Sunday, January 06, 2019
FORGOTTEN MUSIC: THUNDERCLAP NEWMAN
This subtle charmer of an LP is surprisingly solid, considering the mile-wide delta that separates the personalities of the group that were brought together to write and record it. John "Speedy" Keen, Andy Newman and Jimmy McCulloch formed the nucleus of this aggregation. Hollywood Dream features great melodies, strong performances from all involved and excellent fidelity. Pete Townshend was responsible for the fine production job, assembling the aforementioned players and handles all bass work on the record.
Quirky and catchy, "Hollywood #1" leads off with the author lamenting the bygone days of old Hollywood with Newman rolling over the 88s all on his lonesome in the outro, as if there was no space for his part within the body of the tune. "The Reason" follows, bringing another stellar outing from the musicians. McCulloch turns in a scorching, face melting solo (one of a few stunners that he contributes here) that raises the game several notches. Excitement pours from the speaker grills into the fade. Astounding work from a lad who was all of fifteen years old when he did these sessions.
Who aficionados take note: The arrangements on a number of tracks are redolent of the approach that Townshend took while composing the demos for Tommy (think "1921" and "Sally Simpson"). As principal author of the majority of the material, Keen's work bears a similar stamp of that of his former boss. This is a plus, though it doesn't detract from the unique songwriting vision that he brings to the table.
"Accidents" is the cornerstone piece of the pack. Wildly adventurous in the structure, this multi-part composition weds grim subject matter (the untimely ends of several children) with free form experimentation. These flights of fancy were born out of the revolution in sound that began to take root in the mid sixties. Casting off the conventions of 2-3 minute running time, whole sides of vinyl could be swallowed up by a single theme. Clocking in at nearly 10 minutes, this epic cut ends with a relentless mantra that takes you right to the run-out grooves.
Life's just a game, you fly a paper plane, there is no aim
Though it was an unlikely candidate for a single release, it was edited and duly issued as such. It failed to make an impression on the charts and works much better in all of its unexpurgated glory.
Highlights abound on this disc which includes an immaculate Dylan cover ("Open the Door, Homer") the instrumental title track (written by Jimmy and Jack McCulloch) and the closer, "Something in the Air" which had already scored them a number one in the UK in 1969.
Call out the instigators
Because there's something in the air
We've got to get together sooner or later
Because the revolution's here, and you know it's right
Known by contemporary audiences for the dead-on cover that Tom Petty recorded for his greatest hits compilation in the early 90s, it is a shame that the original doesn't get played on classic rock stations with the same frequency as other hits of that era. It is a superb song in every respect. With so much to commend it, it is surprising that Hollywood Dream was a commercial bust when it initially appeared in 1970. Keen's falsetto can be a bit overwhelming in large doses, yet that is the only area where potential points could get deducted. It has been stated that they may have waited a bit too long to deliver on the full-length project following the success of "Something in the Air", though 50 years on that's a moot point. Regrettably, this line up would not produce any further music together. MCA re-issued it with different cover art in 1973, though it did not stir any resurgence of interest in the band. This is the vinyl version that I own and am currently spinning. An original pressing will cost you up to 100 dollars or more.
Guaranteed that this unjustly forgotten gem is worth every penny that you'll spend to add it to your collection.