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Basic Glee

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Album Review

Basic Glee was recorded at Tabby Road Studio, the living room of Richard X. Heyman and his wife, Nancy Leigh. The insert photo of the artist amidst his electronics, guitar, keyboards, and cat on a chair is real "underground rock" imagery. The liners state that the basics to more than double the songs on Basic Glee's 14 tracks were "cranked out at a 24-track studio over one blistering weekend...." Heyman gives the world more of his over the top power pop on this outing, taking the majesty of a Flamin' Groovies "You Tore Me Down"-type tune and mixing it up with Roger McGuinn guitar chimes à la "Chestnut Mare," all intensified like a Beatles single sped up by George Martin — with Heyman appearing to do it in real time. All the songs are pretty much in the three-and-a-half- to four-minute range, with only a couple straying from the formula. "Everywhere She Goes" opens up with Beach Boy vocals and Pete Townshend windmill guitar strums while "Pauline" borrows heavily from the vibe of Nick Lowe's "(What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding." Like Emitt Rhodes projects outside of the Merry-Go-Round and McCartney's first solo album, when artists shoulder projects of this complexity on their own, the projects are stamped indelibly and have few flavors from outside the artists' spheres. For power pop, that's not necessarily a bad thing — it's sometimes too much of a good thing. There's lots of frosting on "One Way Feeling" and "Let It Go," as well as lots of energy. Could Eric Carmen sustain this intensity releasing 14 tracks along the lines of "Hey, Deanie"? One suspects not, and it is a lot to absorb in one sitting. The upside is that any of these tunes could brighten up any radio show, so picking a single is extra difficult. There are hooks galore, and jangly guitars and vocals that really care. "When Evening Comes" might be a ballad, less heavy than much of the disc, but the tempo is up there with the rockers. If you're sold on "Diminishing Her Return" and "Broken Umbrella," you're going to like "What in the World" with its irresistible chorus. That's not to say Basic Glee plays like a Ramones record; Heyman is much too clever to beat one riff into the ground. It's power pop heaven, especially on a slowed-up "Wishful Thinking." Heyman may want to consider teaming up with Joey Molland from Badfinger; they are both on the same wavelength with two albums that resonate with shimmering guitars and vocals: this CD and Molland's This Way Up. "Waterline" is deliciously elegant and would make a wonderful single backed with "What in the World." "My Lorraine Bow" is also nice with waves of guitars and pretty melodies, all adding up to another impressive effort from Richard X. Heyman.


Genre: Rock

Years Active: '80s, '90s, '00s

Richard X. Heyman is one of the sadly overlooked pop craftsmen of the '90s, but his albums are widely regarded in power pop circles as instant classics. Heyman began recording in the late '80s in the tradition of the studio nerd/one-man band, playing all instruments himself in his upper west side Manhattan apartment living room, named Brontasaurus, presumably after the classic song by the Move. He released the independent Actual Size EP in 1987 and followed with the full-length Living Room!! in 1988....
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