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Ben Vaughn Combo

Beautiful Thing

(Critics Choice; US: 29 Jan 2008; UK: Available as import)

There’s a timeless, glorious quality to the Jersey/Philly sound from the ‘60s that captures white boy soul, pop hooks, catchy lyrics, and garage rock. This music has served as the matrix for Bruce Springsteen, Hall & Oates, and other notables, but Ben Vaughn catches its vibe better than others of more recent generations. He understands its wild, rebellious nature whether it’s conveyed in a nasty electric guitar lick or the rhythms of a conga drum. It’s more than an attitude. It’s a groove. If you want to understand what I’m talking about, pick up a copy of Vaughn’s reissued 1987 Restless Records release. He catalogs everything from snappy girl groups (“Shingaling with Me”), to formal folk rock, (“Big House with a Yard”), to bass heavy, guitar-plucked surf instrumentals (“Desert Boots”), to romantic R&B (“The Apology Line”) to whatever strange and beautiful noises came out of old 45s back in the day. Vaughn wrote 11 out of the dozen songs here, sings, plays lead guitar, harmonica and produced this effort that bathes in the joy of listening to the radio as a kid and remembering the pleasures summoned forth.

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Steven Horowitz has a Ph.D. in American Studies from the University of Iowa, where he continues to teach a three-credit online course on "Rock and Roll in America". He has written for many different popular and academic publications including American Music, Paste and the Icon. Horowitz is a firm believer in Paul Goodman's neofunctional perspective on culture and that Sam Cooke was right, a change is gonna come.


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