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Starting All Over Again

You can file my initial reaction to Rich McCulley's Starting All Over Again under What the Hell Was I Thinking. A cursory dip into McCulley's song pool had me under the impression that I'd heard it all before, but cursors (in my world) are mainly a bitch and God knows I've dealt with enough of them in my lifetime, from human to computer glitches and beyond. The thing is, I was partially right. While the songs are all original, the feel drags me back to mid-seventies Pop. Of course, that's hardly a bad thing and in this case is a really good thing because familiarity is a comforting thing and, hell, there are people out there who truly believe that it has all been done before and all musicians do today is rearrange the molecules. Regardless of what side you're on in that argument and whether that is what Rich McCulley may have done here is a moot point. The important point is that his recipe is tasty.

There will be a tendency for many critics hearing this to point to the sixties, but if there are any sixties' influences they have been faithfully screened by the seventies. The songs are pure Pop and sometimes solid Power Pop, more along the lines of that established by bands like The Shoes and The Records than The Five Americans or early Beatles, but share the love of melody, harmony and hook. You hear influences throughout, but they are not lame echoes of that seventies 'new wave' as it was labeled by Greg Shaw and his solid following of Bomp-ites. They are new songs, fresh, and not remakes but originals worthy of being played alongside those of that 'new wave'.

In fact, Falling Apart is a standout example. It could easily be mistaken for The Shoes actually playing a song originated by The Records, the vocals having a hint of Jeff Murphy but the band deeply ensconced with the jangly and punchy sound and style of The Records. True, neither band set any sales records, but I'll wager many of the bands which did wish they could have the loyal following of either. Their fans are as legendary and tenacious as they come.

Another standout, Tell Me, I'm Listening, could be slipped onto a Shoes compilation without too much of an explanation--- later period of the band or a new vocalist, for instance. Sometimes a white lie is the only way to get people to listen to a song objectively (and sometimes, at all) and I would not be adverse to it, to a Shoes fan or otherwise. The style is there, the sound is there and that should be all that counts.

Starting All Over Again is not just about those two bands or even the Powerful Pop genre, though. It is pretty much all and that is enough. All eleven songs are good to great and when he rings the bell, he really makes it resonate. The song that gets my winner of the album award is the soulful Who'll Hang the Moon (Song for DJ). Written for sometimes songwriting partner Duane Jarvis (this time written with the help of Grant Langston), it is pop tribute a la the late sixties or very early seventies in arrangement and style. It is ballad with soft beat and when the horns kick in, it takes me back to my teen years when similar sounding ballads were reason enough to stand in one place and press yourself up against the girl of choice or even just the girl you were with. Great song, outstanding chorus and, oh, those horns!

Bottom line? One of the better Pop albums released this year, or any year. Well-produced, well-performed and worth a listen. Of course, if you would prefer to stand hip-deep in the swill the mainstream media thinks is worthy, so be it. Thing is, you canm hear that stuff anywhere. It's the stuff you usually don't hear that makes it that much better. And Rich McCulley is that much better.

Frank O. Gutch Jr.

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