Hey, Hey, Heyman!

Hello all! Thought I would lead off this week with a little heads up about a new album from one of the best artists in all of power-pop and maybe music as a whole itself. Not only that, but a hell of a nice guy to boot. I recently had a chance to do an interview with Mr. Heyman and it was very fun talking about music with him. Not just his own, either, but his obscure desert-island faves as well.

Check out the review of his new album below and please pick his new disc up and give it a chance. Some of the best power pop around, in my humble opinion.

Anyways, here goes:

Richard X. Heyman – Actual Sighs
Turn-Up Records

A criminally overlooked melodic pop/rock auteur who usually only gains notice from the power pop underground, Heyman has had a much longer career than his cultish but impeccable reputation (creator of 5 of the greatest power pop CDs ever made, in my opinion) would suggest, a fact that comes into play in regards to this, Heyman’s latest CD release.

I’d like to say this is a new CD, and in a sense it is, but with a very interesting twist: for this CD Heyman has decided to resurrect his first 6-song EP Actual Size from 1986 and reissue it along with another fourteen songs recorded at the same time but unreleased until now. And, lest one think this is merely the twentieth anniversary celebration of that first EP, it is also in some ways a near 40 year anniversary celebration of his first musical forays.

A much sought-after drummer since his early teens in the mid-’60’s, Heyman began his career by playing for some of the hottest bands on the East Coast during that exciting decade (and beyond). Heyman also gained a wealth of valuable musical experience by backing up many musical legends as part of one of the most well-known backup bands on the East Coast. A CD comprised of stories about Heyman’s exploits with legendary musical figures would be a great buy at any price all on its’ own and maybe he will pursue that avenue sometime down the road. Heyman’s book “Boom Harangue” has some of these types of stories in it, but not enough for my taste. Time to write “Generation X. Heyman” as far as I am concerned. (Forward all royalites for the book title to my attorney, Richard!)

That he has managed to master a plethora of instruments in the intervening years and become a home-recording genius only adds to the immense musical shadow he manages to cast. By the late 70’s Heyman was plying his speedily improving guitar and songwriting technique in bands with fellow future stars like Tommy Keene. That it took almost another ten years for his first EP Actual Sighs shows Heyman’s devotion to his craft and not wanting any sub-par material to leak out.

Mixed back in the day by Ed Stasium, this EP-turned-epic-album has a cohesiveness which is more than just semi-surprising. Sure, all the songs were recorded at the same time so you expect a modicum of similar subject matter and musical ability, but all the cuts retain a brilliant freshness and a thematic parity that turns the album into more than just a cut-and-dried reissue project. It boggles my mind how undated these songs sound and how much they sound like some of the lo-fi pop that is all the rage today. All recorded in Heyman’s home studio, his living room. (And also the inspiration for another of Heyman’s great albums, titled ahem…..Living Room!)

I tried listening to the album before reading the liner notes just to test myself to see if I could pick out what was on the original release and what was left off. To my surprise, I couldn’t do it. I was sure I would be able to pick the wheat from the chaff but there is no chaff! What Heyman could have done (which would have rare and novel) would have been to let people listen to all the songs and compile six of their choosing for their own Actual Sighs EP. Though it would be criminal not to have all the songs, it would have more than illustrated the point that there is no filler on this album. Why he left any of these songs off of the orignal release is a mystery known only to Heyman, but thankfully he has corrected it and let these great tracks out into the sun after all these years.

Anyone into melodic pop on a par with Paul McCartney, Todd Rundgren and Emitt Rhodes will love this CD. Filled with sing-along melodies and hooks that burrow into your head like worms, this CD will no doubt become the CD you pop in your car stereo over the summer when you’re driving around looking cool. In fact, if I were to pick the first CD I’ve heard this year that could be classified as a great summer CD, this would be it. Pick it up and see for yourself.

Feel The Flame

Hello kiddies! Day three of my renewed music media blitz on this great site. Rejuvenated, re-energized and regurgitating only the best information about bands you should already know about but probably don’t, I am here to light your flame about The Flame.
As you will be able to tell (especially if you find their albums and listen to them), they were one of the best Badfinger/Beatles inspired bands to ever come down the pike.

Read on:

The Flame – self titled
Fallout Records

Those who love the late, lamented, oft-troubled band known as Badfinger are hereby put on notice to check out Fallout Record’s 2006 reissue of the eponymously titled Stateside debut album of South African pop-rock band The Flame. Originally released by the band in 1970, the album has been a much-sought-after collector’s item for those into power pop and classic rock. Produced by Carl Wilson of the Beach Boys but not sounding at all like that band, this album is sure to turn the heads of many music fans who hate the suckery of today’s modern rock and wish it sounded like it used to when it used to…um….rock.

While it is easy as a reviewer to compare The Flame’s special brand of rock to the Beatles and the above mentioned Badfinger, there are many layers to the band’s sound, probably owing to the band’s South American origin. Sure, the material is above average melodic rock by a group of musicians who had no doubt paid attention to the templates laid down by the best of the English bands of the ’60s but that’s not all the band offers. It’s also got depth and soul, and it’s far from being just a Sgt. Pepper pastiche.

But, before I comment on the band itself too much, I would like to make a few comments about the reissue label, Fallout Records.

Fallout Records is a direct descendent of Radioactive Records, a controversial record label that recently had to shutter it’s doors thanks to some lawsuits won by the Jimi Hendrix estate. It seems the owner of Radioactive Records issued a slew of Hendrix live tapes brought to them by an outside party without permission from the Hendrix family, which is why they were ended up on Radioactive instead of the Hendrix estate’s own label. During the trial it became well known that Hendrix wasn’t the only artist being ripped off by the label. Radioactive Records specialized in issuing rare psyche albums from the 1968 to 1973 period but instead of licensing the albums from the previous labels or artists themselves, Radioactive would just sell “needle drops” of those rare albums.

For those who don’t know, a “needle drop” is a term for a CD recording made from a regular vinyl album and not a master. In other words, most Radioactive releases are bootlegs, albeit authentic looking bootlegs.

When Radioactive closed down, Fallout suddenly came to life and one can only think that Fallout is doing business the exact same way. So, just for your knowledge, whenever you purchase a Radioactive Records or Fallout Records release musicians are not being paid for their work and most often they will be “needle-drops” as is this release. I say this not to criticize the policies of this label, just to let people know so they can make an informed choice when and if they decide to spend money on this label’s merchandise.

Fortunately, for those interested in checking out The Flame’s album, the sound is excellent for such a process and is one of the better “needle-drops” I’ve heard from these kinds of labels.

Now, back to the music:

A four-piece started by Blondie Chaplin and the Fataar brothers (Steve, Ricky and Edries), the band released a couple of albums in its’ native South Africa and had even scored a couple hits there (most notably a cover of the evergreen soul ballad “For Your Precious Love”) but had trouble gaining a foothold in other markets with their R&B-based pop sound. Caught live by Wilson during a Beach Boys tour overseas, the band was invited to be a part of the Beach Boys’ label, Brother Records. While initial recordings were tentative and pedestrian, the Beach Boys’ organization owned their own studio and gave the band plenty of time to experiment with their compositions and flesh them out. Wilson obviously saw a lot of talent in the band, and rightfully so, as this album is one of the greatest pop delights ever released in the ’70’s, despite its’ low sales. Sunshine-filled pop rock of the highest order, the band’s top-flight musicianship give the songs more muscle than most bands recording the same type of music. Unfortunately, the album did not take off despite the backing of the Beach Boys and their team at Brother Records.

Thanks to the album’s low sales, a second stateside album was never released (although a follow-up was actually recorded – hopefully these tapes will surface one day) and two of the now-defunct band’s four members were drafted into the Beach Boys themselves, Ricky Fataar and Blondie Chaplin. The other two Fataar brothers left the music business entirely.

Chaplin and Fataar’s tenure as Beach Boys was short lived, however, and by 1975 they were out of the band and out doing solo projects. Fellow music geeks may notice their names as session players and singers on tons of albums with Fataar’s claim to fame being a member of The Rutles and Chaplin’s recent notoriety stemming from a long tenure as a sideman for the touring version of the Rolling Stones besides tossing out a solo album here and there.

This album will appeal to all fans of late ’60’s and late ’70’s rock as it mixes a bunch of elements ranging from British rock to folk to some psychedelic touches as well. After listening to an album like this one can only wonder what could have happened to the band should their album have been a success. Their songs compare favorably to anything by McCartney, Pete Ham or Emmitt Rhodes. Tempering the pure joy at checking out a discovery like this is the tinge of sadness when the realization hits that there could have been more music from this great band if only more poeple had been listening. Still, this is a mighty fantastic album by a band you should check out immediately.

There you have it. Another great band on which to spend your hard-earned dollars. Don’t fret, however, as this album is well worth your shekels. Buy it and turn it way up. You’ll thank me……