Saturday, September 22, 2012

New album: After Hours by Glenn Frey (Universal Music)


Glenn Frey reaches new listeners in his interpretation of classic popular songs. 


Classic love songs

“After Hours” is Glenn Frey’s fifth studio album and the first in 20 years. The album includes 11 songs (14 songs on the Deluxe Edition), most of them classic love songs from the 1920s to the present day.  Many, but not all, come from an American repertoire of jazz and blues standards. For those who have followed Frey since the 1970s, this album comes as no surprise. Detroit-born Frey, founding member of the Eagles, a style-setting band from the 70s, has always been inspired by soul and blues. “After Hours” is an album that’s been waiting to happen.

The tunes on the album were previously recorded by other well-known artists. These are popular songs with a solid history. Glenn Frey has undoubtedly the credibility to tackle this classic repertoire. Frey’s voice is well-suited to the romantic songs, as well as his personal style. He sings them with respect to the original recordings and with his heart on his sleeve. 

Vocal styles of jazz and blues are often more dynamic, nuanced and idiomatic compared to rock. Frey manages the shift effortlessly, the result being a rich and reflective interpretation – this time without his guitar as a safety net.

Holistic quality

Glenn Frey and producers Michael Thompson and Richard Davis, collaborating with sound technician Elliot Scheiner, have created a remarkably warm and elegant soundtrack. Despite the contemporary sound, the album points to the history of the songs. Due to the wise choices made by the producers, the soundtrack is organic and the arrangements intimate and balanced. 

The opening track For Sentimental Reasons, originally recorded by Nat King Cole, was the number one hit single on the Billboard chart in 1946. It was later recorded by a number of other artists, most notably Ella Fitzgerald. The song succeeds in setting the tone for the album. Frey strikes a collective, harmonious chord, from For Sentimental Reasons to the closing After Hours, lending the album a holistic quality. 

My Buddy and I’m Getting Old Before My Time have both been waiting for novel interpretations. The former dates back to 1922 and was recorded by Dr. John and Chet Baker, among others, while Dinah Washington recorded the latter. The mesmerizing My Buddy is a sad love song and is said to be adopted during World War II as a song about male camaraderie among the allied troops. Frey chose these two songs carefully. He masters the smooth jazz format well, and the result is a long-awaited recording of both songs.  

Enchants the listener

(Get Your Kicks on) Route 66 was written by musician and actor Bobby Troup in 1946 on a road trip across the country to California. The tune soon became a hit for Nat King Cole. Now the song is an American institution and has immortalized the famous route from Chicago to L.A. Frey enchants his audience in his seductive video.   

The Shadow Of Your Smile from the film “The Sandpiper” from 1964 was made famous by Barbra Streisand, and later recorded by Tony Bennett and Shirley Bassey, among others. A beautiful, sentimental tune treated with care by Frey. One of the finest tracks on the album.  

The optimistic and cabaret-inspired hymn Here’s To Life was recorded by jazz singer Shirley Horn in 1991 and also made famous by Barbra Streisand on her jazz album “Love is the Answer” from 2009. Frey opens up the song magnificently and delivers with the depth of a poet.

The song It’s Too Soon To Know topped the rhythm and blues chart in 1948. Frey was perhaps inspired by Linda Ronstadt’s version from her “Winter Light” album. It was Ronstadt who gave the young Glenn Frey a spot in her touring band in 1970 and brought him upfront on stage. It’s Too Soon to Know has an undefined country rock sound, which suits them both. 

The Look Of Love was recorded by Dusty Springfield for the James Bond film Casino Royal in 1967, inspired by actress Ursula Andress. While Diana Krall’s interpretation is transparent and distinct, Frey’s version has a particular good beat and the song is one of the album’s highlights.

In the contours of the classics

The Beach Boys were a vital source of inspiration for Glenn Frey in the late 60s when he moved from Detroit to L.A. (One of the four Bs to shape both the Eagles and L.A. rock: The Beach Boys, The Byrds, Buffalo Springfield and the Flying Burrito Brothers). The song Caroline, No by Brian Wilson fits neatly in the album. Though Wilson’s version is hard to surpass, Frey holds the song up to the light and offers his own excellent interpretation. Superb orchestration. A gem of a song! 

Frey has included Randy Newman’s Same Girl from Newman’s album “Trouble in Paradise” – a sad, simple, but lovely song about a drug addicted girl living on the street. Frey and Newman have something in common; both have the ability to arrange and sing songs that are so stark, still and romantic you could hear a pin drop. 

Both songs are essential to the album, balancing it out and placing the newer songs in the contours of the classics. 

Country sound

The Deluxe Edition of the album contains another three tracks: Worried Mind, I Wanna Be Around and The Good Life. Frey’s version of the melodic Worried Mind, recorded by Ray Charles, among others, has a distinct country sound. The lyrics of The Good Life, a Tony Bennet staple song, from the film “Seven Deadly Sins” stand out in particular: “It’s the good life to be free and explore the unknown/Like the heartaches when you learn you must face them alone.” Few artists can sing these words with more credence than Frey. 

The well-known hit I Wanna Be Around written by Johnny Mercer in 1962 is another Tony Bennett classic, found in the soundtrack from “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil”. Frey is more reflective than the extroverted Tony Bennett. He brings out the nuances from the composition in an admirable way.  

Epilogue

The striking title track After Hours was written by songwriting duo Glenn Frey & Jack Tempchin. This is the album’s epilogue, written by a man who reflects on his past and lost love: “People used to dance here after hours/Wrapped around each other in a song/Every now and then, so very long ago/Doesn't really seem so long”. The song contains exquisite lyrics about sentimental longing: “Driving up at midnight, ladies dressed in fur/When I see the quiet street, I always think of her/Not the way she is now, but the way that she was then/Sometimes you can't go back again.” 

The song is reminiscent of the album “The Allnighter”, relating the classic songs to Frey’s own material. The track After Hours is Frey’s sentimental homage to the music of his parents’ generation, when the tunes from this album were pop songs and hits.
  
Transformational album

Glenn Frey will be reaching new listeners with his album “After Hours”. Undoubtedly the album is a transformational one for Frey. It will be interesting to see how this album influences his future work. This album is recommended for those already familiar with the repertoire, and for newer listeners in need of an introduction.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

After Hours by Glenn Frey

My Norwegian review of Glenn Frey's new album After Hours
is posted at ABC Nyheter.

You can read my review here.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Norwegian Review of Thomas Sullivan's novel "Second Soul"

My Norwegian review of Thomas Sullivan's excellent novel "Second Soul" is now published in the Norwegian publication ABC Nyheter. Read my full review in Norwegian here.

"Second Soul" is a novel with special relevance for Norwegian readers. The starting point of the story is based on Anna Bågenholm's near-fatal ski accident in Narvik in 1999. Bågenholm, an experienced cross country skier, was skiing downhill from Mørkhola on her Telemark skis as she slid down a steep icy gully and ended up submerged head first in a hole in the ice in a 56 degree (Fahrenheit) stream for more than 80 minutes. She was clinically dead but was miraculously saved by a team of doctors lead by Mads Gilbert at Tromsø University Hospital.

Thomas Sullivan transposed this event to an American setting in "Second Soul". The main character Michael Carmichael, the Waterfall Man, is skiing outside Sheshebans in Minnesota as he loses control and skies into an ice cold waterfall. From this starting point Thomas Sullivan developes his own story full of drama, psychology and action. Key to the the drama is the text of Ecclesiastes 3:21: "Who knows whether the spirit of man goes upward and the spirit of the beast goes down into the earth? (The Book of Ecclesiastes, The Old Testament).

His lively description of skiing techniques and styles as well as snow conditions is a treat. I strongly recommend the book.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Pulitzer Prize Nominated American Writer Deserves International Audience

Thomas Sullivan’s name first caught my attention in 1993 when singer-songwriter Glenn Frey dedicated his song “I’ve Got Mine” to Mr. Sullivan for using a phrase from his novel “The Phases of Harry Moon”. The song is on Glenn Frey’s album “Strange Weather” which is a lucid and thought-provoking description of life in L.A. in the 1990’s performed with Mr. Frey’s seldom romantic urgency and transparent sound.

Several years later as I was doing research for my study on the poetry of the Eagles, Mr. Sullivan’s name again surfaced on my radar screen after reading his column “CROSS LAKE, GLENN FREY & BREATHING THE SKY”. His universe of novels, short stories, blog columns and newsletters immediately caught my attention.

Mr. Sullivan’s seminal novel “The Phases of Harry Moon” (D.P.Hutton, 1988) is the story of Harry Moon, one of four eccentric brothers descending from Irish immigrants. The reader follows the youngest brother Harry Moon from his childhood, through college and marriage. It is the story of a husband and father marginalized and driven to extinction. It is written in a satiric style but I find the book not a bit light-hearted. The book is an unusual strong character study and digs deep into Harry Moons personality with elegance, wit and grace. It is original, intelligent and powerful.

“The Phases of Harry Moon” was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize and is said to have a cult following. I can easily understand why. It has a timeless quality and is highly recommended.

Following “The Phases of Harry Moon” Mr. Sullivan published a number of thrillers or horror books. I’ve had the chance to read “The Water Wolf” published in 2006. I’m not familiar with the genre and leave it to the experts to judge on the book’s genre-specific quality. Putting aside genre, reading it as a novel (something I always do), he clearly empowers also this story with craftsmanship, intelligence and intellectual range.

His short stories, some of them award-winning pieces, published in various magazines are unfortunately not easily available.

Mr. Sullivan's monthly blog columns on Storytellers Unplugged weblog are of special interest and amusement. Storytellers Unplugged is a collective of professional authors and creative professionals writing about the creative process and topics related to the creative lifestyle. In his columns Mr. Sullivan goes right to the heart of the matter. In his second column “WHO?” posted January 16th, 2006 he asks where the answers come to the questions you agonize over in front of the computer screen. His approach seems to be asking the question “Who am I?” The “Who”, according to Mr. Sullivan, is always a search within yourself.

In one of his earlier columns he introduces the idea that you can divide the purpose of language (and writing) into three areas: the language of emotions, the language of things and events, and the language of ideas. The careful reader will recognize these ideas in many of his subsequent blog posts, making his columns at Storytellers Unplugged coherent.

In the columns “The PERFECT SETUP, WRITING WITH LIZARDS, AND OTHER KEYS TO INSPIRATION” of August 16th, 2009 and “SEA LIONS IN COFFINS, GETTING LOST & WRITING WITHOUT WORDS” of December 16th, 2009 (to name just a few) he intelligently discusses issues such as creativity, motivation and inspiration.

In his column WHO’S THE STIFF, THE GANG OF 5 & AN ADAM ‘N’ EVE SLEEPING BAG of January 16th, 2010 he comes back to one of his other main themes namely that creativity is pointedly about excellence. According to Mr. Sullivan, it is only in pursuit of excellence that all our senses and sensibilities come fully alive and we breathe rarefied air once again.

His thoughts on creative writing, music as well as art in general are highly relevant and interesting, and his work is obviously of great inspiration to many people. Check out the large number of comments, many from creative artists themselves, posted on his Storyteller weblog. His essays and newsletters are simply very entertaining and inspirational to his readership.

His writings celebrate the individual and freedom. According to Thomas Sullivan, independence and individualism is most often synonymous with endurance in the art. And grassroots recognition more important to enduring acceptance than media hype.

Mr. Sullivan is obviously a man of high ethical standards. His work is transparent in the sense that self-honesty is a common thread in his work. His connectivity with nature adds to his literary composure. Nature is a prime resource for him and cross country skiing a religion.

Thomas Sullivan is a crossover author and his literary scope is wide. Often this represents a challenge in terms of market acceptance and commercial potential. In the case of Thomas Sullivan I think it’s an asset.

He elaborates on this himself in the Storytellers weblog column “MAKING LOVE or BETWEEN THE COVERS (of a book)” of April 15th, 2009. For Mr. Sullivan there are no choices; he must follow his conviction and write in whatever genre he must. It’s a question of honesty, to himself and in the long run to his readership. As he writes in his abovementioned column: “Not being true to yourself is being untrue to everything else”.

I would like to put forward a proposition to his publishers: publish a collection of his work (short stories and essays) in a coherent and innovative format and make it available internationally. A new edition of "The Phases of Harry Moon" is also long overdue. His fans all over the globe deserve it.

To learn more about Thomas Sullivan go to Thomas Sullivan's homepage and his columns at Storytellers Unplugged weblog.

Sunday, December 6, 2009