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Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Craig Marshall: The King of Austin Pop!

I was so excited to learn that Craig Marshall had completed work on his self-produced CD, "Point of View" -- with Jon Notarthomas on lead guitar and vocals, John Thomasson on basses -- with drums and percussion by Jason McKenzie and Jeff Botta (alternating tracks), keyboard help from Derek Morris and Sam Lipman, some steel guitar from Charlie Richards, and harmony vocals on one track by Jo Beth Henderson. Craig, of course, is also the lead singer in the jazz swing cover band The Lucky Strikes (he is also a fine guitarist!) -- but since hearing his pop songs years ago at the now-defunct Woody's South, I have admired his pop songwriting.

This THIRD solo CD (after "Popular Crimes" and "Before the Fadeaway") includes some of my all-time favorites, led by "Lost in Space" and"Radio Girl," but all of the songs are singable, catchy tunes that bring back that feeling that anything is possible for those with a song in their hearts. "Why IS everything so difficult?" for people to recognize that this guy is writing songs as good as Lennon and McCartney? "I Know What It's Like" just marches along until the very end, when Craig slows it down (catch the harmonies!) before the final explosion that makes you want to mimic the Butabi brothers and their headshake.

"When the Camera's On You" slows it down (Ricky Stein should steal this song) so you can focus on the lyrics -- "hiding in the negative, quickly gets repetitive, something's gonna have to give, I know, you know .. the camera's on you ..." And, really, it always is. "When You Come Back Down" just has to be sung by the whole HOUSE FULL of people, "Will you remember me, when you come back down?" This is a true HIT SONG! If you liked, "That Thing You Do," you gotta have this record!

"Paper Cut" is a true ballad -- sounds like the 1950's and feels like dancing at the prom. Live, you cry out for a real piano solo -- why wasn't this song in any of those Sixteen Candles movies? [the whole genre?] You get to kiss the girl at the end of this one -- to heal the hurt -- "now that we've had some time, now that we seem to know, now you can let your mind get some rest." Just wonderful!

But next up is "Lost in Space," complete with sound effects -- and that great signature riff! "It's right between the reds and greens in life that you're floating through." Another song you just have to sing along with -- and light a candle! This is date music! Especially for the long-wed! Okay -- "Radio Girl" is just as special -- another jukebox necessity! This is another one that the whole crowd just stands up close to the stage and bounces up and down to the music -- and shouts out the lyrics back to the band.

Then there's the title cut -- great harmonies -- almost Beach Boys half an octave lower but with a little Beatles psychedelia mixed in -- and yet, some of the lyric structure hearkens back even earlier to 1950's style harmonies (can you say Four Freshmen?). But squeeze your sweetie stuff to be sure. Thankfully, "One Face in the Crowd" just flat out rocks -- vintage style. [How often do I start thinking "Revolver"?] Last (but there IS no least here) we get a "Small Reminder," one of those songs you just stop dancing to and just squeeze her tight. Reminds me of the Hollies (did I leave anybody out in my quest to get across the fact that this is great great pop music?)

Once more -- this is absolutely the perfect record to put on when you and the one you love are stuck at home on a rainy day. And be sure to thank Craig for the great memories .... BUY THIS!

Duggan Flanakin / Flanfire

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