Steven Page’s “Page One” (2010) – The Weekend Review

Originally posted 2010-11-14 12:02:02. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

By Chris Moore:

RATING:  4 / 5 stars

Coming on the heels of the excellent post-Page BnL disc All in Good Time, “expectations” would be the key word when considering the aptly-titled Page One.  Steven Page has already released two solo albums, but the Vanity Project was a side project (with much less risk involved) and A Singer Must Die with the Art of Time Ensemble was… well, covers played with an ensemble.  They were both excellent: the former in and of itself and the latter for what it was.

In all practicality, Page One is the first true Steven Page solo album.

As such, it is an exercise in expressing his talents across a variety of genres.  Some are tracks that could have fit seamlessly on previous Barenaked Ladies records.  Others would simply never have fit in that venue.

This aforementioned variety is perhaps the most appealing feature of his debut.  After all, the power pop appeal of such tracks as “Indecision” can only extend so far before one begins to go numb (taking notes, Brendan Benson?).  And, with the exception of several moments of overproduced indulgence on tracks like “Entourage” and “Queen of America,” the dynamics of these twelve diverse tracks are admirably balanced to attain cohesion as an album.

And there are several moments of absolute perfection in style, sound, and tone.  Take the opening lines of the first song, “A New Shore:”  “As captain of this band of merry sailors I’m a black mark I’m a failure/So before you watch me drown/I’m relinquishing command for something I don’t understand/this man’s about to turn his whole life upside down.”  Under any other circumstances, this nautical analogy might seem forced or cliched.  However, as it marks his departure from the extraordinarily successful band that has served as the anchor (see, I can do it too!) of his entire musical career up to this point, it seems quite appropriate.

While I follow the juxtaposition of the “merry sailors,” arguably the other four members of BnL, and the color “black,” perhaps to indicate the more serious, introverted nature of Page’s material — think: “Bad Day” on the otherwise joyous and goofy Snacktime! — the term “failure” would seem an over-exaggeration.

Still, there are many fans of the nineties rock group who consider Page’s departure a betrayal.  Some go so far as to condemn Page’s conduct in the year leading up to his exit as immoral and unforgivable.

Had this cocaine bust occurred several decades earlier or in a different band, he would have been elevated a level into rock superstar iconography, the stuff of legends.

Occurring when it did, and being who he is, Page has been vilified by the contingent of so-called family-friendly fans.

And yet, disappointed as I was to learn of the breakup, I did appreciate Page’s attitude.  As he told one interviewer, “I keep saying to fans, ‘Just think: you get a two-for-one now. You get their records and my records.'”

Page One (Steven Page, 2010)

Page One (Steven Page, 2010)

This record tells a story of internal conflict, expressed in a direct and personal manner that would arguably have lost some resonance as the product of five member band.  “Indecision” is the second track, the first single, and a signpost of sorts.  If Page One is an exploration of the recent dramatic events of his life, then “Indecision” introduces the first of the destructive forces at work: namely, indecisiveness.

As Page sings, “I’m predisposed to have it/Happiest when I don’t know what to do/I want to settle down like my father/I want to run away like my mother ought to.”

This track may be read as a response of sorts to the Barenaked Ladies’ own 2010 single “You Run Away.”  In that song, fell0w BnL co-founder Ed Robertson sings, “I’ll give you something you can cry about/One thing you should try it out/Hold a mirror shoulder high/When you’re older look you in the eye.”  Page is clearly doing this, rooting his insecurities in analogies of the family (mother/father), and admitting that he thrives on a degree of ambiguity and perhaps even crisis.

The song that follows, “Clifton Springs,” is ostensibly a character narrative, and yet Page’s delivery of certain lines resonates as though the story speaks to a deeper, more personal connection.  He sings, “My stigmata’s the regret for how/I could have let it all/Go so wrong.”  The question here is, of course, does Page intend simply to create a story or is this an outlet for expressing his own sentiments?  Other lines like “You’ve got to do what’s best for yourself” and references to “the ghosts of a life” coalesce with the thematic tones that recur across the other eleven tracks and seem to point to the latter.

(Still, devotee of the school of Dylan that I am, I acknowledge that speculation out of proportion can only serve to obscure music, not clarify it.)

The subsequent three tracks provide an array of perspectives on fidelity in general and marriage in particular.  In “Entourage,” the singer seeks immediate pleasure in the form of sex, elevating the quest by the end of the song to state, “Now we’re through with morality,/can I sleep with your wife?/I want to be like you/And your entourage/Tonight.”

“Marry Me” follows with a proposal of marriage, albeit a decidedly perfunctory one, as it comes with the rationale “I know it’s the same all over the world.”  The layers are further peeled back to reveal the heart of this figure’s matrimonial leanings: “Marry me…/Without our love, we’d just be normal people marching forward/Normal people? Who? You and Me? It can’t be!”  In each case — the looser groupie and the norm-conscious fiance-to-be — the ultimate motivation is satisfaction, whether it be physical or psychological.

The third installment in this anti-matrimonial trilogy is “All the Young Monogamists,” in which the singer and his partner observe the young couples they see, smiling to themselves as they “know what’s in store.”  As Page sings, “As they gaze into the eyes/Of the one they love/They can feel inside of them/That this is not enough.”  After expressing this existential emptiness and offering up four unpromising outcomes — tiring out, running away, sleeping around, or settling — the narrator ultimately finds himself coming full circle as he embarks on a monogamous relationship, promising “I will always be true to you.”

So, there is some optimism to cling to, after all.

This is followed by the one-two power-pop punch of “She’s Trying to Save Me” and “Over Joy,” songs which explore that second destructive force: depression.  This is a familiar force, one which has crept into the undertones — and, sometimes, overtones — of Page’s previous work.  And these are excellent, if not groundbreaking, efforts.  The former has “second single” written all over it, and the latter comes off as the Vanity Project’s answer to Wilco’s “Please Be Patient With Me.”

I would have pegged a track nine with a title like “If You Love Me” to be the mid-album slow song, but no dice.  The rock rolls on.  The phrasing here is of interest, placing the onus of relationship maintenance on the other party.  “IF you love me,” Page sings, “Everything will be all right tonight.”

“Leave Her Alone” follows, and is arguably the most dynamic track on the album.  If “All the Young Monogamists” could have been a candidate for A Singer Must Die, then “Leave Her Alone” is a brilliant blend between rock, pop, big band, and orchestral music.  This song boasts some of the strongest and bluntest lyrics, ranging from eloquent introspection (“Rephrasing the hazing amazed at/how cruel men could be,/I saw they were no different from me”) to baser internal rhymes (“And subsequent cities were shitty as well”).

Then comes “Queen of America,” the one song I’ve been unable to place on the Page One spectrum.  Truth be told, it sounds like an outtake from a Scissor Sisters album in topic, tone, and closing voice-over.

Page One wraps up fittingly with “The Chorus Girl,” the first of his songs to take a deep breath.  I’ll leave this one for you to discover on your own, but suffice it to say that every other song is a step leading up to this track.

Oh, and there is a winking reference to cocaine to rival Ed Robertson’s All in Good Time line, “You crash the party, I’ll crash the plane.”

In most respects, Page One lives up to expectations.  There is no denying that it is bittersweet to hold the BnL and Steven Page releases side by side and to realize that they each contain aspects that the other does not, and perhaps cannot.  This being said, I see no value in lamenting the breakup.  Instead, it would be best that fans follow Page’s logic and embrace this two-for-one deal.  If we respect and perhaps even trust these five men, this split must have been a positive and necessary development, and it has at the very least yielded some of the most urgent, passionate music of their recent career.

If only for now, that should be enough.

“Wichita Lineman” (Glen Campbell Cover)

Originally posted 2009-02-09 23:58:33. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

By Chris Moore:

For Glen Campbell Chords/Lyrics, click here!

Hello and welcome to my first cover song music video for the blog in just about two weeks!  Those of you who are acquainted with my work here on the Laptop Sessions blog will appreciate just how long a break from recording that is.  After all, I spent the entirety of 2008 — along with Jim and Jeff — recording a session every three days.  So, when you look at it this way, two weeks off is an eternity!

That being said, I’m back tonight with a song from a new artist to the blog — Glen Campbell.  Campbell is a name you’ve probably heard before, as he’s been working in the realm of popular music ever since the 1960s.  I first remember him from the story of the Beach Boys, as he filled in for Brian Wilson as a touring bassist in 1964 and 1965.  Having come from a family of twelve, a group with three brothers must have been a piece of cake for him to handle!

What I had forgotten about Glen Campbell is that he was a member of the famous Wrecking Crew, along with other studio musicians like Hal Blaine and Carol Kaye.  He has played guitar on such popular recordings as the Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds, the Righteous Brothers’ “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling,” and the Monkees’ “I’m A Believer.”  He also played on tracks by other artists such as Elvis Presley, Bobby Darin, Ricky Nelson, Merle Haggard, Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Jan & Dean, the Mamas and the Papas, and many more.

What a resume!

So, why did I decide to record a Glen Campbell song out of the blue?  Why have I encroached upon the usual Jim Fusco territory of the 1960s?  The answer is simple — Glen Campbell is releasing a new compilation tomorrow entitled Glen Campbell: Greatest Hits , and I thought it appropriate to pay tribute to him.  I especially like “Wichita Lineman,” perhaps because it sounds like a cross between the Beach Boys and the Moody Blues.  I say this because it’s got that great, bassy surf guitar-ish sound on the solo, and it has very obvious Justin Hayward inflections, particularly in the vocals and the Moody Blues-esque flute sounds.  So, having decided on “Wichita Lineman,” I got in front of my laptop, searched the Glen Campbell official website for a clip, went to YouTube to watch Glen Campbell playing it, and set about transcribing and practicing.  I’m glad that I’ve decided to post chords (tabs / how to play) for all my songs this year, as I looked around for chords online and didn’t find any sites with correct chords and lyrics.  So, if you’re interested in playing the song, refer to the information you find here – it’s hot off the presses!

Well, that’s it for me tonight.  I’d love to write more, but after my double posting yesterday, I’m pretty worn out!  Seriously though, I hope you’ve checked out my posts about the Grammy Awards and the TNA Pay-Per-View.  If you haven’t, I think that at least the Grammys post is worth a read for any fan of rock music.

Without further ado, here’s my latest cover song music video.  Hurry back tomorrow for an all-new Jim Fusco Tuesday Laptop Session…

See you next session!

“Last Night” (Traveling Wilburys Cover)

Originally posted 2008-01-05 00:56:30. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

By Chris Moore:

I recorded this one “last night”!

Okay, too cheesy?

Seriously, this is a simple but fun one from the Traveling Wilburys. A little Tom Petty-esque lead and a special guest tribute to Roy Orbison…

“Down Under” (A Men at Work Cover)

Originally posted 2008-07-15 23:50:35. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

By Chris Moore:

This is another all-new cover video here at your source for the best cover songs on the web or anywhere: the Laptop Sessions acoustic cover song music blog! Since I haven’t introduced a brand-new band to the video blog in a while, I decided to record a song that I had considered recording back in the specialty “Number Ones Week.” I never recorded this song, which was a number one on the Billboard Hot 100 in the eighties, for that week, and I put it aside — out of sight, out of mind — in my bookmarks menu. Then, I came across it tonight and decided to make it official.

This is “Down Under,” originally performed by the Men at Work. This is an eighties band that you wouldn’t necessarily expect to see here on this acoustic cover song blog. But, my father and I had always laughed and enjoyed this song whenever it came on the radio, so I thought it deserved its fair shake as an unplugged performance. It is an extremely easy song to play — the verse and chorus sections are different only by one chord — and it’s right in my comfortable vocal range.

Truth be told, it did take me quite a few takes. Unlike my last post, which I happily reported on Saturday was a one-take (my first ever!) recording, this took me about ten takes, false starts and all. It wasn’t so much that it’s a difficult song because, as I said before, it’s not. However, I haven’t really listened to the song in full for years, so I needed to find it on the YouTube videos search and watch it a couple times. Well, I really only had to listen to it, but it was so funny to watch that I simply couldn’t resist. I love the flute player in the tree and, of course, the man behind the counter “from Brussels” with “muscles” who gives the singer a “Vegemite sandwich.”

To this day, I’m really not even sure what a Vegemite sandwich is…

I actually just looked it up on Wikipedia now, and I found that it’s a “dark brown savoury food paste made from yeast extract, used mainly as a spread on sandwiches, toast and cracker biscuit.” It’s no surprise that I didn’t know what it was because, even though it is distributed by food manufacturing giant Kraft Foods, it has simply not caught on in Western nations such as the United States of America.

Vegemite knowledge notwithstanding, it really took me a long time because I needed to relearn the song. But, as my fellow FMP songwriters Jim and Jeff probably know all too well, I was very tired and had my mind on other things when I realized that tonight was my night to post another quality cover video. So, wiping the mid-summer sweat from my forehead and ignoring the headache that was creeping in, I did what any responsible video blog poster — or at least one who has committed himself to the session-a-day promise — would do… I recorded a Laptop Session.

I hope you enjoy it, as it really is a fun song, and I only wish that I had been able to record this acoustic cover song with some flute accompaniment… If this doesn’t quench your thirst for quality cover videos, you’ll just have to hurry back for Jeff’s next all-new session tomorrow, here on the Laptop Sessions Music Blog.

See you next session!