When common practice finds you writing 30 some odd tracks for an album and you only wind up using 14 of them, what happens to the leftovers (especially when those not used are pretty darn good)? In this instance, those Rightovers get packaged in a special CD for those who helped contribute to the completion of Richard X. Heyman's superb 2002 release Basic Glee.
Here's the story. To help fund the album, Heyman held a pre-sale of the album through his website. Those who contributed fifty dollars or more got a signed copy of Basic Glee, their name in the booklet's thank-you section, plus a promise of some sort of bonus disc. Rightovers became that bonus. With an extraordinary backlog of unreleased recorded material, these 14 tracks were culled from the 17 that didn't make it the first time.
Fans of Heyman's past work, and particularly his most recent outing, will love what is offered here. Some of these are newer songs, while others date back to a period of writing from the late '60s and some fall in-between. All told, you get a mix of different era writing styles all filtered through the lush melodic executions that have become Heyman's calling card. The multi-talented and often overlooked RXH plays guitar, piano, bass (although many of the songs feature his wife Nancy Leigh on bass), harmonica and more, while serving up a universe of extravagant harmonies that identify these songs as unmistakably his.
Admittedly, rejected songs may get a second chance for any next album's lineup, and many of these are veterans of past album considerations (the quirky "Back to the Fairground" was recorded for three separate albums, each in a different key). But the fact is that many unused tunes just get sent to the musical graveyard.
Heyman contends the old songwriter's cliché "I can't pick a favorite, they're all like my children" is a bunch of balderdash. "Not all of my songs are like my children," he says. "Some are more like a pesky nephew or a second cousin. Others aren't even related."
What I can vouch for is that these songs are far from second-rate. For one reason or another, they just didn't make the final cut -- but it's not for any obvious quality issues. The songs (with the exception of one) are quickie mixes, a little rough around the edges, says Heyman. I don't hear any rough edges. Perfectionist Heyman's rough cuts are more full and finished than others' polished versions.
"Where Are You Now", a song about remembering the past that was written in the early '80s, opens things here. Past reminisces and reflections are a theme common to many of Heyman's songs. The upbeat guitar-powered rock ditty that is "Manhattan Night" dates back to the '70s, well before Disney semi-sanitized the area around 42nd Street and 8th Avenue.
"August" provides some interesting instrumental arrangements, employing strings and an "acclarinet"(cross between accordion and clarinet) to get its sweet ballad sounds across. This song about revisiting a hometown actually was inspired by Heyman's own trip back to Plainfield, NJ, where all seemed changed and distorted by the years. According to Heyman, this is the first and only song where he wrote the words before the music.
"Back to the Fairground" (as mentioned above) has been trying for some time to make it onto an official release. This quirky song relates the tale of chasing a circus love from town to town: "Past the sounds and the sideshows we'd stroll / Love took its toll / Gotta go back to the fairground / Gotta go back to the next town / Where we walked down the midway / Midway between the borders of love".
"Will Me Away" is a plaintive request for help and guidance through an oft-rough life. "The Perfect Crime" makes love the ultimate mystery and RXH is the hard-boiled detective searching for his vanished femme fatale.
"Too Little Too Late" is a beat-driven vehicle wherein Heyman gets to show some R&B funk, one that he's been playing live for ages. The drums also fuel "Panama Hat", a song about the diminishing returns of passion in relationships over time (with some fine middle bridge harmonica).
Another great live staple is captured here, the '60s sounding rave-up "In This World". Kurt Reil (The Gripweeds) and Michael Mazzarella (The Rooks) offer great backing vocals on this track.
"As Long as the Wild" was the first song recorded for what was to be Basic Glee, and though it didn't make it -- one could argue that it should have. This is a song chock-full of delicious acoustic twelve-string work, with lyrics that tell of having grown apart from someone, both spiritually and physically.
Another past relationship gone awry song, "A Far Cry" explores how the realities rarely live up to those early expectations and dreams: "Such a far cry from the way we saw tomorrow / Such a far cry from the way we saw ourselves".
"Believe I Will" is a solemn ballad that dates back to the time of Heyman's Living Room! CD. This is a sweet harmony-filled pondering the idea of holding on to one's beliefs no matter what, to find "what should have been, what still can be".
A reject from the Cornerstone sessions, "Take Me Back" serves up more of what Heyman does best, smooth and sweet guitar-driven harmony-filled ear candy, this one all about asking forgiveness and another chance.
The CD ends with the gorgeous "Every Time I Lie Awake", a musical homage to passion itself. According to Heyman, this was the fifteenth song for Basic Glee, just missing out on the self-imposed limit of fourteen tracks that Heyman insists upon (either from tradition or superstition).
As someone who put Basic Glee atop his best of 2002, I was overjoyed to get the privilege of more music so soon from the talented RXH. Fans of Richard X. Heyman will love this gem of a bonus disc, as should others. However, as of now, it's not available to the general public.
Wife Nancy Leigh (who also engineered this superb CD) considers it "Richard's finest album" and I can't disagree; this is yet another quality collection that could arguably hold its own with any of his other releases. Perhaps with enough coaxing and interest, RXH might see fit to offer fans the opportunity to purchase this special song collection. Rightovers is yet another testament to the pop-songwriting and musical talents of Richard X. Heyman, an aural treat that makes one wonder, track to track, why these weren't quite good enough. Come to think of it, I wonder how good the three that didn't make it to this collection might be?