File under "mad pop inventions"
This is a 2001 album by Blake Jones And The Trike Shop. Blake Jones is the latest in a long line of Californian pop geniuses that encompasses Brian Wilson, Arthur Lee and
Frank Zappa. While he may not be quite as good as these (and despite the band credit on this album, Blake plays almost
everything on this CD including guitar, bass, keyboards, marimba, theremin and banjo, making it a solo album in all but
name) he's good enough that the comparison doesn't invite derision. Jones obviously has intellectual reference points (the
liner notes namecheck Ferlinghetti, ManRay, Theremin and Tesla among others) but doesn't forget the value of a good tune
either... Think Nilsson, early 10CC, solo Paul McCartney, and anything else that you love but is terminally uncool...
This review will talk about the album almost exclusively in terms of other artists, but don't let that put you off, this is
something unique in today's music world.
Disclaimer - Obviously influenced by Harry Nilsson, this little album intro informs you that the music you are about to
hear has been 'reformatted to fit your speakers'
Parade - This is a wonderful slice of powerpop, which could have been made by Big Star at their best, but with echoes of The
Who and The Beach Boys too... in a sane world, this would have been number one for months
My Baby Lacksadaisy is an example of the kind of clever latin-influenced pop that you'd expect from Harry Nilsson or Curt
Boettcher. The lyrics may be a bit too clever for their own good, but this is one of the catchiest things I've heard in a
Ross Used To Play Us His Frank Zappa Records (Cold Pepsi & Croutons) is a wonderful Frank Zappa pastiche. The main theme is very
reminiscent of the period roughly from Over-Nite Sensation through Lather, but the song contains wonderful diversions into
Ruben & The Jets-esque doo-wop, references to tracks from We're Only In It For The Money and Freak Out!, and surf
instrumental parts that could come from the Studio Z sessions. This is to Zappa as the Rutles are to the Beatles...
Beware The Woodmaries is an atmospheric short piece that fits very nicely after the previous track, and could have come off
the last two REM albums...
I Roped The Moon Out Of The Sky is a mid-tempo song based on the staccatto piano parts that Brian Wilson, Paul McCartney and
Harry Nilsson among many others used to use in the late 60s and early 70s. While it has some wonderful harmonies, the whole
thing is rather too reminiscent of Gilbert O'Sullivan...
No Waiting For The Rebirth Of Wonder is an odd little tune (in a good way). Another vaguely Latin-flavoured track, it sounds
like nothing so much as the Turtles performing a song which had originally been designed as a Bond theme for Shirley Bassey.
This has some wonderful period production touches, like the heavily echoed acoustic guitar solo. It's about this point in the album
that you start muttering 'talented bastard... show off' and reassessing your own talents as much less than you'd previously
Lackadaisy is a wonderful little Beach Boys flavoured snippet that would have fit perfectly on the Friends album, copying the
bass sound from the track Pet Sounds and adding toy piano and multitracked wordless vocals.
Looking For A Tune sounds like something else but I can't put my finger on it. Based on a basic drum loop and simple guitar
riff, with theremin, this is *very* different from the rest of the album, sounding something like Paul McCartney trying to
sound like Talking Heads. The production sound is very 80s (and the riff is *exactly* like something else...) but this is
an interesting track, and a grower.
Did You Know It Was A Dream? could have come from McCartney's two first (and best) solo albums. Sparse and cheap sounding, but
with multitracked vocals providing some wonderful round-like melodies, this is the sort of thing that sounds easy to pull off
until you try.
Sweet Life Grows So Slow is one of the few real rockers on the album, based on a one chord version of the You Really Got Me
riff. This could probably have done with the instrumental track being brought up in the mix a bit. This sounds like nothing
so much as Dennis Wilson's rockers around the time of the Beach Boys' Sunflower album...
Bad Bad Ronald is very 10CC, with some very nice little Dick Dale touches on the guitar. Not one of my favourites on the
Empty Sea is a bluesy, atmospheric track. Another one that could be done by Shirley Bassey without much alteration - until
the heavily distorted guitars kick in towards the end...
The Lights Still Shine is a nice Christmas song. I'm not a fan of Christmas music, but this is very good. It sounds like a
refugee from the Beach Boys' unreleased 70s Xmas album, but much much better than most of the tracks from that album. There's
no excuse for quoting from The Little Drummer Boy though.
Makin' My Honey Like A B-Movie is possibly the best track on the entire album - an uptempo powerpop track reminiscent of
Nilsson, Big Star, Jeff Foskett and half a dozen others, but still very unique. Another of the several tracks where theremin
is used to great effect.
Carmen's Big Aria, the closing track, is an arrangement of the most famous part of Bizet's opera Carmen, and the only track
on the album where Jones isn't the lead vocalist (it's sung by contralto Jill Jansen). It stays to the same tempo and has
the same vocal arrangement as the original composition, but the instrumental track is played on surf-sounding guitars. An odd
but interesting closer to an odd but great album.
This album deserves to be regarded as a minor classic, but maybe 50 or 100 people will ever buy it. Go to
www.blakejonesmusic.com now and be one of them.