Your crusty chronicler generally does his own thing. Still, when Examiner asked for support for their “List” format, it was impossible not to be open-minded. So, with that spirit of unity and teamwork in mind, your rockin’ reviewer presents this series—“Track by Track” in which we review certain select CDs literally “track by track”.
In this edition, we peruse The Cherry Bluestorms most recent release Bad Penny Opera. But first, for those not on your musical history, here is a bit of background on the band. The Cherry Bluestorms consist of singer-songwriter/guitarist Deborah Gee (lead vocals) and ex-Dickies guitarist/multi-instrumentalist/songwriter Glen Laughlin (guitar, bass, keyboards and vocals). The talented twosome share a love for 1960’s “guitar-based melodic rock” that continues to be evident in their music. On this artistic effort they are ably assisted by Tommy Diehl on drums whom Laughlin said “did a fantastic job”. (While he does not appear on the new disc, drummer Mark Francis White joins Laughlin and Gee when they perform live.)
(View the following list to learn more about the newest release by The Cherry Bluestorms.)
“Bad Penny Overture”
“Bad Penny Overture” is a long, rockin’ instrumental lead-in to the tuneful tale of a girl named Penny living in “the industrial North of 1960’s England”. Here begins the trippy tour through the tribulations of our heroine as she ends a relationship and heads South on a journey of self-discovery and second chances.
“By Your Leave”
The second selection is the comparatively brief “By Your Leave”. This one, like most of the material here was written by Laughlin. It features guest musician Arlan Schierbaum on the Hammond organ and continues the story of Penny as set against music that is influenced by Brit Rock of that era.
“A Better Place”
The next number is “A Better Place”. This is a collaborative cut by Laughlin and Gee. It features guest artist Lilly Aycud on horns. Your rockin’ reviewer was made privy to a preview of this piece prior to the release of this disc and this finished version is polished and prepped for airplay.
“Wear Your Love Like Heaven”
Also included here is a clever cover of a classic cut by Donovan titled “Wear Your Love Like Heaven”. Aycud encored on horns once more adding a little something to the musical mix. The song is both welcome and apropos and Gee’s female vocals adds something different to the golden oldie.
“A True Heart Wears a Thorny Crown” and “Sunday Driving South”
The Donovan adaptation is followed by Laughlin’s “A True Heart Wears a Thorny Crown”. This one may already be familiar to hardcore fans as it was previously placed in a television show. Schierbaum encores on the organ further setting the musical mood to this “songstory”.
It’s followed by another Laughlin original titled “Sunday Driving South”. This noteworthy number is apparently already an early fan favorite and contains elements wonderfully reminiscent of The Beatles and lyrical tips of the hat to such other inspiring acts as Pink Floyd and Jimi Hendrix.
“The Country Man” and “World Going Mad”
Laughlin’s songwriting skills and Brit musical influences continue to be apparent in the upbeat songs “The Country Man” and “World Going Mad”. It’s always interesting and oft’times almost amazing to see how much music a mere trio of tunesmiths can put out on one track. There are some near Phil Spector-like moments in Laughlin’s production to be sure.
“As Above so Below”
“As Above so Below” is just plain groovy . . . and no doubt was meant to be. Your personable penman was privy to a preview of this piece as well and it sounds even better now as part of this particular performance. Guest musician Andy Duncan is brought in to fill out the sound with his horns.
“London Bridge” and “To Love You Is a Crime”
What would this work be without a mention of such a well-known site as the London Bridge? Indeed, “London Bridge” is perhaps one of Laughlin’s better works in terms of blending the old with the new. His song “To Love You Is a Crime” adds additional pre-1967 influential elements to the album.
A song with a title like “Start Again” might initially seem oddly placed here and yet in terms of the actual story it belongs nowhere else as our protagonist is near the end of her purposeful pilgrimage and is only now ready to start again. Schierbaum encores again on organ and the introduction of Brittany Cotto on violin adds a subtle something to Laughlin’s musical mix here.
Not to be confused with Michael Jackson’s 1987 hit titular track, “Bad” is yet one more new composition by Laughlin. With its roots in music made decades earlier, this closing cut is yet another song that won early favor from fans. As always, much of the music on this disc is both foreign and familiar, both enticing and accessible.
The songs on this concept album are a potent potpourri of 1960s Brit band bits, “legendary” London and their own somewhat psychedelic signature sound make for an original yet listener-friendly, lyrical libretto and love letter to The Cherry Bluestorm’s early influences that will whisk audiences to “A Better Place”.
My name is Phoenix and . . . that’s the bottom line.