2008 has been a year of surprises for me, and like most everyone else, the recent jolts in my life have not been especially pleasant. In trying times, we seek the aural comfort food of good pop music more than ever. For a prime example, take the unprecedented response to the Beatles when most Americans first heard them on the Ed Sullivan Show, just a few months after the assassination of JFK. This album may not be Meet the Beatles, but it is a very pleasant surprise.
Nothing I knew about Pete Best’s career after he was unceremoniously kicked out of the most famous band in history led me to expect Haymans Green, a set of original tunes written by Best and his band and recorded at his Liverpool studio, in the former Casbah Club (site of many formative Beatles performances). Not only is this album an unexpected bright spot in an otherwise dismal period, it’s the better of two albums this year from former Beatles’ drummers.
When samples of three Haymans Green tracks were posted to a music group I belong to, in a blind “taste test,” group members were reminded of various late-Sixties sounds, mentioning the Byrds, Donovan, and even early Pink Floyd. None of us successfully identified the source, despite pervasive Beatles influences, as the Pete Best Band. And why would we? There is nothing especially distinctive about Best’s drumming—unlike, say, Keith Moon’s. And unlike Ringo, Best doesn’t sing, so his records can’t be identified by his voice.
The musicians Best has surrounded himself with though, more than compensate for his lack of distinctive musical characteristics. Pete is undoubtedly a solid player, which makes second drummer, Best’s brother Roag, seem superfluous. Phil Melia, Paul Parry, and Tony Flynn (on guitars, keyboards, and vocals) are well versed in melodic, Sixties-flavored fills, soaring vocal harmonies, and hook-filled, power pop songwriting.