummels 66 - The Beau Brummels

Beau Brummels 66
The Beau Brummels
Warner Bros. Records W1644

This is a mono pressing of the disastrous third album by the Beau Brummels.  The band had previously recorded two very fine albums for the independent San Francisco record label Autumn Records, "Introducing the Beau Brummels" and "The Beau Brummels, Volume 2," which had established them as one of the best new bands in America.  They were in the process of recording a third album for Autumn (which has appeared on archival releases by Sundazed) when Warner Bros. Records acquired the Autumn roster.  Based on those archival releases I think the third album might have been the Brummels' best and certainly would have solidified the band's artistic standing.  Warner Bros., exhibiting the typical taste and insight of corporate record companies, chose to shelve that album (supposedly over publishing conflicts.)  Instead they forced the Brummels to record this album of covers apparently attempting to turn them into Dino, Desi and Billy.  This might have destroyed a lesser band, but they were too talented to be denied and recovered to produce the excellent "Triangle" and "Bradley's Barn."  For a long time I resisted buying this product of record company greed, but I love the Brummels so much that eventually I succumbed to curiosity and a desire to hear Sal Valentino sing a song I had not heard before.  I was pleasantly surprised to find the album enjoyable for the most part although I still bitterly resent that it was ever recorded.  Given that the band's original sound was a mixture of British Invasion and folk-rock, it is no surprise that 8 of the 12 tracks fit into those two categories.  They do extremely well with the two Beatles covers.  "You've Got to Hide Your Love Away" is right in their wheel house and they knock it out of the park.  Valentino's vocal is fabulous and I find the song exhilarating, almost as good as the original.  Valentino also provides a wonderful vocal for "Yesterday" which the band performs with an appealing mixture of folk-rock and chamber pop.  Paul McCartney's song for Peter and Gordon, "Woman," is given a subdued performance but Valentino's resonant vocal makes me prefer it to the sappiness of the original version.  The Rolling Stones' "Play with Fire" seems like a great fit and it sounds wonderful aside from Ron Meagher's vocal which is too weak and mannered.  I wish Valentino had sung it.  I assume that Valentino had too much dignity to go anywhere near Herman's Hermits' "Mrs. Brown You've Got a Lovely Daughter" which Meagher sings with a fake British accent.  The band lethargically copies the original arrangement.  It is easily the worst track on the record.  The best folk-rock song is their version of Bob Dylan's "Mr. Tambourine Man" which of course was a hit for the Byrds.  It is jangly like the Byrds version but a little less rocked up although it picks up energy as it rolls along.  It features a strong Valentino vocal and includes the verses the Byrds omitted from the song so it has value to me even though it does not approach the kinetic thrills and beauty of the Byrds' hit version.  The Brummels deliver a quiet and introspective version of the Mamas and the Papas' "Monday, Monday."  Valentino's vocal is very sincere and engaging.  I expected more from their cover of Simon and Garfunkel's "Homeward Bound" but it is largely uninspired.  The four commercial pop tracks that make up the rest of album are a mixed bag.  Their version of Sonny and Cher's vapid "Bang Bang" is the biggest surprise and one of the best tracks on the record.  The song is given a dramatic chamber pop arrangement and Valentino sings the song with genuine feeling.  I love it.  The album is worth picking up for this song alone.  The Brummels' cover of the McCoys' "Hang On Sloopy" is also solid with a robust vocal from Valentino, a compelling bass riff and a frenzied guitar solo.  Meagher sings lead on "Louie Louie" which suits his vocal limitations and the band delivers a perfunctory performance that reveals their lack of interest in the song.  I prefer the version they cut for Autumn which appeared on the Vault Records compilation "Vol. 44."  Meagher provides an amateurish vocal for Nancy Sinatra's "These Boots Are Made For Walking" which is unfortunate because I dig the band's rollicking backing track although it is a lot less distinctive than the arrangement on the hit version.  Even though I despise the crass record company motivations that led to this album's existence, I have to admit that with more sympathetic handling this could have been a pretty good album.  As a former bar band, these guys could play just about anything and Sal Valentino is one of my favorite singers, I'd listen to him sing anything he wants to sing.  The problem is that I doubt he wanted to sing most of these songs.  If this was a cover album of songs that he and the band liked, it would have more value.  As it is I enjoy about half of it and the remainder is mostly painless.  It was a mistake, but the Brummels were talented enough to still make it work.  Recommended to Beau Brummels completists and fans of mid-1960s top 40 radio looking for fresh takes on songs they've heard too many times.