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Posts Tagged ‘juliana hatfield’

The Blake Babies – Innocence and Experience

October 3, 2011 Leave a comment

Mammoth Records, 1993

First off, I have to admit I have a small thing for Juliana Hatfield.  It probably started when I declared the Lemonheads’ “It’s a Shame About Ray” as one of my favorite albums.  I follow what Evan Dando does as well, but Hatfield’s light vocals on that release as well as her early Blake Babies stuff has always interested me.  Then there’s those curious eyes of hers.  She always looks a little angry or disappointed in most of her pictures, but that’s probably because one never finds her smiling much (take a look for yourself on Google images).  Finally, the fact that she’s from Boston and used to work at Newbury Comics completes the reasons as to why I’m always keeping an eye out for all things Hatfield.  I did know that this record by the Blake Babies was likely an old light pop affair off of the defunct Mammoth Records, so I figured it was going to be a safe bet for a solid listen at a discount.

The Blakes Babies are a trio that, when heard, instantly bring back those memories of the  early days in the nineties where the easygoing pop music was neither in your face nor particularly memorable.  Since this record is actually a collection of b-sides, demos, and live tracks most of the songs actually take place in the late eighties given when the band started.  For most of the record, songs revolve around the general approach of the “Rain” demo song.  There’s the jangly, light guitar that carries the comforting pop rock feeling throughout the song while Hatfield’s vulnerable vocals sing about an unfortunate relationship story.  Though songs like “Lament” (with Evan Dando on bass) and “Star” pick up the pace a little bit, every song is consistent in its sound and construction for the most part.  If you like your Blake Babies you’ll enjoy most of the songs on here.  However, if you’re new to the band you might get a little bored if you are used to more variety.

Even though most of the songs seem to blend in together for me, I will say that “Out There” stands out.  Perhaps it is because Hatfield’s vocals not only rise above the usual quiet level but they also sound double-tracked.  It also helps that the band picks up their level of volume during the chorus so as to wake you up after the slew of couch sinkers.  Another tune that may not be for everyone, but will win over those who like the original anyway, is the group’s upbeat cover of the Grass Roots’ “Temptation Eyes”.  Nice choice!  I also think that any band that does a Neil Young cover, like the Blake Babies do with a live version of “Over and Over”, is only trying to win me over.

Lots of listening choices for the Blake Babies.  You could head on over to their MySpace or Last.fm pages, or instead veer directly towards Juliana Hatfield’s website.

I feel that although this disc didn’t really put it together in terms of making a strong impression, one has to keep in mind that it is a b-sides and rarities collection.  This one is for the fans who already like the Blake Babies.  I wouldn’t start here if one was thinking of delving into the group’s music, but it’s still a decent record to start from if one wants to experience their sound.  “Sunburn” or “Earwig” are probably better examples of albums of what the group can do.

The Blake Babies took a lengthy hiatus after the release of this collection and only released one more record (“God Bless the Blake Babies”) in 2001 before ending things officially.  Juliana Hatfield, of course, has been releasing and self-releasing her own albums for quite awhile now.  I imagine she probably sounds a lot different now than she did nearly twenty years ago, but the pleasant vocals are probably still there.  If what you read about and hear from the Blake Babies interests you, then go pick up something new from Hatfield when you get a chance.  And uh, if you see anything by the Blake Babies or Hatfield for a few dollars or less at a local music store, ah … well, you know who to send a note to.  😀

Peter Gammons – Never Slow Down, Never Grow Old

February 22, 2010 Leave a comment

Rounder Records, 2006

Back in 2005 when this record was being made, Peter Gammons was likely smarting like the rest of us Red Sox fans from the fact that the team only went out and got Chad Bradford and Alex Cora at the trade deadline.  What a bit of a downer that was, and it would be a whole 2 years until the Red Sox won another World Series.  What a buncha … oh yeeeeah.  Gammons must have been so relaxed towards the team’s future that he went and recorded a kind of blues rock album with a bunch of relatively famous people.  It seems that the man behind the TV desk with the heavy makeup and the natural mysticism that surrounds a ‘man in the know’ had another talent he wanted to get out there to the public.  Since I loved this book he wrote as well as the fact that a pre-All Star Kevin Youkilis sings on the record, this was a no brainer to pick up, check out, and hope for the best.

As action-packed as that album art looks, one had to feel that this record was going to be a moderate rocker for the older crowd at best.  Gammons was not going to cuss at me, plink away at his mandolin, or peel my face off with scorching metal riffs.  He does, however, mostly spend time doing enjoyable renditions of songs he likes without getting too off track with each song’s original sound.  Warren Zevon’s “Model Citizen” begins the record with a steadily paced bar rock number that allows the listener to get used to the idea that Peter Gammons also sings (?!).  The only original number, and arguably the best song on the record, follows by the name “She Fell From Heaven”.  It has an upbeat Springsteen element to it with some mumbling word play, as well as a rib poking chorus line of “She fell from heaven/and landed on her face”.

I was pleasantly surprised by a few tunes on this record, for I didn’t think I’d fall into step with the sound nor did I think I would enjoy hearing Gammons sing like he came right off the farm most of the time.  I found that his version of “Cinderella Superstar” with the lovely Juliana Hatfield on backup vocals, was excellently low key.  The cover of the Clash’s “Death or Glory” seemed quite harried, yet I appreciated the fact that Gammons gave it a good go with Theo Epstein on electric guitar.  By the way, this explains my earlier rant about the 2005 Sox because Epstein might have spent too much time perfecting his power chords and not enough time thinking about getting another bat.  I digress.  The stompin’ “Promised Land” with George Thorogood and a bunch of Red Sox players as (cough) backup vocalists had a lot of great energy to it, while “Bad Teeth” was more of an amusing number that kept the good feelings going as the album headed off into a few fifties-sounding rock numbers.

I gotta call this a Bargain because I think this collection of Gammons’ Favorite Hits turned out as a pleasant surprise from beginning to end.  Unfortunately just before the release of this record Gammons suffered a brain aneurysm that he has thankfully been recovering well from.  With his return to television, as well as his recent move to the MLB Network, one has to wonder if Gammons is also feeling up to another record.  I suppose this will depend on if he wants to do another record like this one to benefit the Foundation to Be Named Later charity or if David “Big Papi” Ortiz is available for a duet.