by John M. Borack
The Paley Brothers
The Complete Recordings
Real Gone Music (RGM-0182)
One of the many pop acts that never cashed in on the promise of their “next big thing” status, the Paley Brothers certainly didn’t miss out on the brass ring due to any lack of talent. The Massachusetts duo’s late ‘70s output – limited to one Jimmy Iovine-produced EP and a 1978 album on Sire Records – attempted to mesh Andy and Jonathan Paley’s teen idol personas with their sweet, familial harmonies (very Everly Brothers, with more than a touch of Beach Boys), outstanding original tunes that owed a large debt to ‘60s pop, and a clutch of inspired covers. It didn’t sell much, there were no follow-up releases, and that was it – until this revelatory collection, which offers alternate mixes of each of the EP and LP tracks, as well as 11 previously unreleased tunes.
The unusual thing about The Complete Recordings is that the unreleased material – mainly self-penned by the Paleys and recorded at iconic studios such as Gold Star, Ardent and Trident after the first album – is even better than the album/EP tracks (and those are certainly stellar). So while it’s great to have tracks from the original LP such as the sunshiney bubblegum pop of “Come Out and Play,” “Rendezvous” and “Ecstasy” finally collected on CD, previously unheard numbers such as the Spector-ish bopper “Here Comes My Baby,” the impossibly catchy power pop ditty “Meet the Invisible Man” (which Jonathan Paley calls his favorite track on the collection), the rockin’ rave up “She’s Eighteen Tonight” (which succeeds at simultaneously channeling “I Saw Her Standing There” and the Dave Clark Five’s “Can’t You See That She’s Mine”) and the dramatic “Running in the Rain” are all flat-out incredible examples of the Paley Brothers’ unerring way with a memorable melody.
This embarrassment of sonic riches also includes two perky live tracks from a 1978 gig opening for Shaun Cassidy at Madison Square Garden (one being a reverent take of Tommy Roe’s “Sheila”), a punked-up version of Ritchie Valens’ “Come On Let’s Go” (which found the brothers backed by the Ramones) and “Baby, Let’s Stick Together,” a glorious tune produced by Phil Spector in 1978 and featuring members of the Wrecking Crew. (Spector co-wrote the song with Jeff Barry and had produced a turgid version for Dion a few years before the Paley Brothers took a whack at it.)
The musician credits on The Complete Recordings are something to behold: Brian Wilson, Johnny Ramone, Dwight Twilley, Alex Chilton, Phil Seymour, Elliot Easton (The Cars), Roy Bittan (E-Street Band), James Burton, Jonathan Richman, Jim Keltner and many others assisted the Paleys on these recordings, but Andy and Jonathan’s spirited performances clearly steal the show. A five-star release, to be sure. www.realgonemusic.com
Mr. Duck/Sojourn Records
One man band records made by pop guys influenced by the Beatles – even indirectly – can often be a dicey proposition, leading to claustrophobic, fussy, “look at me” slices of boredom. No such issue with the latest by NY-area pop guy John Brodeur, however; Little Hopes is an absolutely charming ten-song collection that is reminiscent of talented singer/songwriters such as David Mead, Matthew Sweet and Elliott Smith without aping any particular style.
Brodeur penned every track on the album and embellishes his entertaining, hook-packed tunes with guitars, bass, drums, piano, organ, synthesizer, Casio, harmonica, ukulele, glockenspiel, percussion and machines, according to the liner notes. From the spare, pulsating “Be Careful” and the shimmering, intoxicating “Oh My!” to the sweet, motivational “Dig” and the between-the-eyes powerful pop of “One Man Army” and “Favorite Feeling,” Brodeur hits the mark each and every time. Not only are the songs catchy as all get out, but the arrangements are imaginative, the lyrics are alternately thoughtful and tongue in cheek and Brodeur’s pop sensibilities shine brightly, even when he gets serious (as he does on “Spit it Out” and “Old Wounds”). A damned fine effort that stands up to any pop release of 2013. More info available at www.johnbrodeur.com.