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Various Artists

Parasol's Sweet Sixteen Volume 1

(Parasol)

Like Herb Alpert during the glory days of A&M (The Carpenters, Joan Armatrading, to name a few) and Lou Adler at Dunhill (Mamas & Papas, Steppenwolf, Three Dog Night, Emitt Rhodes), the heads at Parasol carry the torch of the vision of these greats, even if the torch has been extinguished to a flicker in this Seagrams-owned record business.


Great Music is about quality songs and artists. It takes time to develop an artist. A good record company fully supports the artist’s vision in creating music because the company has faith in the artist and his or her talent. A good record company does not submit to what they think the public will buy. They foster an environment for the artist that allows them to make music that creates and drives the market, instead of the other way around. That was the great indie label way in the ‘60s and ‘70s, and Parasol seems to understand that. Parasol and its stable of related labels, Mud, Hidden Agenda and Spur, appear artist as opposed to market centered. Indeed, quality means sales, and if this were a fair world, Parasol would sell millions. This type of label is a dying breed, and I applaud them as fiercely as the crowd at Caruso’s final performance.


From the stunning Brian Wilson-/Todd Rundgren-style piano balladry of June and the Exit Wounds, to the pop nugget offered by George Usher, Sweet Sixteen shows the label’s emphasis on great songs and songwriters. The categories of artists and music become indefinable because of the common thread of strong writing.


Sure, you have artists with obvious alt-country leanings such as Steve Pride. He contributes a great track in a Steve Earle vein. But there are other artists less easy to define.


Consider Elk City. At first blush, they sound like an alt-country soundtrack to a David Lynch film. But the song seeps into you, transforming into the sound of Grace Slick drunk on downers fronting The Doors after Morrison died. Morbid, ugly but… interesting.


Or St. Christopher. They reminded me of Peter Gabriel-era Genesis. You may hate Genesis, but the music created in the Gabriel era was groundbreaking. I hear that here, even if you might find that crazy. It’s there, believe me, and it is very cool.


How about Autoliner? They sound like The Association, The Cowsills or The Seekers with their crowd/group/almost choir sounding vocal arrangements. Unique and well done.


Blueberry, very blue. Japanese Simon and Garfunkel, simple as that. Wow…love it.


Starlet contributes a healthy dose of understated, simple acoustic pop called in some circles “twee pop”. Think “Boys Don’t Cry”-era Cure.


Very Secretary, Matt Bruno and Doleful Lions “just” contribute great pop songs. I say “just” merely to emphasize the apparent ease with which they accomplish that which so few can do well.


There is Nick Rudd. He provides a cool tune in a vein similar to White Light/White Heat. Mr. Reed’s influence and/or sound also is there in Bikeride.


Honcho Overload sounds like Tom Waits singing over a wall of guitars.


Interestingly, the liners give artist comparisons for each band. Mine are not even close to the same, but you can be assured that the artists they refer to are cool enough for me to recommend that you buy the CD so you can see how off I am.


You can e-mail me once you read the liners and tell me that I am deaf.


Deaf or not, you should buy this CD for the bargain price of $5.00.


Here is a direct link to the CD in the Parasol catalog so there is no chance of you missing this one.


I look forward to your e-mail ripping me for bringing up Genesis.


A great label because of its music.

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