Posts Tagged ‘Tulsa’

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His star burnt only briefly but to lovers of 1980s power pop Phil Seymour was a shining light. This collection of his finest work is enhanced by 11 previously unreleased recordings. Collection released this month on Ace Records.

For many of us who grew up in the 60s, one thing we missed most in the following decades was the short, quick jab of a powerful 45 from groups such as the Who, the Searchers, the Kinks, the Hollies and the Beatles. Where had all those punchy pop songs gone? Phil Seymour grew up listening to all those British Invasion bands in his home city of Tulsa, Oklahoma, and with kindred spirit Dwight Twilley forged a determination to bring back melodic pop songs. They spent several years mastering harmony, piano, guitar, drums and the art of crafting a high-quality song, building a home studio where they spent endless hours recording under the name Oister.

In 1974 they set off for Los Angeles and were soon picked up Denny Cordell and Leon Russell’s Shelter Records. Cordell was rather taken with Twilley’s name and renamed them the Dwight Twilley Band. Soon they were in the US Top 20 with ‘I’m On Fire’, but frustrations followed as Shelter struggled with financial difficulties, and Phil decided to go solo. Initially he struggled to find a foothold but once the new wave hit America, the Phil Seymour Band stormed Hollywood and became one of the hottest acts on the circuit.

Signed to Neil Bogart’s Boardwalk label, by 1981 Phil was at #22 on Billboard’s Hot 100 with the self-penned classic ‘Precious To Me’. More terrific releases followed and for a while he was the brightest star on the horizon, but Bogart’s death in 1983 meant the end of Phil’s Boardwalk contract. He doggedly continued to make good music but contracted lymphoma and died in 1993 at age 41.

Handsomely packaged with a 20-page booklet sporting rare photos and extensive notes incorporating interviews with bandmate Michael Anderson and recording engineer Bill Cooper, our collection comprises 13 of Phil’s finest recordings and 11 never-before-heard gems. Pride of place among the previously unissued tracks goes to nine demos cut at producer Richie Podolor’s American Recording Company studio in Los Angeles’ Studio City in 1980. As wonderful as the later released versions are, nothing can match the primitive excitement that pervades the demos, which bristle with life, energy and the sheer joy of knowing that something very special is being created in the studio. Altogether a fitting tribute to this much-missed prince of power pop.

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Following up the breakthrough is a tricky business. The easiest thing for John Moreland to do following the success of his 2015 album High On Tulsa Heat would have been to deliver a sequel-like rehash of the acoustic glories of that album. Instead he beefs things and takes a full-band approach on Big Bad Luv, which contains almost as many hooks as it does Moreland’s hard-earned kernels of truth.

You can sense the difference right off the bat with “Salisaw Blue,” which delivers some serious heartland crunch. “Ain’t We Gold” flirts with funk, while “It Don’t Suit Me (Like Before)” locates a chugging, Allman Brothers-style groove. Even mid-tempo numbers like “Lies I Chose To Believe” and “Amen, So Be It” find ways to engage the listener rhythmically as Moreland does his typically astute job with lyrics.

The feeling overall that you gather from these songs is that the difficult struggle undertaken by Moreland’s characters against the darker elements of life is absolutely worth it in the end.

Moreland does take a few moments here and there to go down the more harrowing roads of the previous album, as on “No Glory In Regret.” But even in that song, there’s somebody by his side to help him face his demons. On closing track “Latchkey Kid,” Moreland sings, “I don’t feel the need to prove myself no more.” Big Bad Luv benefits from that attitude, even as it proves this singer-songwriter hasn’t let down at all.

‘It Don’t Suit Me (Like Before)’ by John Moreland, from new album ‘Big Bad Luv’, released May 5th on 4AD Records