I came up with the idea of Christmas Short Takes, or “short takes” in general, when I realized I had a lot of shorter recordings (EPs, 7″ singles, wtc.) sitting in the pile, waiting to be evaluated. When I put the Vinyl Anachronist music reviews on my blog, it was easy enough to write a paragraph or two about a couple of songs as opposed to an entire LP. But once my reviews migrated here, I wondered how I was going to cover each one without becoming verbose. Quality, not quantity, as I always say.
I’m still a huge fan of 45rpm 7″ singles and I still receive them regularly–as I mentioned in my original Vinyl Anachronist column for Perfect Sound Forever just a few months ago, these shorter works are often a new band’s best avenue for putting the word out. Plus, there’s always a heavy dollop of fun associated with these releases whether it’s interesting art work or colorful pressings.
First up for the Christmas Short Takes is The Phoenix Project‘s Play It Twice. One of my publicists cautiously approached me about covering this release, asking me “Do you do country?” Country? Probably not. Americana? You bet. Let’s be honest–Lucinda Williams’ Car Wheels on a Gravel Road, Emmylou Harris’ Wrecking Ball and just about anything from Johnny Cash or Willie Nelson have little to do with mainstream country and western music, so that’s the question I always ask when I hear a country song: is it real? Are we delivering a product, or are we staying true to our muses?
As the title and band name suggests, this is a rebirth of sorts, with singer/songwriter Robin Lyn Treger making the leap from her career as a jazz singer to return to her roots in Americana. The real story is that Treger battled cancer for years and survived, and during a performance one of her friends remarked “She just keeps rising!” Treger assembled a band out of some of the finest musicians in the Pacific Northwest, and the result is four warm songs, full of heart, with a country flavor that’s borne from authenticity.
Next on the list of Christmas Short Takes is Lynn Cardona’s Ophelia, a three song EP. I discovered this little gem on the same road trip where I discovered Deline Briscoe‘s fabulous Wuwa. Each song on Ophelia tells a story about wild, passionate devotion–the liner notes discuss “love–both unrequited and the kind of love that is ecstatic and slowly burns with longing and lust. What captured by attention is Cardona’s adorable and sweet voice, and how she’s able to express the pure and powerful spells that love can cast. The title track contains a chorus that’s so simple and yet so direct: “For I love you…baby…baby.” That might not sound original, but when you hear her say it you believe it without a doubt.
My final Christmas Short Take is a fascinating little 45rpm single from Josh Klinghoffer and released by ORG Music. The name of the band is Pluralone and it contains two songs–“Io Sono Quel Che Sono” and “Menina Mulher da Pele Preta.” You probably already know Klinghoffer–he’s been the guitarist for the Red Hot Chili Peppers for the last few years. (Just a few days ago the Chili Peppers announced that John Frusciante would be rejoining the band…again.) This 7″ single was sort of a lark for Josh, since the first song is a cover of an Italian song and the second is a Brazilian cover and he speaks neither Italian nor Portuguese. He sings and plays all the instruments, and the result is two very brief but energetic tunes that fly by capriciously and might just make your holiday season a lot more interesting.
Each of these three releases would make a great stocking stuffer–for more ideas, check out our Stocking Stuffers section on this year’s Buyers’ Guide for The Occasional. Or you can check out my previous reviews of two worthy Christmas jazz recordings for 2019.