Wreckless Eric is probably best known for his 1977 break-out hit "Whole Wide World" which has recently seen a rekindling of popularity due to its brilliant use in the Will Ferrell/ Emma Thompson film, Stranger Than Fiction. A veteran of British punk and early (late) Stiff Records he has been rocking the whole wide world for three decades.
Amy Rigby has also had a long musical history performing everything from country to rock to punk in bands of her own creation. A prolific solo artist, her album Diary of a Mod Housewife became a hit in 1996 — although some of us still prefer 2005's Little Fugitive. Honestly, "Dancing With Joey Ramone" will always be one of the greatest punk rock, dead crush, geek girl anthems ever written. I'd stake my black-framed, birth control glasses on it.
Two-Way Family Favourites, the second album Wreckless Eric and Amy Rigby have recorded as a duo, is an album of duets featuring musical offerings that span many genres. Together they've taken rock, pop, punk, and folk classics and re-created them. So as not to hurt the feelings of some of my favorite bands, let's just keep this between you and I — in some cases their versions are notably better than the originals. I hate to have to say that, being a fan of classic rock and punk, but it's true.
As the only musicians who appear on the album, they've layered the instrumentation and vocals, rendering an album rich in acoustic melodies and over-lapping vocal harmonies that still maintains a raw pub-rock sound.
There's an acoustic version of Tom Petty's "Walls" that I would recommend to… well — Tom Petty, for one. My second favorite cut on the album, the vocals and guitar, along with the backing harmonies, are amazing. Oddly enough this song was also re-made by Glen Campbell, and well done, as a country single in 2008. It's a song that seems to fit the duo's punk/folk style and Eric's vocal lead gives it a very British, pub-rock feel.
The choice to include the song "Silver Shirt" by Plummet Airlines was brilliant. A little known band from Eric's Stiff Records days, this was their only release on the label. Eric does his former mates proud on this cut. The combination of his unique vocal talent and the duo's incredible guitar playing make this song stand out. Their version actually sounds similar to classic Jagger-Richards from the Exile on Main Street era. Very well done.
Personally, my favorite track on this album is an incredible rendition of the Who's 2006 single "Endless Wire", a song that I've always liked, and now, (dare I say it and risk bringing the wrath of fellow Who fans down upon my head?) it has finally been given its due. This version far exceeds the original, just in the vocals alone. Pete Townshend sang it originally — need I say more? Wreckless Eric and Amy Rigby have made it the song it should always have been. Still a rock ballad, yet poignant and full of meaning, and it hasn't lost any of its thrust. I'd extend my apologies for my betrayal to my Dead Crush Keith Moon, but I believe he'd be just as pleased as I am to hear this song brought to life — and in a way that gives it new-found rock integrity.
I have to admit that I didn't make the connection between the title and the original when I first looked at the track listing for "Endless Wire". I was thinking of the Gordon Lightfoot song by the same name and how much I had been looking forward to never having to hear it ever again. The first chords struck me immediately; a wave of nostalgia that made me have to stop everything I was doing and sit down to listen, then hit the button and play it again. Even now I find myself turning up the volume when I hear the opening intro.
Another song that I think deserves to be noted on this album is a re-make of Smokie's "Living Next Door to Alice". One of those 'story songs' that were so popular in the Seventies, it gets a new shot at life with this well made re-creation. I had forgotten about this song until I heard it again on Two-Way Family Favourites. A great song originally, Amy and Eric have brought it out of the dusty oldies bin and given it a fresh, fun polish.
The Byrd's "Ballad of Easy Rider" is another song that is better in the re-making than the original. Not a song that I've ever considered amongst my own 'favourites', I can honestly say that I had a change of heart after listening to this newly revised version. The duo took what was, in my opinion, a mediocre, middle-of-the-road, yawner and turned it into a beautifully harmonized duet. It's nothing like the original, and thankfully. This recording just proves that there are still songs out there that deserve a second chance; songs that have yet to reach their potential and are worth re-making.
There are several songs from the Seventies that the duo breathe new life into. Amy's amazing vocals on Jackie DeShannon's classic "Put a Little Love in Your Heart" and Abba's "Fernando" give them both a haunting quality that seems to mark most of her vocal endeavors.
Yo La Tengo's "You Tore Me Down" and the Beachboys classic "In My Room" feature dual vocals that showcase their ability to weave their harmonies together in musical play. It's hard to tell one from the other as they move along, their voices mingling in a dance that is as much fun to listen to today as it was when these songs were released originally.
I would definitely recommend Two-Way Family Favourites for those who are fans of Seventies pop, rock and punk. Wreckless Eric and Amy Rigby have taken some of the best music from that era and re-created it in a way that improves upon the original. Even more so, Two-Way Family Favourites is a masterful work of musical art that deserves to be noted for its own brilliance.