Sunday, December 6, 2015

Tributes To The Hollies & The Left Banke

Tribute Albums are a tricky enterprise. While there have been a plethora of them released since the 1980s, only a small number end up being essential listening for loyal fans, who are often divided over the true worth of such discs. Is the album a strong selection of the saluted artist’s best work, a collection of lesser-known tracks, or a combination of both? Will the disc appeal to the casual listener as well as the devoted fan? It’s also a tough prospect for the artists who participate: do you put forth a faithful cover of the original song, or take the tune in an entirely different direction? Indeed, that can be the tightrope you walk when doing any cover version. I’ve lauded a bunch of covers in some of my playlist features for this blog in the past, but this week I’d like to take note of a couple of tribute discs that are worth tracking down.

Sing Hollies In Reverse (1995) – The Hollies are often underrated in discussions of the best bands from The British Invasion era, but their superb harmonies & sparkling guitars, featured on a number of classic pop/rock singles like “Bus Stop,” and "Look Through Any Window" are fondly remembered by music aficionados to this day. The band also gave us our first look at Graham Nash, later to form a super-group with David Crosby, Stephen Stills & Neil Young. Sing Hollies in Reverse features twenty-one Hollies songs covered by a cadre of power pop groups, who are unabashed fans of the band. Some of the standout tracks include Tommy Keene’s version of “Carrie Anne,” The Wondermints wonderful romp through “You Need Love,” and The Posies perfect take on one of my favorite Hollies tunes “King Midas In Reverse,” which kicks off the disc.

There are some artists who put their own stamp on the songs, including Jon Brion’s psychedelic run-through of “Sorry Suzanne,” E’s interesting take on “Jennifer Ecles,” and the Flamingoes version of “Water on The Brain” is a must listen. You’ll also get to hear The Continental Drifters (featuring ex-Cowsills member Susan Cowsill) pour their hearts (and beautiful harmonies) into “I Can’t Let Go” and Material Issue do their best British Invasion impression on “Bus Stop,” while the Shakin’ Apostles rock their way through “Dear Eloise.” Sing Hollies In Reverse is currently out of print, but used copies are pretty easy to find online. If you’re a Hollies devotee, or a fan of any of the groups featured on the album, you’ll enjoy it.

Shadows Breaking Over Our Heads: A Tribute To The Left Banke (1999) - You probably know about The Left Banke based on their two classic 1960s singles “Pretty Ballerina” and the oft-covered “Walk Away Renee” but the short-lived group really helped define the “baroque pop” genre explored by bands like The Zombies and Love, as well groups like The Beatles, The Beach Boys & The Rolling Stones. While their original output only included two albums, they left a lasting impression on a number of fellow musicians, and rock & roll fans. This album features 22 tracks, and there’s not a bad one in the bunch. Some of the most enjoyable entries include Frank Bango’s pop-tinged “Goodbye Holly,” Sun Sawed in 1/2’s effervescent “And Suddenly,” and Starbelly’s rocking version of “Myrah.” And I love The Phenomenal Cats fantastic reading of “I’ve Got Something On My Mind,” one of the best songs in the The Left Banke catalog.

But there are a couple of tracks that really hit it out of the park, including ex-Jellyfish member Jason Falkner’s beautiful, yearning rendition of “Pretty Ballerina” and The Jigsaw Scene’s late period Beatles inspired take on “Desiree,” while The Birdwatchers channel their inner Brian Wilson on “My Friend Today.” Blue Cartoon contributes a strong cover of  “Give The Man A Hand,” and Ken Stringfellow provides an echo-tinged interpretation of "She May Call You Up Tonight." As with The Hollies tribute, having power pop & indie bands take on these songs is an inspired idea that really pays off. Like Sing Hollies in Reverse, this disc is out of print, but readily available used, at various online outlets. Repeated exposure to Shadows Breaking Over Our Heads: A Tribute To The Left Banke just might make you a Left Banke fan, even if you’re only mildly familiar with their work. Track lists for both discs are below.

Sing Hollies In Reverse
1. The Posies – King Midas In Reverse
2. Tommy Keene – Carrie Anne
3. The Loud Family – Look Through Any Window

4. Steve Wynn & Eric Ambel – The Air That I Breathe

5. Mitch Eeaster – Pay You Back With Interest

6. Cub – You Know He Did

7. Kristian Hoffman – I’m Alive

8. Flamingoes – Water On The Brain

9. E – Jennifer Eccles

10. The Jigsaw Seen – On A Carousel

11. John Easdale – Long Cool Woman In A Black Dress

12. Bill Lloyd – Step Inside

13. Loser’s Lounge – After The Fox

14. The Wondermints – You Need Love

15. The Sneetches– So Lonely

16. The Continental Drifters – I Can’t Let Go

17. Carla Olson – Touch

18. Andrew – Heading For A Fall

19. Material Issue – Bus Stop

20. Shakin‘ Apostles – Dear Eloise

21. Jon Brion – Sorry Suzanne

Shadows Breaking Over Our Heads: A Tribute To The Left Banke
1.   Desiree - The Jigsaw Seen
2.   Let Go Of You Girl - Admiral
3.   Goodbye Holly - Frank Bango
4.   Pretty Ballerina - Jason Falkner
5.   I Haven't Got The Nerve - Shane Faubert
6.   Myrah - Starbelly
7.   And Suddenly - The Sun Sawed In 1/2
8.   Shadows Breaking Over My Head - Blue Cartoon
9.   Give The Man A Hand - The Andersons

10. My Friend Today - The Birdwatchers
11.  Evening Gown - Minster Hill
12.  Sing Little Bird Sing - Flamingo
13.  Lazy Day - The Grip Weeds
14. Nice To See You - Mark Johnson
15. Walk Away Renee - Angie Heaton
16. She May Call You Up Tonight - Ken Stringfellow
17. I've Got Something On My Mind - The Phenomenal Cats
18. Dark Is The Bark - Jeremy
19. Barterers And Their Wives - The Idea
20. There's Gonna Be A Storm - The Christines
21. Run Jenny Run - Ed James
22. Brother Louie - Jim Basnight

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