Jake Stigers, I Do Not Want What I Haven't Got and Live & Loud in the UK
Jake Stigers hasn't slowed down since Comin' Back Again, touring and bringing the rock and roll flame to – well, I guess mostly Europe. His new CD has a loose, energetic flavor, and Stigers's facility with catchy tunesmithing has not deserted him. Several tracks have a folk-rock feel – Jeff Buckley meets James Taylor – while "Girl" is a straightforward, Beatle-esque pop nugget and "Love Is Spoken Here" has a Tom Petty twang. "Miss Reality," "Let Us Take You There," and the title track – which reminds me a lot of Joe Walsh and a little of the Rolling Stones, and that's never a bad thing – hark back to heavy southern and classic rock.
Style aside, good songs are good songs, and these are good songs, arranged with the right amount of, in some cases, sweetness that touches, and in others, gruffness that busts loose without going over the top. Above all, these songs are so good-natured you can't help smiling as you listen, right down to the excellent closer, Stigers's folk-gospel original tune "Jesus Said." The CD can currently be purchased at Koolkatmusik and will soon be widely available.
Also available is a live CD, Live & Loud in the UK, which testifies to the roadworthiness of Stigers and his band. It's a more straight-ahead rock and roll set, tempered with just a couple of power ballads, all very well recorded and mixed, but without the stylistic variety of the new studio album. So it's not as good an introduction as I Do Not Want What I Haven't Got is to Stigers and his band, but it will definitely appeal to those who are already fans. The live tracks are available for purchase through his Myspace page.
Kenny Vance and the Planotones, Countdown to Love
Kenny Vance, a founding member of the seminal doo-wop group Jay and the Americans ("This Magic Moment," "Cara Mia"), went on to a distinguished career as – among other things – music director for important American films including Animal House, Eddie and the Cruisers, and American Hot Wax, which was based on the life of legendary DJ Alan Freed. For that film, Vance created The Planotones, an initially fictional group which took on a life of its own.
Since re-forming the Planotones in 1992 Vance has continued carrying the doo-wop tradition to old and new audiences through concerts and new CD releases. His latest disc, Countdown to Love, is both a worthy torch-bearer of the doo-wop tradition and a valuable musical statement on its own terms. Most of the selections are typical doo-wop style songs, but there are some departures. His vocal-heavy version of the garage classic "Louie Louie" is fun, and "The Way You Look Tonight," with its Moonlight Sonata triplets, is quite lovely. So is the Bacharach-David classic "Anyone Who Had a Heart." The driving version of "There Goes My Baby" is refreshing when one is accustomed to the somber way it's usually played, and the a capella "My Girlfriend" closes the CD on a light, quirky note.
Tying them all together are the velvety vocals, sometimes in falsetto, other times in a sweet tenor. The arrangements have, for the most part, an easygoing texture that's clearly not the work of actual teenagers. But they bring the teen-inspired wails of doo-wop softly, comfortably into the 21st century.