I’ve got a couple of recommendable albums for your this week. I give both these four stars out of a possible five.
Lucky To Me
The Blue Shadows (Columbia/Sony)
The Blue Shadows was such a spectacular debut that follow-up Lucky To Me almost had to be a disappointment. In brief: it’s not. The sound still conjures up The Beatles at their Rubber Soul/Revolver pop fused to the Gram Parson-influenced Byrds from their Sweetheart Of The Rodeo phase, with the Everly Brothers hi-jacked on vocal harmonies.
The main difference is this: while on the debut you could point to several tracks and say “here’s the Everlys’ tribute; there’s the Orbison influence; that’s just how Dave Edmunds would have tackled this,” the influences are much more effectively integrated on Lucky
The heart and soul of the sound still reside within the Siamese-twin harmonies of co-vocalists Billy Cowsill and Jeffrey Hatcher. Cowsill, of course, is a veteran of the family singing group phenomenon (see “The Cowsills; ‘60s family pop group” entry in your favorite music encyclopedia); but it would be difficult to imagine two voices resonating with more empathy and symbiosis.
As for the playing, try this scenario out on your Logic 101 class: On The Floor Of Heaven was such a seamless pop and country fusion that neither side of th radio band quite knew what to do with it. So, for Lucky To Me the group slants perceptibly to a tougher, rockfish edge. Many of the songs have more bite. In addition, stand-up bass Elmar Spanier was put out to pasture in favor of meatier, former Barney Bentall rhythm guy Barry Muir. The result? Immediate, excited response from . . . country radio stations! We can only deduce, therefore, that the debut album was just too country for country radio. Go figure.
Highlights are ubiquitous. Drop the laser just about anywhere to win a prize every time, from the swampy Don’t Expect A Reply, swinging Look At It Rain, and swaggering Why Oh Why to big ballad Time’s Out Of Place and the definitive jingle-jangle of both I know and the Title Track. The Shadows wed standard ‘60s pop relationship songs to a hybrid high-plains Code of the West; tracks like Let The Cowboy Ride and Ride Only Down invoke honor, honesty and hitting the trail without sounding anachronistic.
As for weaknesses, Lucky’s one strike is a somewhat thin production that hints at rushed recording sessions in not-ideal facilities. Then again, what more can you ask for: two great albums down, while leaving just enough room for the best to still come.
The Blue Shadows will be the headline act at Harpo’s cabaret on Friday and Saturday, July 14-15. The local group the Vinaigrettes will open for the Blue Shadows.