Tuesday, November 30, 2004
God I love that album cover. If I could come up with a good excuse, I'd run it for the rest of this week.
Ok, so if yesterday didn't sway you to the side of Skyband, I'll add a few more reasons why you might be interested. I'm also going to post a fairly large chunk of the album because 1) I've been liking it more and more lately and 2) it's not on CD and not likely to be on CD anytime soon, and nobody ever seems to talk about it.
It's possible that a lot of Christina Aguilera fans don't know the long history of Skyband's Steve Kipner, who helped make Genie In A Bottle a reality (though it would appear that David Frank actually came up with the music part of that song, including that neat bass drum thing which is probably the most interesting part). Luckily, there's a great, great page here that details Steve's long strange trip from leader of the beat group Steve and The Boards to songwriter-to-the-stars. Interestingly, that page (and every other bio I've seen) glosses over Skyband.
The main things to be aware of are 1) the fact that Steve's dad was at one point the Bee Gees' manager and 2) the fact that Maurice Gibb produced and played on two albums by Steve's early 70's band Tin Tin (not to be confused with Stephen "Tin Tin" Duffy from Duran Duran/The Lilac Time).
The final piece of the puzzle comes when you note that the production on Skyband was supervised by John Pantry (about whom I am far from an expert!). He was an assistant engineer on some Beatles and Stones albums, and an engineer for the Bee Gees and the above mentioned Tin Tin, and was a very Beatle/Bee Gees influenced songwriter/singer/etc. If you don't have a lot of money or time and want to investigate his catalog further, you'll probably want to pick up a semi-recent vinyl comp (scroll down) and a CDR comp (scroll down) of his work. The short version: he knew how to record things that sound like the Bee Gees.
So the point of all this is that there's a fair amount of Bee Gees lurking behind that Skyband cover photo. And, in fact, a lot of the album sounds very much like stuff from Idea or Horizontal. Need I mention that I really like the Bee Gees?
What's interesting about Skyband is that, on the one hand, there are these songs that sound exactly like Gibb brother out-takes, but there's also a completely unrelated, almost Bob Seger "rock and roll" influence on other tracks. Very occasionally the two sides collide in one song. I'd guess that the more raucous aspect of the band's sound is coming from Pete Beckett or Lane Caudell, but I really don't know.
When I first got the album, I loved Bang! Ooh! Ya Got Me! (posted yesterday) and thought the rest was better-than-average but not A-list. Over time, the other material has really been growing on me. It's not half-assed at all: the details in the performances and production are there, the lyrics are tight, and the singing is excellent. So here are seven more Skyband tracks, with very brief commentary. If you have a chance, check them out with headphones. Though not flashy, the production is really nice.
Me & The Raver: kind of like some of the Bee Gees' country influenced songs (e.g. Marley Purt Drive from the wonderful Odessa album). The singing gets a little excitable during the bridge, but otherwise I really like this.
Pie In The Sky: once the harmonies start, this sounds so Bee Gees! If you're only going to download one track today, this is probably the one.
Hollywood: (if Holly could, ba-dum, ching!). This would be my second choice. Actually, it's a close call. More country influence, tastefully deployed.
Dream Machine: this one's kind of interesting. Starts out in rock mode, then switches to almost-disco mode for the verse. Then back to rock (with fuzz synth) for the chorus. Very AOR vocals at times. I'm pretty sure I hear the phrase "Astral Taxi" during the chorus. Astral Taxi was the second Tin Tin album.
Spotlight On The Dancer: And then there's this. I kind of like it, but it's total bar band. You can almost smell the flat Bud Light emanating from this track. Southside Johnny could have covered it. Pretty good, nonetheless.
Cold Light Of Day: Lovely piano beginning, kind of like Bowie's Lady Grinning Soul. Note the totally ridiculous "C'mon!" during the intro. Then it turns into the Bee Gees meet...Kansas maybe? I know that sounds horrifying, but it's well written with nice harmonies. Two segments of the song are better than the verse/chorus: there's a wonderful bridge about halfway through, and then a very cool guitar solo outro that sound like something Mick Ronson might have done.
Roll It Over: Yet another Rock and Roller. On the one hand, it would only take a few tweaks to turn this into something kind of like a NY Dolls song, but they're pretty crucial tweaks. Again, nice guitar work, especially as the song goes on. Also, the sax solo is much better than it probably needed to be.
Comments greatly appreciated as always. As I said, it took me a little while to warm to these, but I did after 4-5 listens. For John Pantry completests, the one track he's credited for co-writing is Bang! Ooh! Ya Got Me! If anyone knows who "Cotton" or "Gibson" might be (they have some co-writing credits) I'd love to know.