The Two-Meter Sessions
Somehow, amid the mid-'90s major label signing flurry of Chicago bands like Veruca Salt, Smashing Pumpkins, Smoking Popes and many more, one of Chicago's most talented pop acts has remained unsigned by the big leagues. Band leader Ralph Covert and Chicago rock veteran Jay Whitehouse instead put together independent label Waterdog Records in the early '90s to release Bad Examples material (and eventually other bands). The Two-Meter Sessions was recorded for a Holland radio show and documents the band's first acoustic session on its first European tour back in 1992, in support of Bad Examples' first Waterdog release, the Bad is Beautiful album.
Covert's emotive, easy flowing vocals and the band's achingly on-target harmonies are perfectly suited for an acoustic session, and the late guitarist John Duich's blues and classic rock influenced fingering on these folkish pop songs add an instrumental depth few "strum and sing" bands achieve. Included are some of Covert's best tracks like "Ashes of My Heart," "Long Drive Back From Madison," "Statue By The Phone," "From Ragtime To Riches" and the band's signature crowd-pleaser, "Not Dead Yet."
There are also two previously unreleased Covert-penned tracks, "Battle Hymn of the Repugnant" and "The Master Thief Has Been Murdered." This is a great way to discover a true local treasure, and a must-have for longtime fans. (For more information, contact Waterdog at (312) 421-7499 or try their website at www.waterdogmusic.com)
This Sounds Like Goodbye
Seattle's Posies found fandom for their mix of Big Star-esque harmonies and crunchy guitar distortion on their first two major label releases...but not quite enough fans, apparently. The band slipped back to the minor leagues with its last release, and here, Posies co-creator Ken Stringfellow unveils a disc of half-baked solo compositions released through a downstate Illinois label.
These songs were recorded in Stringfellow's home studio – and sound like it. Unlike the pristine major label releases of The Posies, the recordings here are muddy and unpolished. This record sounds like a collection of demos Stringfellow might have laid down for the band to consider working on. There are several repetitive guitar/techno drum instrumental experiments that probably should have remained in the "experiment" tape file. My guess is The Posies would only have rescued a couple of these tracks – the beautifully melancholic (and mostly acoustic) "Too True," the overly echo-drenched falsetto-heavy "Any Sign At All" and perhaps a reworked version of the crunch guitar-ridden (yet still strangely stagnant) "Your Love Won't Be Denied."
This is a musical aside, for big Posies fans only. (For info contact Parasol in Urbana, IL at (217) 344-8609 or try their web site at www.parasol.com)
Up From The Murky Depths
Siegert is a Boston-based singer songwriter who's been compared to XTC's Andy Partridge, a not-unkind comparison. Stylistically, if not quality-wise, it's an apt comparison. Siegert's slightly left of center rhythms but energetic and happy sounding melodies on "The Invisible Thread" could, with a little work fit on an XTC disc. And his warm "aaahhh—ahhhs" on "Who Told The Winter" will feel very familiar to fans of that band, who might want to seek this disc out as a stopgap until the next XTC album.
But ultimately, most of these songs just don't quite have that hooky spark that will carry them over from "hmm, that's kinda nice" to "wow, that's a hit." Maybe next time.
(For more information call 978-356-0835 or visit the web site at www.augenblickrecords.com)
Brightest Coldest Blue
(One Room Schoolhouse)
Local singer-songwriter Jeff Shuck has released an 11-song disc of his piano-based ballads. Shuck shows promise as a performer; his vocals have just enough grit to display the emotion of his lyrics, but are convincing and smooth enough to glide easily across adult contemporary radio. He falls somewhere between Dan Fogelberg and Joshua Kadison.
If this disc suffers from one thing, it's in the arrangements. The background funky guitar riffs and keyboard solos of "Leighann" peg the song as a cheesy late '70s wannabe. And the straight piano-voice offerings, like the opening (and best) track "Shine Away" beg for additional production to mold them into true radio-ready ballads. Shuck's often-ambling compositions could use a little tightening as well. But he offers, at the least, a nice disc of background easy listening music, and perhaps, the calling card that will get him a real record label deal that, with a real producer, will smooth over those still apparent amateurish edges.
(Shuck is scheduled to play at Lori's Kool Beans in Oak Park on May 9 and at the North Michigan Ave. Borders Books in Chicago on May 29. For more info, contact 1-888-SHUCK CD or visit the web site at http://members.aol.com/oneschool)
Chicago's Infraction offer some slabs of thunderous stomp rock on this CD. This is medium-weight heavy metal with a solid bass jones. The opener, "Sludgebrain Opus #3" is a reptilian grind that recalls the days of Black Sabbath glory. "Sacred Song" follows, moving in an exactly opposite direction with an acoustic, gently crooned beauty that fits the title.
There's a late-'60s Steppenwolf vibe to some of the heavy offerings here. "Revolution" has a kitschy American Indian pow wow feel to its verse before the chorus guitars kick into a standard metal crush. Infraction doesn't do much to establish itself as an "original" sounding act, but fans of their live act will probably want to grab a copy of this disc.
(For info contact 773-271-6973)