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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Gary Wilson – It’s Christmas Time with Gary Wilson

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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.

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Goat – Requiem

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Sweden’s voodoo-psych weirdos Goat have returned with a record that steers a bit away from their usual blend of frenetic, world music freak-outs and slows the pace. Whereas their first two records, World Music and Commune, were cosmic journeys around and sometimes into a wormhole, Requiem is a leisurely drift down the Nile in ancient times.

“Djorolen / Union of Sun and Moon” starts with birdsong as Goat’s two female lead singers give a lovely send-off to your catamaran as it pulls away from the Egyptian shore. Then, the drums, guitar, and a playful flute burst through your speakers like a bunch of minstrels running around the deck of the catamaran in a celebration of what will be a blessed journey. The lyrics speak of rejecting negativity and traveling through space and time.

“I Sing in Silence” is an instant chill-out song, with flute, guitar, and hand percussion that is perfect for our journey down the Nile as the sun warms us and an ibis glides alongside the catamaran. “Brother, I am your sister, you are my brother, we have each other,” they sing. It’s a song of inclusion desperately needed here in the U.S. this election year.

“Temple Rhythms” is appropriately named because the drums beats and handclaps at the outset will get you moving like you’re offering up a dance to appease whatever deity you worship. The song is spearheaded by flute and piano. It’s a wild track that sounds like something from a cool late 1960’s European jazz festival.

Speaking of the 1960’s, “Alarm” is 60’s psych – as evidenced by the acoustic guitar work and tripped-out percussion throughout it. “Trouble in the Streets” brings in Caribbean beats and guitar styling (and even bright, bash keyboards), again perfect for a lazy ride down an endless river. They go back to psychedelia on (no surprise) “Psychedelic Lover,” which includes Middle Eastern chants / calls to prayer.

“Goatband” is nearly eight minutes of instrumental psychedelia that reminds me of early Love and Rockets tracks with its free jazz saxophone in the background. “Try My Robe” is a great example of the “Goat sound” (if there is such a thing) – hand percussion, wicked drumbeats, female vocals, mantra bass, and crisp guitar. It flows straight into “It’s Not Me,” which sounds like something Jane’s Addiction wish they’d written (dub bass, reverbed vocals, slick drumming). It’s one of the loveliest tracks on Requiem.

“All-Seeing Eye” is probably a reference to the Illuminati or the sixth chakra. Either way, it’s a good psych instrumental and lead-in to the rocking “Goatfuzz” that hits hard for almost seven minutes and has some of the fuzziest guitar on the record. Another epic psych track is “Goodbye,” which starts with guitar that would belong in a Euro-western from the 1960’s and ends with those hypnotic beats Goat does so well, backed with body-moving bass.

“Goodbye” isn’t the last song on the record. That distinction belongs to “Ubuntu,” which ends with samples from “Dirabi,” Goat’s first track off World Music. The three albums become an ouroboros – the snake that eats itself, the wheel of reincarnation. The end is the beginning. The journey along the Nile ends with the ocean. The end opens into a new world. Requiem isn’t about death and doom. It is about exploration and embracing what lies ahead.

Keep your mind open.

Vapors of Morphine – A New Low

VOMNLConsisting of two members of Morphine (one of my top 5 bands of all time) – Dana Colley (saxophones, vocals) and Jerome Deupree (drums) – and their pal Jeremy Lyons (vocals, guitar, bass, banjo, and more), Vapors of Morphine are reclaiming low rock and bringing it back when we need it most in this time of 24-hour news cycle cacophony.

A New Low opens with a short instrumental and then a traditional Tuareg song, “Renoveau / Daman N’Diaye” (and a second version of it near the end of the record).  The inclusion of Tuareg music on this (with vocals by Boubacar Diabate) is a great choice and shows the band’s love for low-fi world music as well.

Their new version of Morphine’s “Shiela” is great, and slightly darker than the original.  “Baby’s on Fire” has some of Colley’s best electric saxophone work.  I still don’t know how he gets those sounds out of those things.  Their take on Morphine’s “The Other Side” turns it from a song of lament and regret to one of paranoia.

Dana Colley often plays two saxophones (one tenor, one baritone) at once, but it sounds like he’s playing four on “Sombre Reptiles.”  “If” is a great example of low rock as Lyons sings, “If the ocean was whiskey or full of gin, would you lead me away or push me in?” and Deupree drums are cooly reverbed and Colley’s saxophones do a creepy crawl through your stereo.

“Red Apple Juice” is an old Appalachian standard, and the band does a great job with it, turning it into a near goth-country song with Lyons’ banjo leading the way.

Colley sings leads on “Souvenir,” another great Morphine track.  He also goes blissfully bonkers with his saxophone work on it by the end.  “Rowdy Blues” reminds me of Treat Her Right tracks, which is always a good thing (and a natural progression since THR’s Mark Sandman went on to form Morphine with Colley and Deupree).

The album ends with the instrumental “Interstellar Overdrive,” in which Dana Colley plays a spaceship.  The track is proof that the band could go full-blown psychedelic if they wanted.

A New Low is proof that low rock has returned and is just as good as it’s always been.

Keep your mind open.

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Gary Wilson to release Christmas album.

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File this under: Best News You’ve Heard Today.

Avant-garde psych-lounge master Gary Wilson is releasing a Christmas album three days before Halloween.  It features 14 tracks of Wilson’s take on the holiday season.  The titles reflect a lot of Wilson’s favorite themes – love (“A Christmas Tree for Two”), breakups (“Santa Claus Is Coming to My Lonely Town”), desire (“A Date for New Year’s Eve”), the town of Endicott (“It’s Snowing in Endicott”), and the mysterious women he references on his albums (“Cindy Wants to Cry”).

This will probably be my go-to gift for many people on my Christmas list this year.  Be sure to put it on yours.

Keep your mind open.

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Gary Wilson – It’s Friday Night with Gary Wilson

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I’ve been mildly obsessed with Gary Wilson’s music since seeing him perform at Levitation Chicago earlier this year. It’s to the point where I’m probably dressing up as some variation of him for Halloween. I’ve been awaiting his new record of avant-garde lounge music, Friday Night with Gary Wilson, for months.

It starts with the brief, chaotic, and weird “A Tree Cries in the Wind.” It’s some sort of tape-looped fever dream of a car crashing through a swanky bowling alley lounge and then into the recording studio next door. It moves into “I Want to Hold Your Hand Tonight,” which gets us back to familiar Gary Wilson material – A guy just wants the chance to treat his lady (the ever-mysterious Linda, in this case) right. “Every night is Friday night,” Wilson sings as he lays down peppy electric organ grooves. Every night can be Friday night with Wilson’s music if you open yourself up to it.

Wilson tells Linda “I’m Going to Take You to a Thousand Dreams,” including flying to the moon, walking through the park, and making sweet love to the sound of a rather hot guitar solo. “You’re the Coolest Girl Tonight” isn’t about a girl who’s cool as in Miles Davis / Fonzie / Joe Cool-type of cool. It’s about a girl who’s cold to everyone around her, but Wilson can’t resist her beauty and the chance to thaw out this fine lady and show her a good time.

Gary Wilson’s Fridays aren’t always smooth, however. “Sick Trip on Friday Night” has him too timid to talk to Linda, even though he knows he’s the right guy for her. He goes through it every weekend. The quirky synths on it bounce like the thoughts and dreams in his head.

“Yeah, let’s swing,” says Wilson at the beginning of “We’ll Dance into the Stars.” Dancing on the moon and through the galaxy is a common theme on the record, and this groovy lounge cut is perfect for a slow dance (or an all-skate) aboard your favorite starcruiser.

Wilson’s obsession with Linda continues on “Like a Scene from a Movie Long Gone.” It even starts with the lyric, “Gary loves Linda.” Wilson sings about himself in the third person and then in the first, so you’re never sure how much of his songs are fantasies and how much is something that really happened to him. The song has some of his best electric piano work on the record.

“The Mermaid Song” is about a dream in which a mermaid sings for Wilson from the ocean, possibly luring him to either the love of his life or his doom. Wilson drops Linda, Cindy, and Cheryl’s names, but is any of them the mermaid, or is the mermaid a composite of all of them? Wilson’s synth work on it is outstanding. Beck wishes he had grooves this good.

The drums on “Soon I’ll Be Kissing Sandy” almost sound reversed, but the song is too playful to be weird. “Linda” returns after that, with some nice strings accompanying her. Wilson name checks his band (the Blind Dates) in it, and even one of his best hits, “Linda Wants to Be Alone,” in it. The groove on this is so sick that it needs antibiotics.

Even a song with such a blue title as “You Made Me Feel My Misery” can’t avoid Wilson’s ultra-lounge grooves. Wilson pines for a lost love, even though the relationship was miserable. “I Thought of You Last Night” is a weird mix of crowd noise, ambient piano, drunk synths, and something a bit nightmarish. It quickly fades into “I’ll Make You My Dream Girl,” which makes me wonder about Wilson’s obsession with the girl mentioned in the song.

The album ends with “Sometimes I Cry Late at Night,” an instrumental that showcases what a damn good pianist Wilson is. His skills are easy to miss in many of his songs as you listen to his quirky lyrics or dance to his lounge grooves, but Wilson is a fine jazz player who can put it down with the best of them.

You could spend your Friday night watching bad TV and eating those leftover chicken wings, or you could spend it with Gary Wilson, the Blind Dates, Linda, Sandy, Cheryl, Cindy, and a bunch of other fine ladies. I know what I’d pick.

Keep your mind open.

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