“Heaven” (Brett Dennen Cover Version)

By Jim Fusco:

Hi folks!  Welcome to another Jim Fusco Tuesday!  This was one of those weeks where, after such a great long weekend, I truly dreaded the four-day week ahead.  I have two immediate video programs to edit, a whole bunch of PSA’s, an audio mastering project, and multiple projects looming around the corner… And that’s all stuff I have to do AFTER a crazy day at work!  I feel myself getting a better handle on things at work, but it’s still a struggle on a daily basis, as I’m constantly trying to dig out of a growing hole.  It’ll get better, but it’s just these weeks when everything piles up that I get a bit nervous.  Becky’s been helping (bringing me coffee and snacks, plus trying to keep me to a schedule), so it’s definitely hurt less than it should’ve.

Anyway, onto tonight’s video:

I’ve been churning out the new artists to the blog lately (and ones you might even have heard of, by the way), but tonight I might break that mold a bit.  I had never heard of Brett Dennen before, but my boss kept telling me about him after he heard Dennen’s music on Last.fm, a music service on Xbox 360.  Anyway, he burned me a copy of Brett’s songs (don’t worry, Brett- I bought the LP version of “Hope for the Hopeless” afterward and so did my brother!).  But, even though he kept asking me about it, I didn’t put the CD in because I was still hooked on the Grateful Dead!  So, about four weeks ago now, I popped Brett’s “Hope for the Hopeless” album in and completely fell in love with the music.

The man is simply a good songwriter.  His songs are not overly complicated (which I LOVE)- he uses some pretty simple chords in some songs (and some cool inversions in others, too) and the songs are short and sweet.  The songs pretty much follow the verse-bridge-chorus model and there’s one or two guitar solos spattered throughout the album.  It’s a short one with only 11 songs, but I don’t care- the quality definitely makes up for the quantity.

Dennen’s two previous releases before “Hope for the Hopeless” had the feel of Jack Johnson’s first album- sparsely produced to its detriment.  Yes, there are good songs, but I need a little more than an acoustic guitar to make me love an album.  “Hope for the Hopeless” is different.  It’s almost like he got signed to a label that gave him some more money to produce an album.  The result is amazing- I just love the production on this disc.  You won’t find a lot of harmonies here and the instruments are no-frills.  Mostly, you have an acoustic, an electric, bass, piano/organ, and drums.  That’s a perfect mix for me.  What’s great about this album, and I plan on trying with my next album, is that there really is no rhythm guitar.  The guitar only plays what it needs to.  So, the music sounds open, but not lacking.  You’ll just have to listen to get what I’m saying.

I could’ve picked any of the 11 songs from “Hope for the Hopeless” to cover.  My favorites are “Who Do You Think You Are?” and “Make You Crazy”, but I chose “Heaven” because it’s just one of those “perfect” songs.  It has such a message- kind of like “Imagine” by John Lennon.  This song, according to Dennen fans, will stand as his masterpiece.  On the recording, I challenge you not to get chills once the band comes in at the start of the second chorus.  It’s AWESOME!

So, I decided to record my version of this song just acoustically, though I’ve been playing it on the piano recently, as well.  “Heaven” is a great song to sing by yourself, as it only has one vocal in the album version anyway (the single version suffers from a female lead vocal in the second verse- I much prefer the album version and I’m glad he did it that way).

One thing about Dennen- when you hear his songs, you’ll notice his…let’s say “accent”.  I’m not really sure what it is.  It sounds Louisianan to me.  At first, I really didn’t like it.  But, if you get past the way he says certain words (like instead of “trouble”, he says, “trugh-bowl”), you’ll really like these songs.  And now, I even like the way he says those words, because I can tell he’s not doing it on purpose (just to sound different)- it’s just the way he talks/sings.

On a side note, check out one of my new favorite tunes, “Make You Crazy”, on YouTube- the music video is pretty cool.

Now, I had a feeling I’d heard of Brett Dennen before.  I mean, that voice is so unmistakable.  Becky and I both agree that we’ve heard his most “famous” song, “Ain’t No Reason” (not one of my favorites and if you heard it and know my musical tastes, you’ll understand why).  We must’ve heard it in a TV show.  Then, my brother Mike ended up knowing (and loving) “Make You Crazy”, too, from his days working at Hollister, where they played the song on a daily basis.

Okay, enough talk- time to watch the LSHD version of “Heaven” performed by me, Jim Fusco!  I’d love to hear your thoughts about the song, my performance, and Brett Dennen.  I hope you have a great week and make sure to stop back next Tuesday for another acoustic cover song.  I plan on it being a classic early 60’s tune that Becky and I heard in the car while on our way to Albany, NY for our weekend trip.  We had a blast- check my Twitter (jimfusco) for all the updates and photos from the road!  Until next week!

“San Francisco” by Brett Dennen (Cover)

By Jim Fusco:

Welcome to another edition of the Laptop Sessions with me, Jim Fusco!

I’m back again tonight after a short sabbatical.  I’m glad to present a great song, “San Francisco” off of Brett Dennen’s 2009 album “Hope for the Hopeless”.

I’ve been in love with this album ever since my friend (and boss) Bill gave me the album to listen to.  I’ve since purchased it on vinyl- you’ll see my copy behind me in the video.

I’ve also been purchasing a lot of new albums on vinyl, including Jack Johnson’s “To the Sea” and “Stone Temple Pilots”, both of which I haven’t listened to yet.  I’m getting myself ready for the STP album by listening to their previous effort, “Shangri-La-Dee-Dah”.  Jeff always used to talk about that album, so I asked for it for my birthday and I’m loving the album.  I’m so excited about the new disc!  Actually, I did listen to it once while transferring my vinyl copy over to the computer using my brother’s ION USB turntable.  Mine’s on the fritz…of course…

I’ve been taking it a bit easier lately, which is good because it’s been BUSY.  I’ve gotten a lot more done around the house and have been watching my Mets, who’ve been on a big roll lately.

I hope to keep up with this light Laptop Sessions schedule- I’ll definitely make it a point to.

Anyway, I’ve wanted to record “San Francisco” for a very long time now and was happy to get the opportunity now.  What’s cool is that Brett Dennen himself used his Martin D-28 acoustic guitar to record this album.  Hearing his great sound and great songs was a factor in my choosing a Martin, too.  Even though mine cost about half the price of his, mine’s still all solid wood and (in my opinion) sounds just as good!  Remember all the research I did?  Well, I truly believe I got the best I could for the money.

Over the next few weeks, I plan on covering songs from Ringo Starr, Scissor Sisters, Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, Jack Johnson, and Stone Temple Pilots- ALL of whom have albums out this summer!  So, the cover song list keeps on growing.  So, have a great Tuesday and be sure to come back again for another Laptop Session with Jim Fusco soon!

Brett Dennen’s “Hope for the Hopeless” (2008) – Yes, No, or Maybe So

Brett Dennen’s Hope for the Hopeless (2008) – YES

Brett Dennen's

Brett Dennen's "Hope for the Hopeless" (2008)


Sounding like the best parts of Jack Johnson and Gavin DeGraw rolled into one – with a Dylan-esque vocal flair here and there – Brett Dennen’s Hope for the Hopeless is the great album of 2008 that I missed; I love Johnson and Jakob Dylan, but this acoustic rock album blows Sleep Through the Static and Seeing Things away! (…a conclusion supported by the fact that the always frustrating Rolling Stone reviewers barely acknowledged this great release with three stars and a lukewarm paragraph of backhanded compliments.)

Top Two Tracks:

“Heaven” & “San Francisco”

The Weekend Review: April 2011 Report

By Chris Moore:

After a much-too-lengthy absence, the Weekend Review returns.  If I hope to catch up on all the months worth of music that I’ve missed, it’s going to have to be more concise.  But I’m determined!  Stop back soon — as the year winds down, there’s sure to be something new here just about every day, whether it be a cover song music video, a music review, or a “best of” list to celebrate the year of new music.

Brett Dennen

April 12, 2011

2.5/5 stars

Top Two Tracks:
“Sydney (I’ll Come Running)” & “Dancing at a Funeral”

This album falls into that enigmatic class of records that defy a clear rating.  Working on the five star system, a three star rating suggests not only an enjoyable experience but also a general mediocrity that is inescapable.  One star records are unlistenable, either for a lack of interesting songwriting and/or performance ability.  A five star album offers beautiful, masterful, thoughtful musical near-perfection.  What Brett Dennen’s Loverboy offers splits the rating system.  The first six tracks are excellent, some of the best songs of the year even – “Sydney (I’ll Come Running),” “Surprise, Surprise,” “Comeback Kid (That’s My Dog).”  These songs are vibrant and upbeat, musically interesting, and catchy sing-a-longs waiting to happen.  However, some of their brilliance threatens to be lost in the sidestep presented by the second half.  Somewhere around track seven, Dennen flips a switch and the ostensible motivation from there on appears to be a trip down memory lane, picking up retro elements and fusing them with the sound he has heretofore established on Loverboy.  “Only Rain” sounds like a take on the Grover Washington, Jr. and Bill Withers sound (“Just the Two of Us,” anyone?).  “Song for Leaving” also adopts a late seventies, early eighties feel.  This is to take nothing away from these songs; they are, in fact, quite good if you’re open to this brand of derivative composition.  The tracks I didn’t mention – “Queen of the Westside” being the exemplar among them – I can’t say the same for.  Some of these latter half tracks are masturbatory at best, like the intro tag to “Queen.”  They simply lack the craftsmanship of the first six songs on this album, not to mention the songs on his previous releases.  Perhaps the most perplexing aspect to note is the material Dennen chose not to include on the album.  The two Amazon MP3 exclusives – “Walk Away, Watch Me Burn” and “Alone Again” – not only should have been included but also should have replaced some of the tracks on the album proper.


  Wasting Light
Foo Fighters
Butch Vig

April 12, 2011

4.5/5 stars

Top Two Tracks:
“Arlandria” & “Rope”

Hands down, one of the best rock albums by any band in recent memory.  Wasting Light reminded me what a rock album is supposed to be like, and it would not be overstatement to say that the Foo Fighters – surprisingly, given their (in this writer’s opinion) bland album sequencing ability – have encouraged a reconsideration of what I have liked in recent music.  As I’ve stretched out my tastes and sensibilities, I may have forgotten the value and the appeal of a scorching opener like “Bridge Burning,” a riff-centric single like “Rope,” or a raw, guttural track like “White Limo.”  “Arlandria” is classic Foo Fighters at their prime, blending smooth vocals into all-out screams of choruses and torrents of distortion guitar blasts.   The album takes a fade to a degree after the halfway point, but this even the second half is eminently listenable. I haven’t had a good thing to say about a Foo Fighters album since The Colour and the Shape, but Wasting Light breaks that drought.  One of the best of the year, and my favorite rock album since R.E.M.’s Accelerate in 2008.


So Beautiful or So What
Paul Simon

Phil Ramone & Paul Simon

April 11, 2011

1.5/5 stars

Top Two Tracks:
“Rewrite” & “So Beautiful or So What”

Paul Simon has, without question after the critical reception of this album, received some sort of honorary status as an untouchable.  That So Beautiful or So What has earned such high praise is an otherwise indecipherable phenomenon to me.  If reverb hadn’t been invented previously, then I might understand the fuss.  Sure, the vocals are smooth, even beautiful in places,  but the lyrics are juvenile and the songwriting is structurally loose, depending on certain sounds and feels to guide the track rather than true progressions and thoughtful crafting of movements.  Turns out I find much of it beautiful, but I’m strongly in the “so what?” camp.  Take note, though: it’ll make for pleasant background music at your next gathering of fifty- to sixty-somethings.


  Nine Types of Light
TV on the Radio

April 11, 2011

3.5/5 stars

Top Two Tracks:
“New Cannonball Blues” & “No Future Shock”

In the manner its sounds and sequencing flow along the same lines as its synthetic medium, Nine Types of Light is a success.  When it does find a catchy line or beat, however, TV on the Radio seem to rely too heavily on it, often failing to develop much beyond what is established early.  This criticism, however, should not undercut the standouts, like the cool “No Future Shock” and the fuzzy, dance trip of “New Cannonball Blues.”