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January 31, 1994 - Image 8

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The Michigan Daily, 1994-01-31

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8 - TheVichigan Daily - Monday, January 31, 1994

Vaughn plays old-time rock 'n' roll

By TOM ERLEWINE
Like many other rock 'n' rollers, Ben Vaughn
fell in love with music as a kid, listening to his AM
radio and playing his favorite records over and
over again. Over the years his love for music grew
from a passionate hobby to a full career. Back in
the early '80s, he drummed with the Philadelphia
punk band the Sickidz; a few years later, he
formed the critically acclaimed Ben Vaughn
Combo which garnered a large following in Eu-
rope. Even though he been in the business for
nearly 15 years, Vaughn is finally receiving some
long-deserved attention with his new album,
"Mono U.S.A.," a glorious, loving homage to
forgotten songs from the '50s and '60s that he has
always loved.
"In my mind, every one of those songs should
have been a hit on the radio," said Vaughn. "They
all have enough hooks in them and they're cool
enough and they're easy enough to understand,
lyrically." Vaughn recorded the entire album over
a period of five years in his basement studio for the
cost of $140. "Mono U.S.A." was recorded on his
8-track tape recorder, which became a 7-track
during the course of the album. While "Blues on
the Ceiling" was being mixed, a bolt of lightning
hit the house and blew out one of the tracks on the
tape recorder; there is an audible zap during the
second verse of the track. Vaughn played all of the
instruments on the album, choosing to mix the

album in mono for a more authentic feel; the
album does sound similar to the classic rock 'n'
roll sounds of the late '50s and early '60s.
In Vaughn's mind, "Mono U.S.A." is not solely
a tribute to some of his favorite songwriters, but it
"kind of like a catalog, as if I was a publisher and
actually owned those tunes or something. It's a
crusade for those songs to be heard and taken
seriously, because they are great songs. Now they
have less of a chance of slipping through the
cracks forever. Now they're breathing again and
maybe somebody else will cut them too and they'll
become valuable copyrights. As a writer, I think
about that stuff a lot. When I hear a great song, (I)
think there is some poor guy who never made
money on this tune and it's a great song. Because
I'm sitting at home, not making any money either!
And I've written songs."
Although he is a talented, prolific songwriter
in his own right, Vaughn's records have never
sold much in America. Other artists, including
Marshall Crenshaw ("I'm Sorry, But So Is Brenda
Lee") and Barrence Whitfield & the Savages
("Apology Line"), have recorded his songs suc-
cessfully and now Vaughn himself is becoming
known as a cover artist himself. "Actually, that's
the ironic thing - I'm actually a writer, you
know, first and foremost. My record which is
getting a lot of press is all covers."
Besides writing and recording his own music,

Vaughn is active in other fields of the music
industry. Recently, he has recorded a 7" single
with Dean Ween, worked on Johnny Otis, Joe
South and Gene Pitney compilations and written
some reviews for "Hollywood Rock," a book
about rock 'n' roll and the movies. More impor-
tantly, Vaughn is an accomplished record pro-
ducer. In addition to working on the new Barrence
Whitfield record, he produced the last album the
late R&B legend Arthur Alexander ever made.
Vaughn is currently on tour with the cult
legend Alex Chilton. "Me and Alex are starting to
write together and this tour was put together so we
could spend more time writing," explained
Vaughn.
Although he performs solo, audiences should
still expect a wild, careening show. "I never really
make up set lists, I just wing it," said Vaughn. "I
have acoustic guitar and drum machine and it kind
of sounds like an Eddie Cochran / Alan Vega /
zydeco record."
More importantly, his concerts are a good, old-
fashioned, rock 'n' roll extravaganza because
"music is escapism. Who cares about anything
else? If you've got a good record on, or if you're
seeing a good show, or if you're playing, you
know? It really works for me."
BEN VA UGHN will be opening for Alex Chilton
at the Blind Pig Tuesday Night. Tickets are
$7.50 in advance and doors open at 9:30.

Ben Vaughn promises a "wild, careening' show on Tuesday night at the Pig.

RECORDS
Continued from page 5
The Spinanes
Manos
Sub Pop
The Spinanes are a boy-girl,
drums-guitar duo that purvey college
rock along the lines of Madder Rose
or Belly: clean, pretty, feminine vo-
cals, some churning and/or jangly
guitars and understated drums. On
"Manos," there's nothing to really
differentiate them from the legion of
bands that toil away under the banner
of "college rock."
But that's not to say that "Manos"
does not have bright moments; the
near-folk "Entire," the bouncy "Un-
easy," "Spitfire," "Dangle" and
"Basement Galaxy" have a special

quality entirely unique to the Spinanes.
Much of this quality can be attributed
to singer Rebecca Gates' voice, which
is stronger and fuller than many of her
Kim Deal and Juliana Hatfield-
wannabe competitors. "Manos" is a
strong debut from a band that should
continue to develop a unique sound.
- Heather Phares
Karl Hendricks Trio
Misery and Women
Fiasco
The Karl Hendricks Trio is not an
immediately loveable band. It is hard
to find the hooks amidst the dense
fury of most of the trio's release,
"Misery and Women," and the vo-
cals, which arrive in a strangled,
Thurston Moore-ish wail are not well-
suited to arena rock grandeur. Like-
wise, Karl's lyrics, which paint raw

portraits of emotional helplessness,
are not standard top-40 material. On
songs like "Do You Like to Watch
Me Sob" ("is that what gets you off?")
and "You Can't Argue With Cash,"
Karl asks the most basic of human
questions over a minimalist wall-of-
sound and finds the answers neither
easy nor complete.
But there is charm here. The noise
is never employed in a pretentious,
overbearing manner; rather, when the
distortion pedal is hit, it serves to
propel the song forward over the gal-
loping (and barely controlled) bass
and drums. And when the band down-
shifts into the slow pathos of "Ro-
mantic Stories From the War" and
"You're a Bigger Jerk Than Me" the
effect is immediate. Desolate though
it may be, "Misery and Women" is
enjoyable to an extent that belies the
record's themes of lost hope and un-
easiness.
-Dirk Schulze
Nick Heyward
From Monday to Sunday
Epic
Nick Heyward, the ex-leader of
seminal New Wave band Haircut 100,
has released one of the most perfect
British power-pop albums of this short
year, "From Monday to Sunday."
Virtually every song is a little gem,
filled with hooks, smooth vocals and
toe-tapping rhythms. The album is
reminiscent ofMorrisey's finest work,
early Squeeze, and is on a par equal to
Crowded House, one of the other bril-
liant Anglo-pop bands of today.

The genteel, refined, and oh-so-
British sound of "From Monday to
Sunday" is exactly what makes it such
a treasure; songs such as "He Doesn't
Love You Like I Do," "Mr. Plain,"
"Caravan" and the single "Kite" are
clean, catchy, proper and completely
devoid of grunge. At its -best, this
album has beautiful, classic pop mo-
ments; at its worst, it is merely pleas-
ant background music. Either way,
it's thoroughly enjoyable.
-- Heather Phares
Freestyle Fellowship
Innercity Griots
Island
Recently, some of hip hop's origi-
nators including Grand Master Flash
and Mellie Mel have voiced their dis-
pleasure concerning the direction that
rap has taken. They believe that hip

hop used to be a forum for open ex-
pression whereas now rappers are
more concerned with potraying an
image than sending a message. Actu-
ally, modern hip hop is more mes-
sage-oriented than old school rap
which dealt more in boasts than in
substance. Rap will never be pure
poetry because its most redeeming
quality is its form, not its message.
Freestyle Fellowship works be-
cause, much like ATribeCalled Quest,
they have the proper mix of form and
substance. The group uses real instru-
ments on most of the cuts which sound
great under the intricately articulated
rhymes. The Fellowship is very influ-
enced by the "old school" rappers as
evidenced on "Cornbread" which asks
"Where in the hell did the hip hop
go?" Many of the raps are about noth-
ing, but keep your interest anyway

because the rhyme flow is interesting.
There are a lot of funny raps
reminescent of De La Soul. Although
the Fellowship does not stress a mes*
sage, social commentary is slipped
into the raps in a roundabout and
thoughtful way.
This description may match a lot
of rap that is on the market these days,
but two songs on this release should
set Freestyle Fellowship apart.
"Innercity People" and "Park Bench
People" havejazz oriented backtracks
with incredible vocals - an amaz-O
ingly original combination of sing-
ing, rapping and even scatting. The
jazz/rap thing has been done before,
but it has rarely come close to the
mesh of styles created on these two
songs. If only for these two songs, this
disc is worth your time.
- Gianluca Montalti

Totally Hot! !
15 sess ions
$29.s95

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Keep an eye out for the Spinanes, a boy-girl, drums-guitar duo which made a strong debut with "Manos."

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