Tuesday, April 20, 2010
HAPPENINGS AND OTHER THINGS
In the past decade, increasing dependancy on digital manipulation, coupled with the advent of bands who sound like they have spent more time in marketing courses than the garage, has contributed to a sorry state of affairs for contemporary music lovers. Prevailing trends being as they are, it is always refreshing to hear the work of an artist who has chosen to swim against the tide
Revolutions are often born out of dissatisfaction with mediocrity. For those who fear for the impoverishment of creativity, help is on the way.
Reno Bo has moved away from a support role (playing bass for Mooney Suzuki and Albert Hammond Jr.) to step into the spotlight with his debut solo album, Happenings and Other Things. Well crafted songs and uncluttered arrangements are the rule, rather than the exception, making this disc an absolute pleasure to listen to. Adam Schlesinger's production job is exceptional, providing sharp definition to each instrument, especially the drum sound, which is reminiscent of the aural punch achieved by John Bonham in the seventies.
There is definite stake driven firmly into the ground from outset on this record, which invites the listener to enjoy properly constructed songs, with verses as strong as the choruses, imaginative bridges and a sympathetic supporting cast of musicians making it all work.
Synthetic noises and vocals that are buried in shallow effects are nowhere to be found.
Indeed, it is only soulful, power pop/rock inflected material that you encounter here and it doesn't come any better than "There's a Light". Kicking in strong, this is the perfect selection for the opening slot with a tightly edited intro that wastes no time moving into the infectious chorus. The turnaround change that leads back into the verses is the icing on the cake.
Successfully channelling Terry Gilliam's cartoon work with the Python troupe mixed with a dash of the stylistic devices used by Heinz Edelmann in the Yellow Submarine movie, the accompanying video was conceived and executed by Bo himself.
Inevitably, there will be comparisons to those acts that have inspired the retro feel that colors this work. Bo is simply carrying on a tradition of making good, straight ahead rock and roll, which is infused with his own particular vision and observations. For those that need a reference point, all of the positive attributes that made Big Star, Badfinger and Led Zep so engaging are present, though it is all filtered through a modern lens.
Vocally, Reno has a laid back style that is all his own, which perfectly suits his creations. Not once does he strain to hit a note or reach outside of his range. More importantly, you are actually hearing his singing, unencumbered by the trendy pitch correction devices that have caused so many current recordings to lose personality. Stellar harmonies also factor in heavily throughout.
Much is to be commended here, ranging from stripped down acoustic performances ("Baby, You're Not Feelin' Me Tonight") to full band ravers ("Higher Tonight", "Shake Me Up"). Masterfully sequenced, the record grabs your ear early on, holds interest and whether by design or happy accident, picks up the pace through the "back nine". There is a palpable adrenaline rush right up to finish line, with a slight downshift on the last track, the excellent "I See Stars".
Solidly stomping, "Sugar Suite Blues" is my personal pick, featuring a killer riff and adroit drum fills that would not have sounded out of place on Physical Graffiti. I mean this as a sincere compliment. In the heyday of LPs, this tune would have made for a killer start to side two. In fact, one thought recurred constantly as I listened:
The vinyl version of this gem would sound incredible.
Overall, Happenings and Other Things makes a glorious first impression, which only gets better with subsequent spins. If this is a harbinger of the coming revolution in music, then sign me up. Reno Bo has created something that will stand the test of time and it is more than evident that there is a major talent here that deserves to be heard. I'm already looking forward to the next one.
"There's a Light" is the new single, released today.
Check out this link to grab your own copy of the album.