We All Shine On: Celebrating the Music of 1970
Big Stir Records
Spyderpop Records and their partner label Big Stir have combined along with other artists to release this beautifully produced tribute to the music of 1970, a roster of artists assembled by journalist John M. Borack have poured their obvious devotion to the adult rock of the era into this package.
Even the CD cover by Dan Zimmer captures the era well, the flashier era of psychedelia as it bled out into glam rock and heavy metal, the cover brings to mind all the "Sounds of the 70s" programmes you have ever seen, including images of singles illustrated accurately with the original labels, and complete with those push out "spiders" - the removable spindle things which allowed 7" singles to be piled on a multi-changer more easily and safely and which give Spyderpop its name.
The 22 covers included capture this moment when FM radio began to influence the American charts, and country, jazz and folk also influenced rock, but it's a year slightly overshadowed by the glories of the sixties and pre-dating the success of most 70s giants. Some songs are forgotten, or unknown in the UK such as Are You Ready? (Pacific Gas and Electric) here given a full, uplifting gospel treatment with excellent guitar work by Petsche and Raines. Equally stirring is a bluesy stomp through The Guess Who's Share The Land by Popdudes. Bill Lloyd gives a down to basics rendition of Randy Newman penned Mama Told Me Not To Come, and The Armoires give us a tight, driven take on Christie's Yellow River. Walk A Mile in My Shoes (originally by Joe South of Games People Play fame) is given a cool, alt-country sound by Lannie Flowers while Irene Peña takes a punky approach to Come and Get It - which I wish were even punkier and faster, while The Steve Brothers make Cracklin' Rosie race along well.
As with all compilations of this nature, some adaptations work and some do not, with the added issue that the original songs may or may not be to your taste. I've never, for instance, had much interest in the bubblegum pop of The Archies, whose Sunshine is covered with modern glam by sparkle*jets u.k., and the more saccharine side of country rock represented by the song Arizona (Mark Lindsay, here performed by Darian), is just not for me.
On the other hand Mitch Easter brings subtle vocal effects and harmonies into a stunning cover of the Delfonics' Didn't I Blow Your Mind, sounding somehow thoroughly modern and yet respectful of the era. Danny Wilkerson's take on Everything is Beautiful begins with unusual percussion and drama, slightly disappoints in the more standard performance of the very familiar chorus, but nevertheless impresses with its ambition.
Richard Barone has a new take on Donovan's beautiful Riki Tiki Tavi which develops the pared down original into a multi-layered modern plea for spiritual introspection. Bobby Sutliff has a great take on Indiana Wants Me, merging his own idiosyncratic sound and guitar licks with the R.Dean Taylor classic. Pretty standard run throughs like Love Grows Where My Rosemary Goes (The Test Pressings) and What is Life (The Legal Matters) still impress with their accurate reproduction, and clear admiration on display. Both these songs make me wish that 10CC or ELO could have been about in 1970. Maybe there could be a 1972 sequel!
Overall though, my favourite is I Think I Love You, transformed into a more psychedelic track suited to the era, with power-pop guitar flourishes from Johnathan Pushkar, more varied and interesting than the Voice of the Beehive cover which my UK generation know it from. There is great effort made here to add so much to a simply idiotic song that it transcends its vacuous heart and becomes a fascinating, pulsating nugget of pop music. Also great is the garage/pub rock cover of Lola by Diamond Hands, exactly the right ratio of raunchy to pensive.
The whole project is a blast to listen to, driven by a love of the time and the music, a record with not an ounce of cynicism or artifice in its production, and for that, it deserves every praise. Every track features outstanding performance and production, some interpretations more successful than others, but all deserving of a place, and a very welcome trip back in time.