The P-Funk galaxy is filled with fantastically fascinating
and off-kilter side projects, from Fuzzy Haskins to the Horny Horns. But of all
their resident geniuses, none seemed to operate with a scope quite so vast as BERNIE
WORRELL, whose playing encompassed strong
classical and jazz washes along with an uncanny funk sensibility and a nearly
avant-garde approach to analog synth textures. This is his first solo disk (a
Canadian pressing, for some reason), and features his reedy singing and sublime
keyboards in a familiarly funky context.
It’s gonna take a lot to make up for the years of embarrassing mugging on SNL,
but I have to admit, this solo disk from session mainstay G.E. SMITH is surprisingly solid, a lean power-trio take on
early ‘80s power-pop with confident vocals, terse/confrontational lyrics, and
lots of slashing guitar. He even gets Paul Simon to chip in background vocals.
It’s not all great, but there are moments. Good blindfold test fodder, perhaps
deserving a CD reissue as the endless quest for lost classics carries on…
The ecstatic guitar of Richard Lloyd was always unfairly pushed into the
shadow of Tom Verlaine, who, let’s face it, is the sorta guy music writers love
to swoon about: neurotic, poetic, adenoidal, etc. Lloyd was a little more of a
classicist, perhaps, but his guitar playing was every bit as stratospheric, and
his pop sensibilities were the band’s secret weapon—as demonstrated by a neat
run of solo disks that continues to this day. This single features two one-man
Stones covers, drenched in lead guitar but always in the spirit of the song.
Another pop secret weapon, Go-Go’s drummer Gina Schock pushed hard from behind
the kit. This, her one solo album (largely conceived and executed with Elen
DeGeneres’s brother Vance, a future Daily Show correspondent), shines a light
on her charming singing and mature pop sensibility – sounding not unlike a
female Marshal Crenshaw (who guests here). Gina’s since contributed songs to
folks like Miley Cyrus (ca-ching!) while continuing to propel sporadic Go-Go’s
reunions. Might be time for another solo outing.
You’ve heard him. Even if you’ve never heard any of the classic Nick Lowe/Dave
Edmunds/Rockpile sides he embroidered with his ringingly nimble guitar (“Cruel
to be Kind,” anyone? “Queen of Hearts”?), you’ve heard his declamatory intro
lick on the Pretender’s “Back on the Chain Gang.” Thing is, he’s a great singer
himself, and though this Stiff Records classic isn’t much on clever lyrics (for
that, check out Billy’s album Bash,
which was co-written with brilliant wordsmith Will Birch), the insistent melody
and throbbing backbeat more than compensate.
Brad San Martin is a multi-instrumentalist and songwriter in the
Boston-based indie-pop trio One Happy Island. His recently minted VinylSighting
blog is a welcome addition to On The Download, despite the shortcomings of not
being able to download a vinyl record.