Once More, With Feeling

A review of You Should Be So Lucky, an album by Benmont Tench.

Benmont Tench

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A review posted in the April 30, 1971, issue of the UOP Pacifican newspaper (“CSN&Y Present New Album: 4 Way Street is Dishonest”) dealt with the issue of honest and dishonest recordings. Although that article dealt with the release of a band’s carefully selected and edited live recordings, the discussion might be expanded to include solo recordings. With his first solo album, Benmont Tench has defiantly issued an honest record.

From Tench’s days with Tom Petty – days that began before they formed Mudcrutch, Tench has been experiencing life and the mysteries that come along with it. Touring with Bob Dylan in 1987 and his subsequent work with Mr. Dylan certainly added to his musical experiences.

Those listening to a concert or album bring their own baggage and then try to incorporate their thoughts, feelings and emotions into a composer’s work. Some cannot enjoy a Nick Drake album while others will play it over and over. When it comes to You Should Be So Lucky, I offer the notion of sitting back and leaving the analyst’s hat on the table. Jump on the musical roller coaster, put your head back and just listen. Sit back and enjoy the ride as this album is a good one. Tench’s album is an honest recording – one free of tricks and unnecessary adornments, that should be experienced for the pleasure and enjoyment it brings.

Well recommended.

Robert Gorham

Mr. Gorham is a Sacramento resident and a past president of the Friends of the Sacramento Public Library.

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Off Leash

Two from David Rosenfelt.

Unleashed: An Andy Carpenter Mystery (Minotaur Books, $25.99, 308 pages)

Unleashed (nook book)

Morristown Municipal Airport is a designated relief airport for the New York area. That means it was built to serve as a place for planes to go when JFK, LaGuardia or Newark become overcrowded. Since I have never been at these airports when they’re not overcrowded, I’m surprised that Morristown Airport is so empty.

Criminal defense attorney Andy Carpenter is back for another episode of irreverant irony and sarcasm all in the pursuit of justice. Author Rosenfelt just keeps getting better and better. In this, the tenth of his Andy Carpenter series, the reader is treated to a caper wherein Sam Willis – Andy’s ever reliable accountant – is a featured character. So much so that Andy’s main client, Denise Price, stays in the background of the story until nearly 200 pages into the book when she slyly offers up Sam in her place as the murderer of her financier husband, Barry Price!

Shifts between the main narrative by Andy and another voice fill in the second evil plot layer that is growing in the background led by a shadowy figure named Carter. Andy and his trusty team of Laurie, Maurice, Willie and Sondra circle the wagons to protect their buddy, Sam.

Highly recommended.

Airight: A Thriller by David Rosenfelt (Minotaur Books, $24.99, 295 pages; St. Martin’s Paperback, $7.99, 312 pages)

Airtight (nook book)

The day was already a month long, with no sign of ending any time soon.

Be ready for a tense and tightly crafted thriller. Airtight is clearly not an Andy Carpenter-type of story. The central character is Luke Somers, a police officer in a suburban town somewhere in New Jersey. Luke narrates the tale in the first person for many of the chapters while the remainder are presented through a third person narrator.

Underlying a terrific plot are the feelings of honor and duty held by Luke and his nemesis, Chris Gallagher. Each of them has a brother whom he holds dear to his heart. Luke’s brother, Bryan, is an investment banker married to a prosecuting attorney. Chris’ brother, Steven, is believed to have stabbed and killed a judge recently nominated to fill a federal appeals court seat.

Luke, acting in the line of duty, shoots Steven. In retaliation, Chris captures Bryan and holds him somewhere out of sight with just seven days worth of air to breathe and the ability to send text messages to Luke, who is frantically seeking to find him. Chris believes his brother – whom he raised himself – was not the prospective judge’s killer and demands that Luke find the real killer.

Rosenfelt provides many plot twists and a few red herrings to keep the reader involved and baffled as the action moves along toward a remarkable conclusion.

Highly recommended.

Ruta Arellano

Review copies were provided by the publisher.

David Rosenfelt is also the author of Leader of the Pack and Heart of a Killer.

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A review of two books by bestselling author David Rosenfelt!

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Not So Lucky

Music Review: Benmont Tench – ‘You Should Be So Lucky’ (Blue Note Records)

Tench Debut Works But Only If Expectations Are Reasonable and Realistic.

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“But I’ll know my song well before I start singing.” Bob Dylan (“A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall”)

Compared to the pop garbage my fitness club inundates me with every morning, longtime Heartbreakers keyboardist Benmont Tench’s debut album You Should Be So Lucky might as well be Highway 61 Revisited, Exile on Main Street, Born to Run or even Damn the Torpedoes. But, because I hold a classic rocker who supported one of my main men, Tom Petty, for so long – producing such terrific music – my standard for him is a bit higher. By this measure, his first solo effort falls – fairly or unfairly – a bit short.

For the most part, the album serves as enjoyable background music for a house party. There’s nothing striking, nor is there anything objectionable on the CD; in fact, some of the tunes that emanate from it are rather pleasant. They simply aren’t anything special.

Tench’s delivery is gravelly and reminiscent of a combination of influences, not the least of which is Petty himself (in fact, one of Petty’s biggest hits is “You Got Lucky”). Another influence is Dylan, with whom the Heartbreakers double-billed two major international tours in the late 80s. Tench’s enunciation is reminiscent of Dylan’s (specifically recalling “If You See Her, Say Hello”) on the first track, “Today I Took Your Picture Down.” This is my personal favorite on the album.

As for the second song, “Veronica Said,” I wasn’t sure whether Tench was channeling Lou Reed or Elvis Costello. I heard some of both, as well as a riff that is strangely similar to Bruce Springsteen’s “Fire.” The album includes two instrumental tracks (“Ecor Rouge” and “Wobbles”), which are not much more than placeholders, and many of the piano solos sound similar to those of Bruce Hornsby. It also includes two placeholder type covers of Dylan songs (“Corrina, Corrina” and “Duquesne Whistle”).

Many musicians have made a career of covering Dylan songs – most notably The Byrds, and it remains the case that Dylan’s originals are generally superior. Here, neither of Tench’s renditions have any distinguishing characteristics that make them worth listening to more than once. This is especially true of one of Dylan’s better recent works, “Duquesne Whistle.” Whereas Dylan’s guitar chords and swing style boogie-woogie the song forward so that it picks up momentum like a train’s steam engine, Tench’s take moves forward like a snail until it finally comes to an end. As for “Corrina, Corrina,” Dylan’s version features powerful vocals (yes, the man can actually sing) that strike an emotional chord in the listener against a pleasing backdrop. Tench merely mouths the words along to his piano accompaniment.

It appears as if Tench, a talented musician, is attempting to find his distinct voice, sound and style by experimenting with and/or playing tribute to his favorite influences. There is nothing wrong with this and, with some refinement, a second solo album could potentially be quite good. This one is just so-so.

Tench might not have quite “known his song,” but sometimes trial and error can lead to great discoveries.

Dave Moyer

Dave Moyer is an educator, sometime musician (he’s on-call to play drums for The Who, The E Street Band or The Rolling Stones), and the author of Life and Life Only: A Novel

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A music review! We take another look at You Should Be So Lucky, the solo album by Benmont Tench of the Heartbreakers band.

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Worth Waiting For

Tomorrow and Tomorrow (large)

Tomorrow and Tomorrow: A Novel by Thomas Sweterlitsch will not be released by G. P. Putnam’s Sons until July 10, 2014. But you might want to put it on your to be read/purchased list now. This is an extraordinarily unique science fiction-like work set in the future. It is a time when each person in the United States has an Adware personal computer system installed, literally, in their brains. And everything that happens in this brave new world is captured on camera – including every transaction at every Starbucks, allowing persons to magically visit the cities and people of the recent past via fully interactive, 3-dimensional hologram-like, digitally stored recreations.

It’s been a full decade since the entire city of Pittsburgh was destroyed in a mysterious explosion, with all of its residents killed. John Dominic Blaxton survived because he was attending a conference in Columbus, Ohio at the time. He lost his wife in the tragedy and his mourning has led him to battle the demons of depression and drug abuse.

Blaxton, who investigated mysterious deaths for State Farm Insurance, comes to lose his job and enters a court-ordered rehabilitation program. He eventually gets the chance to become a respectable citizen again, but only if he can find the missing daughter of a very rich, successful and powerful figure. Unfortunately, someone has been working very hard to delete all evidence of this young woman’s existence. Can Blaxton find her and save her, in the process saving himself?

Joseph Arellano

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Better Days

Haunted Empire (close up)

Haunted Empire: Apple After Steve Jobs by Yukari Iwatani Kane (Harper Business, $27.99, 371 pages)

“Tim Cook was a master of spreadsheets not innovation. Since Cook had taken charge, legions of young MBAs had been hired to help feed the new CEO’s love of data crunching… Managers like Cook tended to overly focus on profits, the one thing that (Steve) Jobs downplayed.”

Since the death of its iconic leader, Steve Jobs, Apple Computer has been floundering; suffering from a dearth of innovations and dogged by competition from Samsung. This is the premise behind Haunted Empire by Yukari Iwatani Kane, a former technology reporter for the Wall Street Journal. Kane, who lives in San Francisco, presents Jobs as a legendary visionary (“…brilliant and unforgettable”) and Apple’s current leader, Tim Cook, as a bland manager who specialized in inventory control.

Steve Jobs

It will be up to each reader to determine the accuracy of Kane’s story. I found it to be highly credible. Mr. Cook is well aware of the book and has angrily labeled it as “nonsense.” However, Jobs’ biographer Walter Isaacson raves that, “Kane brings us inside Apple at this critical moment with great insight and unparalleled reporting.”

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What Kane does extremely well is present a highly disturbing picture of the Asian workforce that builds Apple’s products. The young workers in China who assemble an average of 180,000 iPhones each day cannot buy them with the slave wages they earn. It’s tragic and the company’s insensitive practices may have unleashed a type of negative karma that has come home to roost.

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This is a fascinating, troubling account of an American business.

Highly recommended.

Joseph Arellano

A review copy was provided by the publisher.

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