Tag Archives: The Monkees

Music Review: The Olms

Is the debut album from The Olms a hit, a miss or something in between?

The Olms (300)

If you missed the rock music era that ran from the mid-60s through to the end of the 70s, you can catch up to some extent by listening to this eclectic collection of 10 retro songs from the Los Angeles-based group The Olms. The Olms are Pete Yorn, who gives off something of an Owen Wilson-crossed-with-Ray-Davies vibe, and J. D. King, a combination of George Harrison and Michael Clarke (the late Byrds drummer) in appearance. It’s perhaps no accident that you’ll hear echoes of The Kinks and The Byrds in their music.

This debut album runs a couple of seconds less than a half-hour in length, and it was recorded on analog tape. Listening to the CD sounds like you’re hearing a cassette version. Whether that’s good or bad is up to the listener, but it adds a period touch to the release.

Here’s a quick look at the tracks.

“On the Line” is like The Traveling Wilburys (“End of the Line”) mixed with the Kinks. The megaphone vocal is by King, while Yorn contributes Davies-style background vocals. “Someone Else’s Girl” could have been a track from Damn the Torpedoes by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. There’s also a touch of The Beatles’ “Things We Said Today” in the song. The music sounds like a weekend drive through Los Angeles. Blissful.

“Twice As Nice,” the first-ever Yorn/King composition is an uplifting song that calls to mind The Beach Boys and America. “Walking down Record Street at night….” Clever. “Wanna Feel It” is the single, which has a nice rhythm but ultimately goes nowhere. All promise and no delivery, which is perhaps why it ends abruptly two-thirds of the way through and segues into “A Bottle of Wine, etc.” This sounds like a late-period Byrds song that might have been included on either Sweetheart of the Rodeo or Dr. Byrd & Mr. Hyde. It melds beautiful lyrics with unique and playful instrumentation. “It’s a lonely world without the one you want.” Sweetly melancholic.

“Another Daydream” is a Pet Sounds-style song with a beautiful melody and the strangest lyrics since “A Horse With No Name”: “Koolaid sheik wandering the desert/Stranded in time feeling alone/Cold sweat drying in the garden/Cactus flower saying hello.” What?

“Rise and Shine” is by far the weakest song on the album. And it’s meaningless. “I check the kitchen but there’s no one there/I start the engine yet go nowhere.” This might have served as a throwaway track on an album by The Monkees.

“What Can I Do?” is Yorn’s full-on Ray Davies act. “You know it’s useless baby we can’t say goodbye/We’re going to be together till one of us dies!” “She Said No” is King’s gruesome yet entertaining song. It’s his serio-comic version of Neil Young’s “Down By the River.” “Only One Way” might have been the last track on a Byrds album. The lyrics say, “We’ll see you next time.” Yorn channels Davies again while King’s guitar work combines George Harrison and Roger McGuinn.

The Olms

All in all, The Olms is a mixed effort. The album has some high highs, but they’re counterbalanced by some very low lows. Although Yorn is quite a good drummer, the energy level is off compared to their live performances (Google the olms kcrw). When they played these songs in a live session at Apogee Studio for the KCRW audience in Los Angeles, there was a spark, a sense of joyfulness (Yorn played the opening chords to The Kinks’ “Lola” and sang a fine cover of “Love Is All Around” by The Troggs), and a love of life and playing that’s absent in the flat-by-comparison album versions. The songs were also played at a faster pace when played live.

It’s a shame that the excellent KCRW concert was not taped and released as the debut effort by this group. Still, The Olms serves as a heartfelt tribute to days gone by.

Joseph Arellano

A review CD was provided by a publicist. (Photo: Justin Wise/KCRW)

This review first appeared on the Blogcritics website:

Music Review: The Olms – ‘The Olms’

The review was also used by the Seattle Post-Intelligencer:

http://www.seattlepi.com/lifestyle/blogcritics/article/Music-Review-The-Olms-The-Olms-4849307.php

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Midnight Confessions

The Wrecking Crew: The Inside Story of Rock and Roll’s Best-Kept Secret by Kent Hartman (Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin’s Press, $25.99, 292 pages)

Carol Kaye is the female bass player/musician who came up with and played the opening notes on “The Beat Goes On” (Sonny and Cher), “These Boots Were Made for Walkin'” (Nancy Sinatra) and “Midnight Confessions” (The Grass Roots).   She also came up with the opening notes for Glen Campbell’s first hit, “Wichita Lineman.”   These are the kinds of unique, Behind the Music-style, facts cited in The Wrecking Crew, a book whose second subtitle is, “The unknown studio musicians who recorded the soundtrack of a generation.”

Kent Hartman writes about most of the hit songs recorded between 1962 and 1975, starting with “The Lonely Bull” (Herb Alpert) and ending with “Love Will Keep Us Together” (Captain and Tennille).   Special attention is paid to 19 specific songs, and if one or more of these happens to be a favorite of yours, you’ll want to read Hartman’s account to find out how the song(s) were written and recorded.   Here’s the list (I’m eliminating the quote marks here for the purpose of clarity):  California Dreamin’; Limbo Rock; He’s a Rebel; The Little Old Lady (from Pasadena); What’d I Say; I Got You, Babe; Mr. Tambourine Man; River Deep, Mountain High; Eve of Destruction; Strangers in the Night; Good Vibrations; Let’s Live for Today; Up, Up and Away; Classical Gas; Wichita Lineman; MacArthur Park; Bridge Over Troubled Water; (They Long to Be) Close to You; and Love Will Keep Us Together.

Back in the day when these songs were first released, not too many radio listeners and record buyers realized that the Mamas and the Papas, The Byrds, Jan and Dean, The Beach Boys, The Grass Roots, The Monkees and others were not playing the instruments on their songs.   A group of select musicians, informally known as The Wrecking Crew, recorded the music in Los Angeles studios while the “performers” played the songs on stage when they toured.   It was generally a “win-win” situation for both the high-paid touring musicians and the highly paid studio musicians, and it allowed Brian Wilson to create and record on his own while the official members of the band that he created were off touring.

To his credit, Hartman does cover the occasional conflicts that arose, especially among the musicians – such as Creed Bratton of The Grass Roots and Mike Clarke of The Byrds – who felt insulted by not being permitted to play on their band’s “own” recordings.   Most of the musicians who couldn’t handle the public fame but private shame were shown the door; one exception being the four members of The Monkees, who eventually gained enough power to overrule their managers and record their own songs.The Wrecking Crew (nook book)

MacArthur Park is melting in the dark, all the sweet green icing flowing down…  Someone left the cake out in the rain, and I don’t think that I can take it, ’cause it took so long to bake it, and I’ll never have that recipe again.   (J. Webb)

The stories of how some of these songs came to be written are perhaps even more engaging and intriguing than the tales of how they were recorded.   And likely the most interesting of all the composition stories is that behind the song “MacArthur Park” and the song suite by Jimmy Webb that eventually became the best-selling album A Tramp Shining by Richard Harris.   It turns out that Webb was quite gun-shy about offering the suite to anyone after it was soundly rejected by the soft-rock group, The Association.   The story of how Harris came to hear what he was to sing as “MacArthur’s Park” is almost worth the price of admission itself.

MacArthur Park

One caveat about The Wrecking Crew is that Carol Kaye has some personal objections to the book which she has expressed on Amazon.   (I won’t attempt to summarize her concerns here.)   Still, this is a worthwhile read for music fans, musicians and future composers.

Well recommended.

Joseph Arellano

A review copy was provided by the publisher.   The Wrecking Crew is also available as a Nook Book and Kindle Edition e-book, and as an unabridged audiobook.

Note:  The personal story of the musician Glen Campbell (pictured on the cover of The Wrecking Crew) is covered in some detail in this book.   Campbell was a member of The Wrecking Crew for several years, as well as a member of The Beach Boys touring band.   Interestingly, he went on to record a relatively successful cover version of “MacArthur Park.”

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Another Day

a day in the life

A Day in the Life of the Beatles by Don McCullin (Rizzoli; $24.95; 143 pages)

This is a charming set of Beatles photographs taken in a single day about 6 months before what was to be their dissolution.   What we seem to see is a band of brothers, happy to be together.   Something else is that they are not the Beatles who were photographed to look as much like each other as possible.   Instead, what we see are four separate individuals – a prideful and content Paul, a wacky John, a contemplative George and a Ringo who looks like he’s tougher than the rest.   (Paul’s dog Martha makes a guest appearance.)

It’s a bittersweet collection as it represents the last time the band members would not look either exhausted or angry.   These were the boys enjoying the calm before the storm.   They also seemed to occasionally be making fun of their earlier stage-managed image; some of the poses reflect an overly playful – if not over-the-top – Monkees aura.

At $24.95, it’s a Rizzoli that will be a bit rich for some budgets, and it’s not essential when compared to the large, comprehensive Chronology book.   But the picture of Paul, on pages 122-123, appearing to sleep with a smile on his face while his best mates laugh is worth the money.

Recommended.

Joseph Arellano

A review copy was received from the publisher.   Note:  One article about this book noted that at one point the Beatles tried to buy the rights to this collection of photographs.   This raises two possibilities: either the band members loved the photos so much that they wanted to release them as an Apple book, or they disliked them so much that they wanted to ensure they would never be released to the world.   A fun aspect of reviewing the pics is trying to decide which possibility was the more likely one.

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The Rain Falls on Bad Moon Rising (a book review…)

Let me provide a warning right up front…   If you’re a huge John C. Fogerty (JCF) fan and wish to remain as such, you may not want to read this book.   If you’re on the fence about Creedence Clearwater Revival (CCR) and not sure whether they were a great band or simply both a lucky and extraordinarily unlucky one, this book may convince you that the latter is more likely the case.   This band biography is simply not a pretty picture which is why Bad Moon Rising is subtitled, “The Unauthorized History of CCR.”

How bad does JCF come off here?   On page 293 of this 316-page treatise, he’s quoted as saying:  “We call these Beatles songs and I guess we call them Monkees songs, and in my case we call them Creedence songs.   But actually, John Fogerty wrote all the songs.   So I think now that I’m out in this limelight, I’m going to try and straighten out that misconception.”

Ouch!   Not only does JFC compare CCR to both Those Guys and The Monkees, but he refers to himself (Himself?) in the third person.   The book does, on the plus side, clear up the misconception that JCF refused to appear at the deathbed of his brother Tom.   But little else here puts either JCF or the two other surviving CCR members – now in Creedence Clearwater Revisited – in a positive light.

Slogging through this book is like revisiting the worst parts of your own family’s history while watching an unpleasant soap opera on the tube.   And remember all those stories about Saul Zaentz, founder and head of Berkeley-based Fantasy Records, as the supposed bad guy (which culminated with JCF’s solo song Zanz Can’t Dance/Vanz Can’t Dance)?   There’s little here dealing with this, which may even be fortunate.

Bottom line, there’s more unsaid than said in this not so definitive book which was advertised as covering “30-odd years of legal wrangling, thwarted ambitions and lost potential.”   Lost potential for the reader, definitely.

For me, it has been more difficult to listen to either JCF or CCR since reading this book.   No more unauthorized band biographies for me, as long as I can see the light.

Joseph Arellano

Note:   This book was purchased by the reviewer.

Reprinted courtesy of the Troy Bear blog; originally posted on April 27, 2009.

bad moon 2

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