About 13 years ago Willie “Loco” Alexander, contemporary of Steve Gilligan and friends, released the excellent Dog Bar Yacht Club. A baker’s dozen spins of the earth around the sun and Gilligan’s Spider Farm – a veritable super group of people on the folk scene – issues this 12 song disc.
With a nod to Loco’s hero Kerouac Spider Farm opens the album with a terrific pop tune, “The Sun Belongs to Anyone” which flows with the best elements of Americana wrapped up in hit record dressing. It’s just superb and deserves a huge audience. “She Was My Girl” clocks in at 4:15 and could be Rock E. Rollins, the alter ego of Gilligan’s bandmate from the Stompers, Sal Baglio. “Roline” and “Halfway to Wichita” are short bursts at 3:12 and 3:13 respectively, and what exudes from the stylistically different pair is the fun that this ensemble puts into the playing.
Drummer Lenny Shea (percussion, glockenspiel, and vocals) and Dave Friedman (Piano and organ) – both Stompers themselves – join Kenny Selcer – a local legend who didn’t need to perform with presidential candidate Jill Stein to be famous, though he did when they were in a duo Somebody’s Sister. Bird Mancini’s Billy Carl Mancini along with fiddle player Jackie Damsky and guitarist John Gibson add to the full sound.
It’s one thing to perform on bills with the bands your friends are in, another to blend all these veteran musical talents into one CD that has so much to offer from so many different styles. “I Wanna Know” has bending guitars borrowing from the Ventures, but adding that sound to a different dimension the Ventures dare not go, specifically Beau Brummels and Searchers territory.
“Dead End Angel” could be the Everly Brothers joining George Harrison’s Bangla Desh multitude, and perhaps that’s the key to the charm at play here. Harrison brought together divergent talents from Dylan to Badfinger to Phil Spector, and it worked in a new and refreshing way.
Steve Gilligan and Spider Farm, comprised of so many masters that have emerged from our under-appreciated music scene have crafted a stunningly beautiful set of essays that enlighten and entertain. Then they turn on a dime with “Would You Kiss Me Now,” stripped down pop where the embellishments pop up at opportune times. Things turn around again with “The Other Side of the Rain,” great music but as jarring as Santana’s 1999 Supernatural disc which had a broad scope that, somehow, people were able to adjust to.
How did Clive Davis get fired for being too old when he put out the biggest record in the world is just one aspect of the music industry that keeps things…interesting. “The Great Beyond” asks the eternal, perpetual questions and “Heaven Allows” states the obvious at five minutes and nineteen seconds…with delicious harmonica. “A Little Lovin’ Tonight” at 4:19 bridges the gap with songs that go from three minutes and under to Richard Harris Top 40 territory. “Rain Don’t Fall” concludes this excellent set with sounds of the old west, as recaptured by Peter Calo on his “Cowboy Song” disc, but with the added twist of religious overtones and neo-gospel.
Joe Viglione is the Chief Film Critic at TMRZoo.com. He has written thousands of reviews and biographies for AllMovie.com, Allmusic.com, Gatehouse Media, Al Aronowitz’s The Blacklisted Journal, and a variety of other media outlets. Joe also produces and hosts Visual Radio, a seventeen year old variety show on cable TV which has interviewed Jodie Foster, director/screenwriter David Koepp, Michael Moore, John Cena, comics/actors Margaret Cho, Gilbert Gottfried, Gallagher, musicians Mark Farner and Don Brewer of Grand Funk Railroad, Ian Hunter of Mott The Hoople, Ray Manzarek, John Densmore, Felix Cavaliere of The Rascals, political commentator Bill Press and hundreds of other personalities.