Tom Rogerson collaborates with Brian Eno for debut album.

[Photo credit: Matthew Parri Thomas]
Tom Rogerson is pleased to share a new track “March Away,” taken from his forthcoming debut album entitled Finding Shorea collaboration with Brian Enoout December 8thon Dead Oceans. A perfect example of the studio setting the two artists worked within – Tom improvising at the piano and Brian twisting those signals with the Moog Piano Bar – the track is a prime introduction to this unique release.To accompany the track’s release, a live studio version of the track is also available. Directed by Robert Sieg and shot in Berlin, the performance beautifully illustrates the processes Rogerson and Eno used to create the original work.

Finding Shore is the sound of Rogerson distilling the essence of what he does after a protracted musical journey from childhood until now. As a 17-year-old he had the odd contrast of being taught by the composer Harrison Birtwistle but also working as lounge pianist in a dilapidated hotel in Peterborough. He then spent some time in New York playing jazz, recording with Reid Anderson of The Bad Plus, and had a successful career with post-rock group Three Trapped Tigers, yet however enjoyable that experience was, he admits it was “definitely a diversionary tactic.” Everything seemed to be an escape from the classical world or, as Rogerson himself puts it, “falling out of my ivory tower very slowly.”

After a chance meeting with Brian Eno, the two began to collaborate. Eno’s influence on Finding Shore began by enabling Rogerson to overcome his fear of committing any one piece to its own album. As a way to open Rogerson up, Eno suggested they try experimenting with the Piano Bar, an obscure piece of Moog gear that works by using infrared beams focused on each piano key; these are then broken as the keys are played, transforming the piano’s note into a midi signal that can then be used to trigger or generate new, digital sound. As Rogerson improvised at the piano, Eno improvised with the midi signal to create a unique piece of music.

Watch video for “March Away” –

Listen to “Idea of Order at Kyson Point” –

Listen to “Motion in Field” –

Pre-order Finding Shore:

Keep your mind open.

[Find updates in your e-mail inbox by subscribing.]

Marian Hill’s saxophonist drops one of the grooviest singles of 2017.

Steve Davit, saxophonist for Marian Hillis working on some solo material that combines jazz with electro and hip-hop beats.  His first single, “Forward,” is a funky blast of chopped up saxophone riffs and sweet synth beats.

You can listen to it here, before everyone starts proclaiming it’s their favorite new song.  Get in on the ground floor now.

Keep your mind open.

[Move forward by subscribing.]

Jackie Shane – Any Other Way

Imagine what it takes to be a successful musician.  There are many long hours of touring, rehearsing, writing, negotiating, hustling, and branding.  This is hard enough for your Average Joe or Jane, but imagine doing this in the 1960’s when you couldn’t release a single on the Internet and have it heard by millions within moments, pay-for-play was still legal and widely practiced, and record labels held your master recordings in a vise-like grip.  Now imagine doing all of this before the civil rights movement while you’re black in an industry dominated at the top levels by white people.   Now imagine doing this as an openly transgendered woman in the same time period.  Jackie Shane did all of that, and she made it look easy.

Jackie Shane’s Any Other Way is a stunning collection of rare singles and live tracks from perhaps the most remarkable performer you haven’t heard and easily one of the best collections and reissues of 2017.  Ms. Shane burned up stages in Toronto throughout the 1960’s, releasing a handful of singles and recording some amazing performances, before disappearing for nearly half a century (relocating to Nashville to tend to her ill mother and deciding to stay after her passing).

The double album opens with the sizzling “Sticks and Stones,” a burner in which Shane sings about people trying to shame her and bring her down, but she really doesn’t give a damn.  This is a common theme in her catalogue.  Shane lived by her own rules and refused to compromise.  Her vocals are fierce and almost race ahead of the song, but the horn section of the Frank Motley’s Motley Crew band (for which she sang at the time) keeps up with her well.  The title track is a sad song about Shane trying to to convince an ex-lover that she’s happy.  The horn section almost has a Latin flavor to it that sets it apart from other similar tracks of the time period.

“In My Tenement” has horns that belong in a Bond film soundtrack.  “Comin’ Down” has Shane coming down “with a heartache” as her band’s surf guitar and tight drumming back her assured vocals.  Her cover of “Money (That’s What I Want)” is fun as a bit emblematic of Shane’s life, who never gave away her skills for free.  “I’ve Really Got the Blues” swings as hard as any Chubby Checker or Fats Domino record ever did.  “Send Me Some Lovin'” has Shane pining for even a photo of her distant lover.  “Walking the Dog” is full of sass and a groove you’ll have in your head all day.  The funky organ on “You Are My Sunshine” brings in a bit of a gospel groove, which is no surprise since Shane has openly spoken on the influence of gospel and spiritual classics on her.  “Stand Up Straight and Tall” is pretty much the theme of Shane’s life.  She lived how she wanted to live and never gave a damn what people thought.  You can’t help but wonder about the possible symbolism of “New Way of Love,” especially since Shane sings it with such fire (and the Motley Crew band slays on it).  “Cruel Cruel World” has Shane calling for someone to love and not needing sympathy from anyone.  It’s a great example of how her vocals could go from soulful ballad to rock wails all in the same song.

That’s just the first disc of this release, by the way.  Disc two is a compilation of rare live cuts (with backing band the Hitchhikers including Frank Motley leading it) that are jaw-dropping at times.  It opens with “High Heel Sneakers” and Shane singing / tearing through an ode to stepping out in high fashion and being ready to kick ass and take names.  Pharrell Williams wishes he could write a groove half as good as the one on “Barefootin’.”

Shane warns that the live version of “Money” is so dangerous that her doctor warned her that performing it could be bad for her heart.  It’s over nine minutes of funk, sass, and defibrillating beats.  The breakdown on it is fabulous as Shane talks about not caring about what others think of her as she smiles on her way to the back.  “I’m going to live while I’m here,” she says.  “I don’t satisfy nobody that’s a square,” she also says at another point.

Other high points among the live tracks are “You’re the One (That I Need),” which features some of Shane’s best torch song vocals, the tight horn section groove and Shane’s heartbroken vocals on “Don’t Play That Song (You Lied),” her fun cover of “Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag” (in which Shane appears to be cheering on an elderly man dancing in the crowd), the version of “Any Other Way” in which she sings, “Tell her that I’m happy.  Be sure to tell her this.  Tell her that I’m gay.” (which Shane claims wasn’t her openly admitting her sexuality, but the symbolism is hard to ignore), and the squawking, jumping “Shotgun” in which Shane advises, “You got to shoot your man before he runs.”

It’s a shame that Jackie Shane wasn’t bigger across the world and for longer a time than she was at her peak.  There are rumors that she might emerge from her self-imposed (and apparently enjoyable) exile in Nashville and return to perform in Toronto, so we can hope to see and hear more of her soon.  In the meantime, get this collection and be stunned by it.

Keep your mind open.

[Why not walk over to the subscribe box and subscribe before you go?]

Gary Wilson – Let’s Go to Outer Space

It’s a bit surprising that experimental psych-lounge musician Gary Wilson has taken so long to release an album entitled Let’s Go to Outer Space because I’m fairly certain Mr. Wilson is from Saturn or perhaps somewhere outside this solar system.

The album opens with “Back to Where I Belong” and Wilson boldly proclaiming that he met an alien at a bus stop in Johnson City and they then walked all the way to his hometown of Endicott in the rain.  Theremin rolls all around the track as Wilson tells her she’s the prettiest girl from outer space, meaning he’s met others (which shouldn’t surprise anyone).  She offers to take him back with her, but he stays.

“Gary Kissed a Mannequin” is self-explanatory as Wilson falls in love with a mannequin who looks like the girl next door and takes her out to talk to the trees and dance all night long.  It’s quite possible that his encounter with an alien beauty drove him mad.  “Lost in a Mystery” is a song with a familiar theme on Wilson’s records – loneliness.  The song’s peppy keyboards and jazz lounge beats (and more Theremin!) can’t conceal Wilson’s confusion about why his alien girl left (“I want to cry.  I don’t know just why.  You took my heart and ran away.  I’m gonna save my heartache for another day.”).

“Gary Feels Cool” has the never-ending optimism you also find on Wilson’s records.  He’s never completely out of the dating game, despite his many setbacks.  His keyboard solo emphasizes his confident swagger.  He’s just as cool when he dreams of a lovely lady in “You’re the Girl from a Magazine.”  He can’t name her or the magazine.  He just knows she’s pretty and famous for something.  It’s not a sleazy song either.  Wilson just wants to take this pretty girl for a nice walk.

Wilson admits his story is “insane” in “She’s the Girl from Mars,” but he’s so sincere (and his quirky synths are so fun) that you can’t help but believe him.  “Let’s Go on a Walk Tonight” is another plea from Wilson to his Martian girlfriend to stroll with him through Endicott and beyond.  It’s a toe-tapper that you can’t get out of your head for a while after hearing it.

The song’s beats and even the “la la la” chorus continues in “I’m Not Ashamed of You,” as Wilson’s keyboards sound more like a harpsichord.  Wilson has no fear of walking around with an alien, even as others around him are running away in terror.  He’s finally found love, and everyone should be envying him.

The honeymoon ends, however, when we get to “I Want to Cry.”  Everything had been going so well that Wilson even took his outer space lover to his high school reunion, but yet he still wants to weep.  Is it from joy or misery?  It can’t be from his sweet electric piano solo, that’s for sure.

“Let’s Go to Mars” is simple, yet catchy with Wilson singing another song about marrying his Martian girlfriend in front of his hometown pals and then driving her in his new car out of orbit.  He can’t find love on Earth, so will he find it on another planet?

Probably not, if “My Beautiful Wife Walked Away” is any indication.  Wilson has been dumped yet again.  “I don’t know just what do.  I just wanna be with you,” he sings.  Finding a lasting love is an eternal quest for Wilson, and things beyond his control or understanding always seem to screw it up for him.  On “My Pretty Little Space Girl,” Wilson laments the departure of his alien beauty who never plans to return.  “All things gotta come to an end,” Wilson tells us.  That includes his quest, by the way.  It might not have ended with a woman from another planet, but Wilson will find someone someday.

Keep your mind open.

[Updates sent through outer space to your e-mail inbox when you subscribe!]

Thundercat – Drunk

I don’t remember where I first heard of Thundercat (AKA Stephen Bruner), but I remember being amazed by his bass guitar skills. His fingers seemed to move on his guitar frets as nimbly as a spider racing across a web. I caught him live at Mamby on the Beach earlier this year, keen on hearing him live. He didn’t disappoint. He wowed the crowd with a jazz-fusion set that was unlike anything you heard the whole weekend.

His newest album, Drunk, is also unlike anything you’ve heard in a long while. It blends electronica with jazz, yacht rock, funk, and even a bit of trip hop. “Rabbit Ho” is a quirky intro with Bruner’s falsetto singing about friends coming and going from his life before it slips into “Captain Stupido,” which is a collaboration with one of his best pals – Flying Lotus. “I feel weird,” Bruner sings, perhaps speaking for all of us, as he struggles to get through the odd feelings that surround everyday activities like brushing your teeth. His bass and Lotus’ loops and beats are a killer combo.

“Uh Uh” is an instrumental showcase of Bruner’s stunning bass skills. Seriously, it will leave you dumbfounded. I have no idea how he plays that fast and that well at the same time. “Bus in the Streets” has Bruner watching the world go by and not wanting to get involved in the rat race. “Won’t you leave some things a mystery?” he asks in this age of everyone Tweeting, hash-tagging, and posting everything at every moment.

“A Fan’s Mail (Tron Song Suite II)” is perhaps the greatest love song written to a cat of all time. Bruner sings about his admiration for his cat having nine lives, doing what he wants, and lying in the sun all day. “Everybody wants to be a cat. It’s cool to be a cat.” It has a groove as smooth as a cat’s walk, too.

“Sometimes you have to let it go,” Bruner sings in the opening of “Lava Lamp.” The song moves as languidly as its namesake. “I’m so tired. Where can I lay my head?” Bruner asks. It’s a common theme for a lot of us in these times. We’re so overwhelmed that we’re losing time to decompress. Flying Lotus comes back on “Jethro,” and brings wicked beats with him. “Show You the Way” has powerhouse guests Kenny Loggins and Michael McDonald, and both men show they can still slay a microphone (and a keyboard, too, in McDonald’s case). It’s a glorious return of yacht rock that you won’t realize you missed until you hear this track.

The special guests keep on coming as Kendrick Lamar drops some guest vocals on “Walk on By” – another groovy, smooth track. “Blackkk” is the smoothest song about overcoming fear of death I’ve ever heard. “Tokyo” would be great to have in your ears as you cruise through the city. Bruner sings about eating too much fish, blowing all his money on anime, and wanting to stay another night there.

“Jameel’s Space Ride” has Bruner dreaming about driving into space as he’s pulled over by the cops. “Friend Zone” is a sharp dis on someone keeping him at arm’s length instead of embracing him as a lover. “I’m your biggest fan, but I guess that’s just not good enough,” he sings as his bass and Mono/Poly’s synths deliver dance beats. “Don’t call me, don’t text me after two a.m., unless you plan on giving me some, ‘cause I got enough friends,” Bruner sings. Ouch.

In contrast, “Them Changes” (the first single) has Bruner singing about heartbreak. “Nobody move there’s blood on the floor, and I can’t find my heart. Where did it go? Did I leave it in the cold?” His bass groove on it gets into your circulatory system and won’t leave until you dance. Flying Lotus’ beats sure help, too (as they do on the next track, “Where I’m Going”). “Drink Dat” is a slow jam for people starting to wind down after partying in the late hours. “Can’t open my eyes, girl, ‘cause I’m just too wasted,” Bruner sings between raps by Wiz Khalifa.

“Inferno” is the most psychedelic track on the record with Lotus’ trippy beats. “3AM” has Bruner still awake despite being (according to the theme of the album by now) drunk and tired. His bass groove in it is something Christopher Cross hears in his dreams. “Drunk” gets as wobbly as its namesake thanks to Bruner’s reverbed bass and Flying Lotus’ melted cheese synths.

“The Turn Down” is a witty song about the aftermath of too much partying. Bruner laments the mess in his house, the location of Captain Planet (who might be one of Bruner’s cats), and guests who have lingered too long. Pharrell teams up with him on the track, and Bruner has said multiple times that Pharrell’s contribution to the track blew his mind. He does nail it.

The album ends with the great, keyboard-driven “DUI.” Bruner’s night went from drowning his sorrows, to a fun time, to exhaustion, to annoyance, and then either back home, jail, or the grave.  “I’m so tired,” he sings again just before the keyboards turn into the sound of screeching tires and then fade into distortion. Did he crash? Did he make it home? Is he in the hoosegow?

Drunk is masterfully crafted, and the best-engineered and mixed album I’ve heard so far in 2017. It’s a stunning, eclectic piece of work. Only good things are ahead for Thundercat. Get Drunk.

Keep your mind open

[Travel the world of music by subscribing.]

Mamby on the Beach artist spotlight: Thundercat

Bass guitar whiz, rapper, singer, and producer Thundercat (Stephen Bruner) is one of the funkiest musicians around right now.  His music ranges from funk to soul to psychedelia to prog-rock (and he also plays bass in Suicidal Tendencies).  His collaborations with Erykah Badu, Flying Lotus, and Kendrick Lamar have all earned him wide acclaim (and a Grammy).  His June 25th set at Mamby on the Beach is sure to be a must-see.

Keep your mind open.

[You’ll be a cool cat if you subscribe.]

Rewind Review: Frank Zappa – Joe’s Garage Acts I, II, & III (1979)

My best pal and I used to crank Frank Zappa’s Joe’s Garage a lot in college. It has a lot of rockers, humor, and weird stuff you love from Zappa’s work, but I never realized until I picked up my own copy that it’s a concept album about music being outlawed and Zappa’s masterful skewering of the record industry, commercial radio, religion, government censorship, and sexual repression.

The first song on the record, “Central Scrutinizer,” introduces one of the main characters and narrators of the album / play. Zappa plays the Scrutinizer and the character introduces nearly every track. The Scrutinizer’s job is to enforce laws that don’t exist yet, especially those related to “a horrible force called music.” The album is a presentation by the Scrutinizer to warn us against pursuing a career in such a dangerous thing.

The title track tells the story of Joe and his garage band’s meteoric rise to success and plummet into irrelevancy. It’s a groovy cut that salutes 50’s doo-wop, surf rock, and hard rock. Joe runs afoul of the law for dabbling in grooves, so the Scrutinizer sends him off to church to get his mind right. However, he runs into a lot of fun “Catholic Girls” there and is soon getting a blowjob at the CYO. It’s a gut-buster of a song that also has killer bass guitar throughout it and two switches to lounge-style jams that Zappa’s band pulls off with super slick ease.

Joe’s girlfriend, Mary, becomes a “Crew Slut,” in which Zappa sings about the groupie “way of life.” She joins the crew of another rock group and leaves Joe behind. There’s some fine harmonica playing on this track. The disco sound of “Fembot in a Wet T-shirt” shows that Zappa and his crew could (and did) play anything they damn well wanted. Mary gets back “On the Bus” after winning $50 in the wet T-shirt contest, and we’re treated to a great instrumental guitar solo taken from earlier live recordings in a process called xenochrony. Joe hears about Mary’s infidelity and finds solace in a new girl, Lucille, who gives him a venereal disease, which leads us to “Why Does It Hurt When I Pee?” – a song only Zappa could get away with putting on an album back then, let alone load the song with rock guitars and drums big enough for a concert hall. The following track, “Lucille Has Messed My Mind Up,” is a slow reggae jam as frequent Zappa collaborator Ike Willis sings Joe’s cries for love.

Joe joins the First Church of Appliantology (Yes, Zappa was satirizing Scientology years ahead of everyone else.) in an attempt to shed his earthly desires, only to learn he’s a “latent appliance fetishist.” Joe then heads to a fetish club on “Stick It Out,” where he hooks up with a “Sy Borg” and bursts out in German, and English, “Fuck me, you ugly son of a bitch!” Not only is this a song that will have you laughing throughout it, but it’s also one of the hottest rockers on the whole record. The band has a blast on it and everyone fires on all cylinders. Joe goes too hard on Sy Borg in the next track (while the band plays over eight minutes of weird lounge jazz) and is soon apprehended by the Central Scrutinizer’s thugs.

In prison, Joe is told about “Dong Work for Yuda,” which is perhaps the funkiest song about prison sex you’ve ever heard, and “Keep It Greasy” is a far funkier rocker about the same subject than Tool ever made. The rhythm section is on fire for the whole track.

“Outside Now” has Joe dreaming of playing guitar again to at least mentally escape from prison. The guitar work on it is suitably strange and sorrowful. “He Used to Cut the Grass” is a story of Joe’s woes once he gets out of prison and discovers all the other musicians are gone and the world is a squeaky clean plastic world of consumer goods so he has to retreat once more into his mind. The guitar solo on this is almost ethereal and a perfect reflection of Joe’s melting mind.

“Packard Goose” is, on its surface, a song about Joe’s descent into madness but is also a diatribe against music critics like yours truly. It’s a wild, almost freestyle jazz tune with stunning guitar shredding throughout it. Speaking of amazing guitar work, that’s all of the instrumental “Watermelon in Easter Hay.” It is easily among Zappa’s greatest solos and, according to Zappa himself, the best song on the record. Zappa’s son, Dweezil, has been quoted as saying it’s the best solo his father ever played.

The closer is “Little Green Rosetta,” a song the Central Scrutinizer believes is the best type of music. He (Zappa) freely admits “this is a stupid song,” but it’s a goofy yet fine piece of craftsmanship from him and features nearly everyone who worked in or hung out at Zappa’s home studio back in 1979.

It’s a fun, wild, amazing masterpiece. There was a stage show of it in Los Angeles in 2008, but where’s the Broadway version? We’ve had shows about gay puppets, anthropomorphic cats, goofy Mormons, and even adaptations of Monty Python films, why can’t we have Joe’s Garage: The Musical?

Keep your mind open.

[Jam with us by subscribing.]

Rewind Review: Gaby Novak – Pjeva Gaby Novak (2003 reissue)


I first discovered the sultry jazz voice of Croatian singer Gaby Novak while watching the excellent Croatian film H-8… from 1958. Her song “Sretan Put” is used to stunning emotional effect in the final act of the film. I was hooked and had to track down more of her music.

Pjeva Gaby Novak (“Gaby Novak Sings”) from 1959 is a great place to get on board if you want to experience her lovely vocals. “To Je Blues” (“Learning the Blues”), with a big band behind her, immediately puts her in the ranks of Nancy Sinatra. You can’t help dancing during this; or during “Karavan,” which has sharp, almost Latin percussion throughout it.

Her cover of “Netko Bdije Nada Mnom” (“Someone to Watch Over Me”) has the soft jazz piano and saxophones you’d expect, but her Croatian vocals are the sound of underground jazz clubs fueled by vodka and clove cigarettes. It’s over too soon. “Prodavacica Uspomena” (“Souvenirs”) is as peppy as fun as the previous track is bittersweet. You’ll want this on every late night cocktail party mix tape you make from now on until the end of time.

“Ponesi” (“Oh Venus”) is a little bit trippy and sounds like a lost cut from a Matt Helm movie soundtrack. I’m sure “Ljubav I Poljupci” (“Love and Kisses”) is still played on jukeboxes across Eastern Europe, as its infectious melody and goofy fun saxophones are a great mix with Novak’s vocals. “U Proljetno Vece” (“In the Spring Evening”) has Novak’s sexy voice keeping the band rooted, as they seem to want to burst into swing jazz any second.

“Mjesec Kao Igracka” (“Month as Toy” – roughly) is another sexy tune that sounds like it was fun for the band to record and Novak to sing. It reminds me a bit of Japanese jazz-pop from the same time period, really. “Sretan Put” (“Have a Safe Trip”) is the haunting, beautiful song that hooked me on Novak’s work, and it’s perfect for rainy late night drives and dropping off your lover at the airport. “Malaguena” is big, bold, and could’ve been a Bond theme in another life.

I’m sure “Ljubav Ili Sala” (“Love or a Joke”), with its exquisite horn section floating like a cork on the moonlit stream of Novak’s voice, was the soundtrack to many romances in Croatia in the mid-1960’s. The album smartly ends with a real swinger – “Draga Djevojka” (“Dear Girl”). Big horns, groovy drums, and Novak’s playful call and respond vocals with her band all add up to a song that will settle in your hips.

Gaby Novak had a magnificent career in Croatia and Europe, but she’s little known here. She deserves to be up there with your favorite jazz singers from the west, so do yourself a favor and give her a listen. You won’t regret it.

Keep your mind open.

[Don’t forget to subscribe to us before you go.]

My top 25 live shows of 2016 – #’s 5 – 1

Here we are at my top five live shows of 2016.

#5 – Earthless at Levitation Chicago March 12th

Earthless are the only band to be in my top 10 concerts of 2016 twice.  This was the second time I’d seen them and the first time I’d been close to the stage.  It was a stunning performance that nearly left me speechless.  They were also cool cats who were happy to sign my concert poster after their performance.

#4 – Night Beats at Levitation Chicago March 12th

Night Beats are the only band to be in the top 30 concerts of 2016 three times.  Their Levitation Chicago performance was downright dangerous and established the swagger and tight chops I’d see from them all year.  They, too, were also cool cats who signed my copy of their new album Who Sold My Generation for me after their set.

#3 – Deap Vally at the Chicago House of Blues October 13th

They were first on a bill with Death from Above 1979 and Black Rebel Motorcycle Club and they set the bar so high that the other two bands couldn’t match it.  They came to kick ass and take names…and they were all out of names.  They, too, were cool cats who chatted with me after their set.  Everyone was still talking about their performance as we were walking out of the venue.

#2 – Gary Wilson at Levitation Chicago March 10th

I didn’t know much about Gary Wilson before seeing him at Levitation Chicago.  I walked out a devoted fan.  His show was part-lounge act, part-psychedelic freak-out, and part-performance art piece.  He creeped out a woman next to me, made others laugh, others cheers, and others stand there with a “What the hell am I seeing and hearing?” look on their face.  I couldn’t stop talking about his performance for weeks and haven’t stopped recommending him to everyone since.

#1 – Bebel Gilberto at Ann Arbor Summer Fest June 18th

Only one concert had a moment that made me cry in 2016, and that was when Bebel Gilberto and her guitarist performed a cover of Radiohead‘s “Creep.”  Seeing this member of bossa nova royalty in a great venue (The acoustics in Ann Arbor’s Powerhouse Theatre are sublime.) was a dream come true, as I’ve had a serious crush on her and her music for many years.  It was also the first show I attended on a press pass thanks to this blog, so it will always hold a special place in my memory.

Thanks for reading.  I hope to get to just as many shows in 2017.  Wish me luck and let me know about bands I need to see this year.

Keep your mind open.

[I might get misty if you subscribe to my blog.]

Gary Wilson – It’s Christmas Time with Gary Wilson


Gary Wilson releasing an album of original Christmas music? No standards? I’m there. I’m there all through the holiday season.

After a brief introduction that features cackling geese, Wilson’s distorted voice repeating “holiday” over and over, and warped synths, It’s Christmas Time with Gary Wilson brings “A Christmas Tree for Two.” Wilson sings about buying a silver Christmas tree for his love. “I don’t wanna cut down a Christmas tree. It makes me sad when it starts to bleed,” Wilson sings. Would you expect Gary Wilson to have anything but a swanky reflective tree with a spinning multi-colored light under it?

“I Saw Santa Dancing in the Dark” has Wilson singing about his eager return to his hometown (Endicott, NY) and taking his girl to the famous (to him and his fans) north side pool before a return home for drinks and dancing, but the mysterious Linda is “crying in the park.” Will Gary’s date go as planned? Here’s a hint: It rarely does.

As evidenced on “A Sled Ride Tonight,” in which Wilson’s been dumped during the Christmas season and all he wanted was to take his lady on a sled ride. It’s a song that would fit on any of his records, let alone a Christmas album. The chaotic synth instrumental “The Snow” is a perfect musical accompaniment to the hypnotizing, weird visuals you get when looking at blowing snow in the headlights of your car at 2am. “Holiday” is a jaunty tune in which Wilson tells his girl he’s going to introduce her to “the chromium clown.” It might be a bit creepy, but the song is nothing but bouncy lounge fun.

It wouldn’t be a Gary Wilson album without him singing about his lost loves, and “Cindy Wants to Cry” certainly qualifies. Don’t miss the nice saxophone work and quirky percussion while he sings, “Linda wants to cry, Karen wants to cry, Cindy wants to cry on Christmas.”

“Wintertime in Johnson City” has Wilson excited about yet another upcoming date, but he admits that Johnson City is “a town that has no pity” and knows that she might not show up. Meanwhile, “It’s Snowing in Endicott.” “Sounds so nice, so sad,” Wilson says at the beginning of the tune. The town is forever linked with Gary Wilson, as are its painful memories known only to him. He has his house and Christmas tree ready, doing his best to cut through the gray skies and loneliness. Maybe he’ll get his Christmas wish this year, but you doubt it.

Wilson’s girl doesn’t make it to his house because she’s “Lost in the Snow.” He can’t find her, yet again, but he never gives up hope. This never-ending optimism is one of the best things about Wilson’s music. There are themes of loss, loneliness, and bad luck, but he always gets up from the couch after another lonely night in Endicott. He never gives up hope of a fun Friday night with Linda, Karen, Cindy, or others.

There’s wonderful jazz lounge piano in “She Danced Near the Frozen Lake.” “Let’s take a walk into outer space,” Wilson sings on “A Date for New Year’s Eve.” I can’t imagine a better way to start 2017 than that. I don’t know what Wilson’s going to with the “pound of baking flour” he mentions buying in the song, but I’m sure it will end up everywhere. Check out one of his live shows and you’ll understand.

“Santa Claus Is Coming to My Lonely Town” keeps hope alive once more. Wilson’s met a new girl he kissed on the planet Mars. Is this after Santa Claus conquered the Martians? He’s brought Wilson’s wish list and it’s all walks in the park, kisses in outer space, beautiful snow, and every night being Friday night. It’s a wish list we’d all take and far better than more junk you’ll hate in four months.

The album closes with the instrumental “Lonely Holiday,” linking it back to the beginning of the record. The Christmas spirit, like Wilson’s perpetual optimism and search for love, should last all year.

Keep your mind open.

[Give yourself the gift of music news by subscribing to us.]