This is Vintage Now – Music Review

This is Vintage Now – Music Review

In my voyage through the Blogosphere, I came across a great opportunity.  I was going to be able to preview a compilation album of neo-vintage music, “This is Vintage Now”, and then tell you all about it!  I’ve spent the last few weeks listening to it over and over, so I could really saturate myself with the sound and be able to give an informed opinion on what I thought.

This is Vintage Now Cover Art“This is Vintage Now” is a compilation of 10 songs by new and original artists, it encompasses all the great music styles from the 1950’s and early 1960’s. There’s smooth and sultry, total jump jive fun, and wild & funky exotica! Anyone who loves Retro/Vintage music will surely find something to love on “This is Vintage Now”.

It includes two original 1950’s tracks, from Beverly Kenney and Carole Creveling, neither of which I had heard before, and both of which I just LOVE.  Also a track from Big Jay McNeely, whose amazing Rhythm & Blues style Jump Jive will just blow you away!  As for the “new kids”, you’ll hear everything from funky fused exotica to super smooth.  They have really encapsulated the essence of vintage music, but bringing it to the 21st century with loads of style.  There is also an Aussie featured on this compilation! Ilana Charnelle has a beautiful sound, and her song “Piece” is beautifully haunting.

Caro EmeraldIf you’re after a bit of sass, then Caro Emerald’s “Just One Dance” is for you. This swings hard and is amazing to dance to!  I really see this as my go to song for getting ready for a big night out, it’s so full of confidence and spunk.David Gasten

And for a lot of fun and a few laughs, you really can’t go past David Gasten & The City Kids’ “The Deacon Don’t Like It”.  It’s an edgy jump jive that is impossible NOT to bop along to!

All in all, I really have enjoyed listening to the compilation.  The range of sounds is interesting and engaging, something for every mood.  It will certainly feature a high rotation in my music listening!

David Gasten, producer of “This is Vintage Now” and frontman of David Gasten & the City Kids, was kind enough to answer a few questions for me as to the birth of “This is Vintage Now”.

1. Why did you think it was important to put together a compilation like this?  Surely there is a saturation of compilations in the marketplace?

Excellent point!  I would go even further to say that there is a supersaturation of bad music in the marketplace, and has been for years.  But there is precious little Vintage-style music that is really genuine and exciting and grabs people, hence the need for This is Vintage Now.

The Beatles and everything that came after that have been with us for going on fifty years, so pretty much everyone under retirement age in Western culture has grown up with some offshoot of rock music as their home base.  Vintage Music is a bygone culture powered by a completely different way of thinking on every level.  Today’s Vintage-style musicians either have to have been there and still have the spunk to be able to get the excitement of the period across (e.g. Big Jay McNeely, Pinky Winters), or they have to immerse themselves in the period and embrace the older ways of thinking to the point that it is practically a first language, and then be able to project that to current audiences in a way that they understand.  This seems pretty obvious and simple to do, but because of the culture difference it’s actually quite difficult to achieve, which is why you hear so few really satisfying Vintage-style artists today.

The inspiration for doing This is Vintage Now was because my own group, David Gasten & the City Kids, went into the studio to record some tracks in April 2010.  I knew that there were other “Vintage Now” groups like us, but they were scattered all over, and I wanted to bring these interesting artists I was finding together into one place, hence This is Vintage Now. This was how the New Wave of British Heavy Metal (NWOBHM) got started, for example. The British music magazine Sounds was getting all these demos in from little garage bands all over the UK with names like Tygers of Pan Tang and Angel Witch.  They saw a pattern, did a feature on it, gave it a name, and that was the beginning of these groups coming together as a movement.  There are different things that bring movements together—it might be a venue like CBGB’s, a compilation like No New York, or a festival like Rock In Opposition (RIO), but generally it’s some avenue of bringing everything together and demonstrating a pattern and a way of doing things that gets the ball rolling.  It also needs a name—Rock and Roll, Cool Jazz, Be Bop, Exotica, Reggae, Skiffle, New Wave, Industrial, RIO, and NWOBHM are all names that were coined and attached to musical movements, with certain artists being associated with those names.  I think This is Vintage Now has the ability to do the same thing—present a movement, and establish a name, a way of doing things, and a group of artists for people to rally around.

That being said, every single bit of this “movement” stuff is contingent on the fans.  People have to be ready for something new and genuinely want it, and it has to meet their needs properly.  So ultimately, whether This is Vintage Now leads or represents a movement is the people’s decision, not mine.

2. I like that there are two original 1950’s artists in the mix, what was the thinking behind that, given that it’s a “vintage now” sound?

Well, part of what makes jazz as we know it today boring is the jazz reissue treadmill that trots out that same old stuff over and over again, along with the stale jazz performers that listen to the same set of canonized artists, albums, and standards.  The reason for adding original tracks from Beverly Kenney and Carole Creveling is that these two lady singers are real nugget finds from the 1950’s that allow us to listen to the period afresh.  They both do a great job of bringing the vibrancy of the period forward, and in that sense are very much part of the Vintage Now aesthetic.

Beverly KenneyBeverly Kenney in particular connects so well with audiences today. The big thing with most jazz performers is technical perfection and doing all these perfect-perfect interpretations of the same old tired standards.  Beverly Kenney, on the other hand, is all about having a personality and going for a pure, natural sound without worrying about being technically perfect.  There’s a girliness and a delicate vulnerability in her voice that is so touching—a bevy of perfectly sung notes are no match for her. She’s been a big name in Japan for years, and she is slowly starting to get popular in Europe and America as well.  I can see her becoming a posthumous celebrity ala Nick Drake, and influencing a whole new generation of young lady jazz singers who end up making Beverly Kenney their idol instead of Billie Holiday.

Carole CrevelingCarole Creveling is a similar story.  She was a natural talent that did one album and one single as a teenager, and then got married and lived happily ever after, only for her albums to become ridiculously expensive collector’s items because of their high quality.  She has a full-bodied, womanly voice that you would never guess belonged to a teenager.  It turns out that Ms. Creveling is still with us and lives in the LA area; I really hope that she can be coaxed out of retirement for some festival shows eventually.

3. How did you choose/find the rest of the artists involved?

Great question!  Here’s how I found the other artists:

  • David Gasten & the City Kids is my own group and the initial reason for assembling the compilation; I talked about that a little bit above.
  • The Halloween Jazz group The Necro-Tonz were a local band that I used to follow from afar when I lived in Dallas, Texas.  I went from not knowing what to make of them to falling in love with them.  I even ended up kissing lady frontman Colleen “Necrophilia” Morgan after the show when I finally got to see them live; good times! 🙂  I was impressed at how talented they were and how true to jazz they stayed when everything around them was goth, punk, and puke-a-billy, hence their inclusion on the compilation.
  • Big Jay McNeely I found out about as I was researching jump blues—he’s one of the heavyweights of the genre.  I found the Dutch Party Time album while doing searches for Big Jay on the web about a year ago. I was appalled that Party Time was so hard to find, so I wanted to feature the album to help get the word out.
  • The Pharohs are a local group here in Denver that happened to have the same drummer as David Gasten & the City Kids did (we both fired him). I’ve been really impressed at their unique take on doing early rock and roll and wanted to include them for that reason.
  • Dutch chanteuse Caro Emerald I found on eBay when I was doing some odd search for CD’s—I think I was doing a deep search for “swing dance CD” or something like that and was looking through the hundreds of entries when Deleted Scenes From the Cutting Room Floor popped up. That was right when that album first came out.  I caught right away that Caro has a depth and quality to her music, and atop that, if you gave her the choice between singing pop and jazz, she would pick jazz.  Hence why I wanted to include her on the compilation.
  • Aussie singer/pianist Ilana Charnelle has a bunch of videos and a following on YouTube. I found her when I was doing a YouTube search for Jessica Rabbit—she did a version of “Why Don’t You Do Right” and called it a “Jessica Rabbit cover”.  I was skeptical and expecting the worst, but as I played the video, I fell for Ilana on the spot and became an instant fan.  She’s really “got something”, and I hope that we’ll be hearing a lot more from her in time.
  • The Waitiki 7 and Blake Jones & the Trike Club I found on CD Baby.  I wanted to include groups that had a Bachelor Pad sound, and did “sounds like” searches for Martin Denny and Esquivel to find those guys if I remember right. A lot of Blake Jones’ other material is in a Beatles/XTC vein, but his album Theremins of Mystery happens to be a diversion from all that and includes some songs that are unmistakably Vintage-sounding.  The Waitiki 7 have single-handedly resurrected the Exotica genre and have been recognized by the Hawaii Music Awards for doing so, so they turned out to be a really essential inclusion for the compilation.

4. Where are you hoping the “This is Vintage Now” compilation ends up, and what comes next?

In the short term, I have to come up with $5,000 US so that I can shop the compilation professionally to a US and a UK label.  If you or anyone you know would like to help sponsor the shopping of the album, email me at DAVIDGASTEN AT YAHOO COM and I’ll get you more info as to how you can do that.

As far as where This is Vintage Now ends up, I intend for it to end up on the hands and iPods of Vintage fans all over the world. I hope that people will want more music from all of the artists on the compilation, and that it will encourage the creation of even more Vintage Now-style groups that we can include in future volumes of the compilation.  Eventually I would love to see This is Vintage Now become a franchise series where people can go to learn about artists in the genre.  People have to go somewhere to find out about the exciting new music, and what better way to do that than a high-quality compilation series made by fans, for fans.

Thanks David, for taking the time to answer my questions!

So there you have it!  Below is a player (and I’ve put it in the sidebar too), so you can have a listen to some samples of the songs.  This has the potential to be a great springboard for the “Vintage Now” sound!  But we all need to get behind it!

Photo credits: Caro Emerald photo by Adrie Mouthaan, David Gasten photo by Bryce Boyer, Beverly Kenney photo by Check Stewart courtesy SSJ Records

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