Producer, singer and songwriter Allen Clapp, the resident genius behind the pop enclave known as Mystery Lawn Records in Sunnyvale, is back, perhaps with his greatest effort to date. Clapp and his lovely partner in crime, bassist Jill Pries have culled the very best minds and musicians in the Mystery Lawn garden shed to flesh out Clapp's latest pop opus, "Mixed Greens". Armed with members of his own "Orange Peels", "The Corner Laughers", William Clere and a host of others to harvest and grow some of the best crops to ever spring from the mind of Clapp, and a very rich and verdant mind it is.
Readers of Beyond Chron will know that I have shown a predilection towards instrumental music, so when Clapp sent me Mixed Greens, I was blown away by the opening cut, "Picnic at the Hermitage", a gorgeous pop dirge that was frankly like nothing I'd ever heard from him before. Reminiscent of Clapp's production of the Corner Laugher's earlier hit, "Stonewords", (a personal favorite), Clapp's stripped away vocals, piano and keyboard textures immediately captivated me and only hinted at what else might be in store.
Clapp's other instrumental, "In the Halls of the King of the Land Beyond the Sun", had Clapp's beloved organ, Fender Rhodes, a vintage Roland Space Echo and British flavored pop-groove we've tasted before in his albums with the Orange Peels. Still quite edgy, yet sweeter, a distinction that separates this album from the aforementioned "Peels".
Mixed Greens also features some of Clapp's niftiest acoustic/electric guitar work and pretty groovy songwriting. I particularly enjoyed the "twangy" edge of "Treeline". Clapp and the Orchestra really rocked it on this one. I'm a little ol' "skool", so forgive me if it also triggered any memories of shows back in the day with Mick Fleetwood and my beloved Christine McVie.
Clapp's "Downfall No. 3" and I'll confess, I couldn't stop listening to "Back 2 Normal", another one of my personal favorites that actually reminded me of something from Todd Rundgren's "Something/Anything" era; another departure for Clapp that illustrates his pop virtuosity.
On songs like the piano driven "All or Nothing", "If the Wind is Right", the beautiful "Autumn Heart" and "The Winter in You", Clapp and his "orchestra" really captured his sound in ways not heard on any of his previous efforts; expansive, full, yet delicate and thoughtful.
Allen Clapp and his Orchestra's "Mixed Greens" is perhaps his best crop to date, and his greenhouse, aka the "Mystery Lawn Studio" has become something of a sustainable garden of musical delights. Sometimes you can indeed, go "back to normal", but I'm hoping Clapp and his Orchestra stay just a little bit crazy.
John Moremen's Flotation Device
What more can I say about the talented, multi-instrumentalist and composer John Moremen? Moremen has recorded and performed as a guitarist or drummer with a wide array of musicians and genres; Half Japanese, Roy Loney and the Phantom Movers, the Orange Peels and the Neighbors - and his own recording career has seen releases on the Bus Stop Label and Popstatic Records - but in a way, this is Moremen's debut album.
As a solo artist, Moremen's work has traditionally fallen into the power-pop category, but "Flotation Device" (2011, Mystery Lawn Music) finds the man coloring way outside the lines.
Eschewing the distraction of lyrics and vocals on this collection of tunes, the arrangements become more evocative and mysterious - allowing Moremen to paint pointillistic impressions of moments in time and imaginary landscapes.
On "Flotation Device," Moremen is like a jazz great playing in a fictional rock band made up entirely of himself. Performing all the instrumental parts on this album, Moremen freely navigates between drums, bass and guitar while never losing site of the end goal: songs that move, shake and rattle with palpable energy.
Call it 21st century mood music; call it a West-Coast guitar freakout; call it what you will - John Moremen is entirely at home in the grooves of this record, and whether you're from the left coast or right, it places you square in the mindset of this gifted San Francisco composer.
Allen Clapp and his Orchestra + John Moremen's Flotation Device
Friday, December 2 @8:30-11:30 pm
Hotel Utah Saloon
500 4th Street & Bryant, San Francisco, CA 94107