Sunday, May 7, 2017

Mark Crozer and The Rels - "Sunny Side Down" Vinyl Album Release, + Simon Doom, Overlake, Dion Lunadon

The long awaited vinyl release of Mark Crozer and The Rels latest album “Sunny Side Down” has arrived, further expanding the ways these glorious ten songs can be heard. Having released the tracks digitally in the latter half of 2016 (which was initially chronicled on this site right here), the April 28th arrival of this music on an exclusive limited edition 12” vinyl album presents another opportunity to experience these wonderful compositions.

Recorded at Mitch Easter's studio in North Carolina (where Mitch engineered and co-produced with Mark and the band) the legendary Lets Active frontman who also produced R.E.M.’s early breakthrough albums has captured Mark and The Rels at their best.

Opening track “All You Gotta Do” blends chiming strummed guitar chords with deep booming drums and an instantly hooky melody. A love song from both the pick-up line perspective and we’ve got to get out of this place attitude. “If you’re feeling tired, and kicking around – waiting for some action in this dead dog town. You need a guy like me to break you out of your shell. So come on over here night and day and ring my bell.” Which ultimately leads to a soaring chorus that concludes “we can turn this town to ash, ‘cause I think you and I are the perfect match – all you gotta do is come around.”


A driving forward march cadences matches static double-time percussion against fluid bass guitar and an elongated sustained melody line on the emotionally charged “Lukewarm Love.” This tale of unrequited (or barely-requited) love shows an impressive level of honest, heart-tugging lyrical writing. “You know she looked right though me - like she’d never known me - like she’d never grown attached to me. But I could have sworn that, we had gone beyond that, but now that seems like that was a dream.”

 That sentiment makes way for a perfectly constructed single line bridge “now I’m back on the shelf – with everyone else” Leading in to a wonderfully bouncy (but ultimately sad) chorus: “Her lukewarm love flickered like a lightning bug – and fizzled out with barely a shrug. And though I gave myself completely to her – I could never give enough.”

 The follow verse explains more: “You know she was a charmer, I thought that we were partners, like we were getting in that zone. I told her she was special, all she said was ‘yeah well’ I think we should take this slow. And that’s when I sensed – she’d always been on the fence.” “There was a time – when I believed in love devine. But now it seems, that it’s a fantasy.” This song could stand proudly next to the best of Elvis Costello, as it shares the same level of high quality songwriting: a great melody and sincere, insightful lyrics.

Whenever you hear “Baaaa, bop, bop, bop, baaa’s” used in a song, the temptation is to think of The Beach Boys.  No one employed that vocal technique better.  Even Jim Reid dipped into his Brian Wilson memory bank for a song on his band’s recently released album Damage And Joy with the track “Black And Blues.”  The first half-a-minute of “Here Comes the Storm” makes use of that background vocal technique for optimal effect. The jangly little ditty keeps the mood light and airy, as it attempts to hold off imminent thunderstorms.   Floods and tidal waves make their way into the picture, but this song is more about mood and melody than any tangible storytelling.  That point is driven home on a truly lovely chorus, where the chord selection backing the lyric “to put a smile, on my face again” is achingly romantic.  The final minute takes what was a traditional pop song and stretches it out over a coda where the title is repeated like a mantra, drums rumble across toms and a white noise build-up creates the sonic equivalent of weather borne chaos.

An angular rhythmic pattern of syncopated drumming against a wiry bass line and lengthy ascending-then-descending guitar figure introduce “Photographic Memory.”  “I got this picture stuck in my head of an Elephant on water skis” it offered up as proof of the mental images captured. “If you could plug into my mind then you would know what I’m saying is no lie” hints at our current technological age and the possibilities ahead.  Shifting rhythm to a straight ahead chugging rocker, the chorus spells out that having “a photographic memory always comes in handy – never fails me – never lets me down.” “You think it’s crazy what I’m telling you, but it’s not just a fantasy” the author continues.

Nice little Beatles-like break (and you have to mention The Beatles at least once referencing Mark’s music) on the break that goes: “Oooooh – internal memory. Oooooh – I know you believe – in me.” A final, near spoken word segment punctuates each stated line with a tasty guitar riff behind it. “Just when you think, you’ve seen it all – out of the sky, another star falls. Snap it up, with my little eye – store it away on the eternal drive.”

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There’s an Americana feel and cow-punk snarl to the just over two minute track “Plasma.” A song my friend Steve called “an ode to the colorless liquid found in blood and lymph” the sentiment drips with disgust at the BS we are sometimes shoveled. “Your lips have gone astray – like a 21st century lover. I could feed them with a kiss – but pretty soon they’ll start to whisper – garbage like ‘be my plasma’.” Steve is also right that the end out will make you laugh out loud.

Pairing an upbeat tune with peculiar lyrical content is a technique often used to lighten the subject matter.   “Loathsome Freddie” we discover likes to “spend his leisure time, with the recently departed.” In fact “he gets his pleasure . . . at the morgue.”  While that lurid picture might send your imagination running off in unsavory directions, “he doesn’t care what you think about his business.” 

The song is actually a real toe tapper with this perky country-esque in that Buddy Holly kind of way chorus that goes, “Loathsome Freddie is always ready to receive them in the afterlife.” While lines like “when he’s unzipping at the feet of the peacefully dead” can be taken at least two different ways, one can always imaging a CSI episode where the medical examiner is simply cataloging recent arrivals.  The featured guitar solo is off kilter just enough (sounding more like a muted sitar) to underscore the songs oddball nature.  A repeated vocal hook that “he’s happy – he’s very very happy” is reminiscent of the amusingly lighthearted approach to The Beatles (there they are again) “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer.”

At over five minutes in length, there’s a slow easy groove to the albums longest (and final) track “Say Hello.”  Exhibiting a similar guitar noodle-y vibe that saw Dean Wareham channeling Jerry Garcia’s Grateful Dead through his own band Luna, the expanded style is a welcome change.   It’s the kind of trippy feel that slides between introspective thoughts and mescaline-in-the-desert visions that may involve seeing visitors from other planets.  The addition of keyboards contributes further to the jam-band stylings that post-Dead bands like The Chris Robinson Brotherhood do so well.  As the instrumental segments progress, the sonics move closer to Luna channeling The Velvet Underground's more experimental moments, showcasing Mark and The Rels as an edgy, ambient rock force.  The potential for stretching this one out live at an outdoor festival is something to wish for.

The additional three album tracks “Corners Of Your Mind,” “Toxic Town” and “Haunted Head” were previously reviewed here.

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You can order a limited edition Vinyl Copy of the album from Planting Seeds Records in classic black or translucent yellow now.

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Previous features on this site about Mark Crozer and the Rels:

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Previous features on this site about Planting Seeds Records:

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Reverberated guitars, insightful lyrics and lush backing vocals come together on Simon Doom’s recnt release “I Feel Unloved” (streaming below). Taken from the debut full-length “Babyman” due out this May, the production hand of MGMT duo Ben Goldwasser and Andrew VanWyngarden account for much of its sheen. Opening lines “In the seminaries, in the shopping malls, think so eloquently, but I can’t speak at all,” depict a sense of confusion and loss. Familiar routines involving “business centers” and “concert halls” provide no relief leading to the question “what did I do to earn this?” Simon O’Connor delivers the creative force on this project, after spending time with like-minded artists in the bands Kuroma and Amazing Baby.  Using the experience of parenthood as a motivator to complete this record, its sentiment appears wrapped up in the album’s title. Catch Simon Doom live supporting Piebald on 5/24 at The Outer Space Ballroom in Hamden, Connecticut and with The Lemon Twigs on 6/1 at The Music Hall of Williamsburg.

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Readying their follow-up release to 2014 debut record “Sighs,” Overlake share “Winter Is Why” (streaming below) from sophomore album “Fall” due out May 12th via Bar/None Records.  The track emerges via a guitar figure delivered with orchestral sensibility, creating an immediate mood of majestic grandeur. Forceful power trio drumming and counterpoint descending bass tones further punctuate unexpected rhythmic accents underneath this rising melody.  Settling in to calmer patterns, dreamy vocals describe how the “summer sun hangs around” and “windswept cones on the sand” suggest the winter season.  This over five minute track successfully blends the quieter passages of gazey icons My Bloody Valentine (think “Come In Alone”) with that bands more explosive and pitch-bendy moments.  Currently on tour, their record release show at Mercury Lounge will happen on May 12th with support from local favorites Dead Stars and Heaven.

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In the spaces between world-wide tours as bassist for A Place To Bury Strangers, Dion Lunadon spends time writing and recording his own solo material. The results of those efforts will culminate in an 11 track self-titled debut album he recorded over a three-month period in Brooklyn.  The album and preview track “Fire” (streaming below) features contributions from sometimes APTBS drummer Robi Gonzalez and guitarist Blaze Bateh from Bambara on select tracks.  With live unprocessed drumming, Farfisa organ, distorted guitar bursts and Dion’s descending bassline, a noisy hybrid of punk, 60’s garage and psychedelia come together on “Fire.”  The title line chorus shares a spiritual connection with Arthur Brown’s 1968 hit of the same name. The mood here is much heavier though, with lyrics that go “So stressed out from the negative vibes, it sounds like the truth but you know it’s a lie.” Melodic guitar lines appear in places, adding a more traditional rock structure. The self-titled debut album will be released on June 9th via Agitated Records and will be available via his Bandcamp page.

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Saturday, April 22, 2017

Pegi Young and The Survivors, Bebe Buell and The Rebel Souls, Mahogany, Erik Blood, Pleasure Prince

Springtime finally arrived in New York with the month of April, and not a moment too soon. For many it seemed the bleakness of winter’s final days lingered on far too long. While the climate outside may have some bearing on our overall well-being, interpersonal experiences with others plays a much larger role. Whether you are a “survivor” or a “rebel soul,” the drive to establish self-identity in the face of public perception is strong. At every stage of life there is a need to tell your own story, and musicians are fortunate to have the vehicle of song and performance to do so.

Everyone who’s been following rock music for the last four decades knows who Neil Young is.  He’s a famous “rock star” who certainly deserves all the accolades earned through his deep catalog of music.  What you may not be aware of is the music being made by his ex-wife Pegi, who has been writing and recording music since 2007.  In fact she has released five albums in that time frame, with the latest “Raw” coming out earlier this year.  While her early worked showed an emerging musical sensibility (with this live appearance on The David Letterman show in 2013 as clear example of that promise) her latest album delivers a brutally honest lyrical insight born from heartbreak.

Her now much publicized divorce from Neil (after 37 years and two grown children together) serves up the life changing experience fueling this new material.  Far from a “downer” record of maudlin torch songs, most of the tracks are quicker paced and contain easy going country-soul grooves. Writing the seven original tracks (there are also five covers) with legendary Muscle Shoals keyboardist Spooner Oldham (Aretha Franklin, Bob Seger, Neil Young) and ace guitarist Kelvin Holly (longtime contributor to Little Richard’s band), the full band dynamic becomes complete with veteran drummer Phil Jones (Tom Petty, Joe Walsh), and bassist Shonna Tucker (Drive-By Truckers).

Those seven original songs are further enhanced by a choice selection of covers that seamlessly mesh with the albums overall theme.  Otis Clay’s “Trying to Live My Life Without You,” Randy Vanwarmer’s “Just When I Needed You Most” and Ray Charles’ “Do I Ever Cross Your Mind” speak to the universal theme of loss and the need to move on.   While Lee Hazlewood’s “These Boots Are Made For Walkin’” may have been written as a campy pop vehicle for Nancy Sinatra, it’s inclusion hear sees Pegi turning it into a song of empowerment.   Closing the album with Don Henley’s “The Heart of the Matter” shows a desire to free oneself of emotional burdens. To forgive others is to set yourself free.

While opening track “Why” lays out immediate feelings of hurt and betrayal, the easy going country-soul stroll groove of “Too Little Too Late” sheds mature insight with the lyrical refrain “in the arms of another keeping warm at night is a much better option than continuing to fight.” Other originals “A Thousand Tears,” “Lonely” and “Up to Here” continue the theme Pegi refers to as going through all the stages of grief.

Speaking directly with Pegi on a recent call while she was in New York doing promo, the subject came up about if people should feel sorry for her.  “No, I certainly don’t want that. I don’t want this record to make me out as some kind of victim,” she said.   Instead she’d prefer her story perceived as a message of ultimate empowerment.  “I’m not the only one to go through a late-in-life divorce” she continued. Her hope is that others who have experienced loss and heartbreak will find a similar catharsis and healing process as she has. There is still much to be grateful for, and her extended family bears that out. Her daughter Amber Jean gave birth to her first child (and Pegi’s first grandchild) last November, a boy named Ronan. Then there is her humanitarian work with The Bridge School, an educational program she co-founded in the eighties for children with disabilities. Their son Ben was born with cerebral palsy and has benefited tremendously through the school, now working as a productive organic egg farmer.

That Muscle Shoals sound, fully endorsed.

Find out more about Pegi Young and her music via these links:

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For two nights on April 4th and 5th, Bebe Buell debuted her "Baring It All" show in New York City.

Performing at the classy cabaret venue Joe’s Pub inside The Public Theater, Bebe seamlessly blended her original songs (and 2 covers) with stories of her life, accompanied by her husband Jim Walls on guitars and Nashville drummer Mindy Wright - dubbed The Rebel Souls.

Photo by Dina Regine

Delivering a nearly two hour set of 16 songs where all but two were either written or co-written by Bebe herself, an autobiographical timeline emerged through the personal stories told in-between.

As you entered the concert room, a huge image of Bebe was projected overhead as drummer Mindy sound checked her kit.

Taking the stage to an intro rendition of The Rolling Stones "Gimme Shelter" Bebe and her Rebel Souls both looked and sounded like the seasoned rock and rollers they were meant to be.

Photo by Dina Regine

Kicking things off with a track from her 2010 album “Sugar,” the autobiographical “When We Were Godhead” tells the tale of being a “young rock and roll angel, dancing through New York’s golden age.”

Jim's jacket for the Wednesday show was the epitome of cool with its white skeletal bones theme.

 It was as if spaceships (or the rings of Saturn) appeared over Bebe's head as she entertained with perfectly paced set of new songs ("Cross My Legs") and vintage cuts ("Jacuzzi Jungle").

Photo by Dina Regine

As the show progressed, Bebe would pull out her trusty harmonica at significant moments, filling the room with it's blusey wail.

Telling stories between every song, an enraptured audience listened intently to every word.  The sentiment of tracks like "Frenemy Mine" and "Got It All Wrong" reflect universal themes everyone can relate to.

One particular moment stood out during the Wednesday show when Bebe sang "Grey Girl," a song about her beloved pet from the album "Sugar."   As the performance concluded you could see her wiping a tear from her eye.  She even remarked about "getting emotional" up on stage, something she may not have initially expected.  However, it was that kind of warm and genuine reaction that makes being at a live show so special.

Photo by Dina Regine

Moving back and forth between her musical era's, "Too Sweet" looks back at early days with the New York downtown nightlife, while "Hello Music City" chronicles the more recent move to Nashville.

Speaking of Nashville, the dynamic musical duo of adopted son Jim and local musician Mindy Wright adds a unique flavor to the material.    The initial elements of punk and classic rock now come with a dash of southern home cooking, giving birth to what Bebe refers to as her "Nash Yorker" sound.

Mindy is a serious player who has worked with a variety of artists, ranging from rock, folk and country to funk and Americana rock. She possesses a charming, personable sweetness and dependability, making her “the rocking drummer you can count on!”

Another highlight of the night was the heartfelt rendition of "Black Angel," a track originally included on 2010's  syntheszier-heavy album "Sugar," before reworking it to a better produced, more guitar oriented version on 2012's "Hard Love."   Bebe tells how the song is "about Joey Ramone and living for five years in a beautiful Townhouse in Rutherford, NJ (which is where her husband Jim grew up).  That was a five minute walk from Joey's grave site in Lyndhurst."

Other from-the-heart songs like “Can You Forgive?” (an olive branch to extended family member Todd Rundgren) and “By A Woman” (co-written with Sally Tiven and frequently performed as a duet with Country Superstar Crystal Gayle at her Nashville shows) were woven in with recent era rockers “Devil You Know” and the anti-bullying power ballad “Invisible.”

By the time Bebe reached second-to-last song "Secret Sister," she had worked her way off the stage and sang in and among her audience while many got up and danced around her.


For her final song of the night, Bebe performed an all out show stopping rendition of David Bowie's "Moonage Daydream."

Having previously played this song in New York last year during Max's Kansas City 50th Anniversary Benefit Concert at The Cutting Room (a video of that excellent performance can be seen and heard here), this version was no less spectacular.

Bebe also tells a beautiful story about Bowie and the time he sang this song one inch from her face, giving her one of the biggest thrills of her then 20 year old self.  How it still sticks out as one of the best memories.

Meeting the artist and making new friends (and dance partners) at shows like this are what it's truly all about.

Ticket stubs, memorabilia and official hand-out buttons (with Patti Smith quotes on them) complete experience!

Enhanced Social Media recognition puts a thoroughly modern twist on it all.

For further reading on Bebe Buell, read this in-depth feature here:

and check out her Official Site here:

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Saturday April 8th presented an opportunity to attend a show combining one known entity with two previously unheard musical acts.

Trusted artists Mahogany provided the incentive to experience them live once more, sharing a bill with bands Erik Blood and Pleasure Prince at up-and-coming venue C'Mon Everybody.

Mahogany's live show evolution over the last year has seen them morph from a heavy-on-analog keyboards duo to a more streamlined, guitar-centric trio.

Songwriting, guitars and vocals are still very much presented by the two-headed brain-trust of Andrew and Jaclyn.

With the addition of newest member Joshua on bass, the songs sonic textures are fuller, especially in this live environment.


There's something particularly enchanting in the sound of two twelve string electric guitars filling a venue.

Bathed in a bluish hue, a moment of passionate force is unleashed.

However when the time comes to testify, you've got to preach that word from your heart and soul.


Jaclyn takes center stage vocally on more than a few occasions, oftentimes singing in the French language.

"Soleil Radieux"

"The Mystique of the Locomotive" on full display

While standing "On the Threshold of the Absolute"

Moments captured in time and the second life of Social Media

The band will be playing in Philadelphia at Boot & Saddle on Wednesday, May 31, 2017.  Advance tickets for that show can be gotten here.

They return to New York on Saturday, June 17th, performing at Trans-Pecos.

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Previous features on this site about Mahogany can be found here:

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Immediately following Mahogany was the mysterious looking, wonderfully layered sound of Erik Blood.

The conceptual work of a musician, studio engineer, composer, and record producer from Seattle, the live show is enhanced by beautiful vocals and second guitar from a woman named Irene.

There is a gorgeous achingly quality to their music, combing elements of Cocteau Twins swirl with subtle shreds of romantic Motown soul.

A sound and look that instantly mesmerizes.

Other times atmospheric, fragmented structures and subtle pitch bending strummed guitars cross over into the more introspective elements a band like My Bloody Valentine is known for.

Painted masks merge with dramatic lighting and stark contrast clothing.

Creating an otherworldly experience.

Pedals to gaze at.


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Opening the night's show was the Brooklyn based duo Pleasure Prince.

For this live show they added a guitarist to accompany their keyboard and electronic percussion sound.

In fact, “when that synth hits you just right” is the descriptive tagline the band displays on their Instagram account.

That is certainly a fitting description for a sound that weaves pulsating keys with an emotionally soulful pop vocal sensibility.

On their slow groove video track "You Look Good To Me" a mood of heightened sensual attraction pervades as hooky synth lines and electronic percussion take hold.

Other tracks like “Lines for George” feature reverberated female vocals that echo the sweetness and retro-futuristic sci-fi edge of the much beloved Broadcast.

However “Evening Queen” surprises by removing the synths, allowing the lushly produced alternating male and female vocals to take center stage.

An emerging band that deserves more attention.

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