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About Denny Carleton

Although little has been released under Carleton's name -- and nothing of his has been widely distributed -- he's made some good pop/rock and played a notable role in the history of Cleveland rock. In the mid-'60s he was rhythm guitarist and frequent songwriter for the Lost Souls, an eclectic British Invasion-styled Cleveland group that made some fine, little-heard recordings (see separate entry) of both Top 40-worthy, catchy mod-rockers and weird experimental tunes. After the Lost Souls split, Carleton briefly joined the Choir, another semi-legendary Cleveland pop-mod outfit that would supply future members of the Raspberries. The '70s saw stints with artier acts like Moses, Milk (who played Tiny Tim medleys and original songs like "Eat the Hot Dog Go Get Sick Later"), and Inner City (which included Meat Loaf's future lead singer). He also played in (but did not record with) one of Cleveland's first new wave bands, the Pagans, penning one of their best-known songs, "Boy Can I Dance Good."

Carleton was never quite able to find a marketable middle ground between his straight pop leanings and his experimental aspirations, but kept on plugging in the '80s, forming a cassette label, Green Light, to distribute his recordings (including archival compilations of the Lost Souls and the Choir). The most notable of these, by far, was 1985's Color with Crayons, a lengthy suite-like collage of scraps of supremely catchy pop songs mixed with experimental sound effects, played on both guitars and a primitive Casio. It was unknown beyond the underground, and even there, its impact was limited by its fairly primitive production values. But it remains an inspired meeting of the avant-garde and pure pop, and one of the few rock pieces of its time to so successfully combine accessible melodicism and cut-up experimentalism. ~ Richie Unterberger