Jeffrey Foskett: Stars in the Sand

Gary Glauber

Jeffrey Foskett has had a long career in Japan sounding like the Beach Boys. Finally, there's a collection of this talented vocal chameleon's 'greatest hits' available in North America.

Jeffrey Foskett

Stars in the Sand

Label: The Pop Collective
US Release Date: 2004-11-16
UK Release Date: Available as import
Amazon affiliate

I'm always amazed at the seeming injustice when certain artists are virtually ignored in their home country, yet have a successful career overseas. Jeffrey Foskett is a perfect example of such a case. Since the start of a solo career in 1990, Foskett has released nine albums in Japan -- yet Stars in the Sand is his first North American release on a distributed label (actually culling the best songs from his previously-released import recordings). Go figure.

In all likelihood, this is a marketing ploy to try and capitalize upon Foskett's recent high profile success as musical director and contributor to studio and live performances of Brian Wilson's SMiLE. But ultimately, the motivation doesn't matter -- only the end result does -- and thankfully, the spoils go to the North American listening audience. Finally, we hometown guys and gals get to hear a smattering of what we've been missing this past decade and a half from the multi-talented Foskett.

Jeffrey Foskett started out as a member of the power pop band the Pranks in the late 1970s (with Randell Kirsch and Bo Fox). They enjoyed a large following in California, but Foskett left the band for an opportunity to tour with the Beach Boys. After many years performing with the Beach Boys, he began a solo career.

Most of the 14 tracks on this collection were produced with great polish by Gary Griffin along with Foskett -- many of them featuring Foskett on all instruments and voices. There's no denying he's a talented musician, but his greatest instrument is undeniably his voice. Foskett is something of a vocal chameleon, and he has great range (he's often introduced on tour as the "CEO of falsetto"). Rumor has it that he sometimes doubled vocals along with Brian Wilson on SMiLE, and that would make sense (after all, one's voice at 62 doesn't necessarily hit all the high notes one could manage thirty years earlier). In truth, Foskett has made a career out of sounding very Beach Boys-like -- his biggest hits in Japan emulate that sound. But let's talk about this collection.

A songwriting collaboration with Chicago guitarist Robert Lamm opens Stars in the Sand. This all-Foskett rendition of "Living Alone" is actually a very finished demo that Foskett sent to Lamm, shiny mid-tempo pop that's easy on the ears. While that opening track is good, it doesn't quite prepare you for the quantum leap awaiting you next. Close your eyes and let the strains of "Thru My Window" (co-written with Michael O'Rourke) wash over you. It's in the style of Pet Sounds-era Beach Boys, an eerie similitude that will have you convinced you've discovered a lost song from decades ago. This was the song that started his solo career, and what a start that must have been.

Being a real sucker for infectious tunes, I'd have to say my favorite track here is "It's My Fault," a Foskett composition that dates back to his days with the Pranks. This is a great melodic, three-minute pop gem, complete with harmonies and lead vocals smooth as butter, the kind that stays in your head long after you've stopped listening.

"Baby It's You" is another infectious winner, a collaboration with Doug Fieger of the Knack (who plays rhythm guitar and splits vocals with Foskett here). Foskett next does a great cover of the Bill Lloyd/David Surface song "Cool and Gone". This smooth, lush production features all vocals by Foskett.

When Foskett covers the Carpenters' hit song "Hurting Each Other" (actually first recorded by the Guess Who, and then by Ruby and the Romantics), he makes it his own by making it someone else's. What Foskett does is translate the song in the style of the Righteous Brothers (he actually approached Bill Medley to sing on it, but it never came to be). Foskett becomes both Bill and Bobby, and it's a most impressive result.

"Fish!" was Foskett's first top 10 hit in Japan (it shot up to #3) and was used in several commercials throughout the Pacific Rim. This cute song trades on Foskett's Beach-Boys type vocal abilities (along with some nice saxophone leads), and obviously, the surf was up on the Asian charts.

Another song that will have you running to wax your board is "I Live for the Sun", a cover of the Richard Henn hit song from the Sunrays. Foskett's vocal harmonies are exquisitely done. To best complete the trilogy of Beach Boys-style, Foskett gets help from the genuine article. Covering a Brian Wilson/Tony Asher song called "Everything I Need", Foskett enlists the help of fellow Wilson band member and Wondermint Darian Sahanaja on keys, as well as Brian himself sharing vocals.

Another favorite of mine here is "The Word Go". This collaboration with Foskett's real life partner and talented musician Jeff Larson is one of his personal favorites as well. It's aural ear candy -- the sweet, dulcet sounds of clean, catchy radio-ready pop -- and it gets me every time.

Those still unconvinced of Foskett's vocal morphing powers should give a good listen to "The Mystery of Moonlight". This song, another fine collaboration with Robert Lamm, could easily be a Chicago song from long ago, featuring Foskett as Peter Cetera. This is mellow soft pop at its best, Chicago-style.

The next two songs take a welcome turn in the direction of Marshall Crenshaw. First, Foskett gives us a beautiful harmony-drenched version of Crenshaw's "You're My Favorite Waste of Time". It's a great cover of a phenomenal tune. He follows this up with a superb unreleased song by Crenshaw and Bill Lloyd, and actually gets both Crenshaw and Lloyd in on the action. Once again, Foskett is the vocal chameleon as he shares the mic with Crenshaw, incredibly transforming himself into a second Marshall Crenshaw. Meanwhile, Crenshaw plays his 1965 Stratocaster to great effect in accompaniment.

The CD closes with an intriguing a capella/Beach Boys multiple harmony approach to the Neil Sedaka classic "Laughter in the Rain". While this isn't really the full song as such, it's a fun vocal exercise (and features some help from Valerie Carter). Stars in the Sand is a marvelous collection of sweet music that really shows Foskett's fine vocal abilities to great advantage. Additionally, Foskett provides informative liner notes about each track included here. Why Foskett isn't better known locally is one of those inscrutable mysteries. His talents are enormous -- he possesses a great sense of melody and song arrangement and a voice that's pure pop heaven. If you like the Beach Boys, you need to discover Jeffrey Foskett (as Brian Wilson already has). The great thing is this: at age 48, Foskett's finally got a "greatest hits" CD released on his side of the Pacific.


The Best Indie Rock of 2017

Photo courtesy of Matador Records

The indie rock genre is wide and unwieldy, but the musicians selected here share an awareness of one's place on the cultural-historical timeline.

Indie rock may be one of the most fluid and intangible terms currently imposed upon musicians. It holds no real indication of what the music will sound like and many of the artists aren't even independent. But more than a sonic indicator, indie rock represents a spirit. It's a spirit found where folk songsters and punk rockers come together to dialogue about what they're fed up with in mainstream culture. In so doing they uplift each other and celebrate each other's unique qualities.

With that in mind, our list of 2017's best indie rock albums ranges from melancholy to upbeat, defiant to uplifting, serious to seriously goofy. As always, it's hard to pick the best ten albums that represent the year, especially in such a broad category. Artists like King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard had a heck of a year, putting out four albums. Although they might fit nicer in progressive rock than here. Artists like Father John Misty don't quite fit the indie rock mold in our estimation. Foxygen, Mackenzie Keefe, Broken Social Scene, Sorority Noise, Sheer Mag... this list of excellent bands that had worthy cuts this year goes on. But ultimately, here are the ten we deemed most worthy of recognition in 2017.

Keep reading... Show less

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.

60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

Keep reading... Show less

The Best Country Music of 2017

still from Midland "Drinkin' Problem" video

There are many fine country musicians making music that is relevant and affecting in these troubled times. Here are ten of our favorites.

Year to year, country music as a genre sometimes seems to roll on without paying that much attention to what's going on in the world (with the exception of bro-country singers trying to adopt the latest hip-hop slang). That can feel like a problem in a year when 58 people are killed and 546 are injured by gun violence at a country-music concert – a public-relations issue for a genre that sees many of its stars outright celebrating the NRA. Then again, these days mainstream country stars don't seem to do all that well when they try to pivot quickly to comment on current events – take Keith Urban's muddled-at-best 2017 single "Female", as but one easy example.

Keep reading... Show less

It's ironic that by injecting a shot of cynicism into this glorified soap opera, Johnson provides the most satisfying explanation yet for the significance of The Force.

Despite J.J. Abrams successfully resuscitating the Star Wars franchise with 2015's Star Wars: The Force Awakens, many fans were still left yearning for something new. It was comforting to see old familiar faces from a galaxy far, far away, but casual fans were unlikely to tolerate another greatest hits collection from a franchise already plagued by compositional overlap (to put it kindly).

Keep reading... Show less

Yeah Yeah Yeahs played a few US shows to support the expanded reissue of their debut Fever to Tell.

Although they played a gig last year for an after-party for a Mick Rock doc, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs hadn't played a proper NYC show in four years before their Kings Theatre gig on November 7th, 2017. It was the last of only a handful of gigs, and the only one on the East coast.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.