When I first saw the title of this project I immediately thought of the birth of the soul movement. Many contribute that to Motown/Detroit, but in our narrative or lexicon, soul’s birth originated in the city of brotherly love. Dick Clark’s American Bandstand came straight out of Philly. It not only ran on the cities influence, but brought in New York’s vocal groups & early bands, then began to bring in the rest of the countries new music. This would have been in the mid to late 1950’s, the new art forms of Rock, Soul, Rock A Billy, and Pop began to flow in from all over. As listeners it was the final pull away from big band, jazz and New York Pop, music was being filtered through Clark’s program. The second wave of the Philadelphia influence was much later in the mid 1980’s with Hall & Oats, who were heavily influenced by mainly black artists of that city and the rest of the east coast. The Bacon Brother’s came from that period, though earlier influences can be heard in the project also.
Kevin & Michael Bacon have been making music long before the soap operas and then Hollywood came a knocking on the Bacon home front. This project is a compilation of twenty of the best of their tunes. There are influences from many worlds, some in the Folk tradition, others from Country, Soul & Rock n Roll. The project is consistent in production values and due to the brother’s using the same supporting players since the bands conception, though the tunes are from three recordings the twenty tunes all fit. Both brothers are great storytellers and writers.
Michael is a musician working professionally scoring films; he and Kevin are both writers and players. Michael is heard on vocals, cello & guitar. Kevin is behind vocals, guitars, percussion as well as harmonica. The rest of the band includes Paul Guzzone supporting on bass, guitar & vocals, while Joe Mennonna works keyboards & accordion. Frank Vilardi is the drummer/percussionist and Ira Siegal supports on electric, acoustic guitars and vocals. This is a tight band that has been working for over 15 years, it shows in each track.
The strong points of the project are some of the ballads taken on by both brothers, but Michael has a tender slant on his tunes. He paints images that work well for the listener. There is a quality of sophistication and musical theory in his work. His vocals are as tender as his images, very smooth, warm and inviting.
Kevin appears to be the rocker of the writing team with a gritty way of looking at life. What I really enjoy about his tunes is the sense of influences I note while hearing his work. He doesn’t attempt to emulate other artists, but there is a sense that he listened to many great artists, and as all great writers do, taken a bit from all of his influences.
There are allot of tunes on this work, which is taking a chance in itself, but what’s amazing is there isn’t a clinker contained within. The project rolls on effortlessly with many textures, rarely repeats itself and keeps the listener engaged. The project is fun, solid musicianship; The Bacon Brother’s take risks in their writing and playing. If you’re a fan of Pop music this is one of those CD’s that keeps one not only thinking of the tune being played, but the influences that lead the writers to their composition.
Oh yeah, one more thing: these boys sing their collective pants off.
[Christopher Brant Anderson]