Friday, January 5, 2007
Some records belong to their time, others transcend it and then some are deliberately out of step with it. 1983's 'Paisley Underground' all star record Rainy Day in an odd way falls into all three of these categories.
A one off album, produced by David Roback, masterminded by Roback along with Susanna Hoffs as a reaction to the more and more plastic music the 80s were producing. Roback and Hoffs called in friends from other bands and recorded this odd, but affecting, album that would originally be released by Torrance, California's Llama Records. It's never been widely available as the original release was limited and suffered from poor sales, it was re-released just a year later in 1984 by Rough Trade but that swiftly went out of print. It fetches pretty steep prices on ebay these days but rumors of a re-release always seem to be in the air.
The album itself is a collection of Robacks and Hoffs favorite songs from the 60s and 70s performed by them along with Kendra Smith (Dream Syndicate, Opal), Three O Clock's Michael Quercio, and Will Glenn from the Rain Parade.
The album's opening track, Bob Dylan's I'll Keep It With Mine, is worth whatever price you can find it for. Featuring one of Susanna Hoff's most arresting vocals to David Roback's lightly strummed guitar with touches of a tambourine and violin, it sounds like a call to some sort of silent revolution that would only exist within these tracks. The song, one of Dylan's most underrated, was originally given to Nico by Dylan in the mid 60s although Judy Collins was the first to release a version. It's been covered many times but Hoffs gives it a definitive reading here and makes it her own.
Side one continues with cover of The Byrds John Riley sung by Quercio and that's followed by Kendra Smith's mesmerizing Neil Young reading Flying On The Ground Is Wrong. Quercio returns with the famous Pet Sounds opener Sloop John B and we find the first side closing with a section of The Who's mini opera A Quick One While He's Away. Roback's great guitar work, which would reach near legendary status later with Mazzy Star, is prominent on nearly every track here and it gives the album a great consistent feel, something rare for a covers album.
Side two opens with Kendra Smith's eerie take on Alex Chilton's already chilling Holocaust. The song made so famous by Big Star on that disturbing third album is given a suitably neurosis filled turn and sets the mood for side two which is considerably darker and noisy than the first. Roback continues the dark tone with Neil Young's On The Way Home before Susanna Hoffs turns in another stunner of a performance, this time with Lou Reed's I'll Be Your Mirror. The song, one of Reed's loveliest, was like the other main Hoffs contribution, given to Nico for inclusion on the first Velvet Underground album. Hoffs, also on rhythm guitar, gives the song one of it's sweetest and most melancholic turns. It's at least the equal to Nico's original legendary take and proves a welcome sigh of relief to the almost oppressive intensity of the side. The album closes with a long take of Jimi Hendrix's Rainy Day, Dream Away. It's a long exhausted sounding jam that is the weakest thing on the album but still sounds like a perfect closing. The final moments are taken up with the sound of rainfall before the needle slides over and the record is over.
Roback would, as previously mentioned, later meet Hope Sandoval and form Mazzy Star. Kendra Smith would continue with the great Opal before releasing a solo album in the mid 90's before unfortunately fading into obscurity. Michael Quercio would record with many bands and is credited with coming up with the term 'Paisley Underground', a joke that somehow caught on. Susanna Hoffs would of course find fame and lose herself with The Bangles. She would resurface in the 90's with a powerful second solo album and recently with another great covers album, this time with Matthew Sweet. She continues to mine her memories for those lost songs of her youth and still injects them with something they didn't have before. Search down this great album and remember a few of your own lost treasures.