Sadly, my mirrors have been free from coke trails and spilt liquor for years. The palms still sway and there’s still sand in my sheets, but, man, the radio says different. It plays no Bread. No America. Not even any JB, and I mean Jackson Browne. Yet I still live the mellow life. What’s left of my hair curls just above the collar of my stolen hotel bathrobe. I sit in my hammock waiting for somebody to name drop California and a zodiac sign or two. And I’m not about to quit anytime soon—I got a baby pool and 12 magnums of champagne waiting in the garage for the return of the halcyon days. I had all but given up hope until a few years ago, when I sensed that the ‘70s AM sound was creeping into the indie rock consciousness. Guys like Jim O’Rourke and Mark Linkous started talking about it. Beneath that faux-psychedelic veneer, I could feel it dripping off the Beachwood Sparks. And earlier this year, when that Autumn Defense record hit, I knew something special was brewing. But this Maplewood, man, this baby takes the cake.
The first chords of “Indian Summer” are a dead give away. Hell, I knew it by the title. The guitars have that golden-tinged, mellow brassy-ness. The bass and drums lay down a shuffling little groove. It’s just enough to get the hips moving. By the time the three part harmonies and acoustic guitar trills hit me, I was already on the phone to the old gang asking if they could score some Quaaludes on their way down from Monterey. Turns out they could score and still make it in an hour and a half with traffic. So I went ahead and started mixing up a batch of hurricanes, but before I could find the blender I broke down and cried during a primo ballad called “Gemini’s on the Way”. It reminded me of Wendy. She’s a Gemini. Or should I say, was a Gemini. She died in a sexual accident back in ‘73 or ‘74. I thought about calling off the party, but luckily I heard the guitar fills on “Little Dreamer Girl” and came to my senses. There’s always hope, that’s something I learned from that song. When summer ends, you gotta pick up the pieces.
Hell, I felt fully vindicated by the end of “Be My Friend”. Sweet little country rock number. Reminds me of the time I was doing some engineering on a Poco record. The steel player and I got all messed partying on the roof of the studio, and I was like, “You’re my kind of guy, Ricky.” We held each other all night in the back of his Lincoln. I was daydreaming about the smoky smell of his beard when I noticed some of the best harmonies since CSNY on a track called “Morning Star”. Man, and “Sea Hero”... I mean, how’s a guy supposed to slice limes when he hears a melody like that. I damn near cut off my other thumb. There was a knock at the door right as “Carolina Jasmine” locked into a nice good-bye groove. The guys and I jumped right in on the vocals. I was doing the “ooo-oo-ooos” and Tommy and Benson had the “da-da-das”. After that, we poured the hurricanes and sat back and listened to “Desert Queen”. Best song since “Wild Horses”. I mean, for a while I thought it was “Wild Horses”, but that was probably just the grass that Tommy rolled. Hell, man, we still got the thing on repeat two days later. I’m feeling good, too. I been showering in the ocean.
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// Notes from the Road
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