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Non-Prog CD Reviews

The Midtown Men

Sixties Hits

Review by Gary Hill

This act got started as four members of the Broadway original cast “Jersey Boys.” One might expect with that type of origin that this would feature a lot of musical theater type music. While there are a couple points in the set where that’s true, overall this is more vintage pop rock music. It’s a set of covers of classic songs and it’s a lot of fun.  It should be said that I’ve got an aversion to a lot of 1950s music and at times these guys have me liking that sound. And, that sound only shows up in a few places on the set. All in all, this is a great celebration of some great songs from a talented group of performers.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2012  Volume 5 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Lets Hang On / Working My Way Back To You / Breaking Up Is Hard To Do

A killer R&B styled introduction opens this, completely with horn section. It’s a classic medley that works very well. While the songs that make up this medley aren’t among my favorites, and the 1950s vibe has never worked that well for me, this just rocks. That said, the 50s sound isn’t heard on the entire piece, but only here and there. Other parts lean on the 1970s and other eras.

Can't Buy Me Love

They turn their attention to The Beatles and their rendition is energetic and strong. I like the horns and the flavor they bring to the piece. This is another killer cover tune.  It almost has a Revolver kind of vibe to it thanks to the horns and the jam mid-track. For me that kind of elevates the tune because I’ve never been a huge fan of the early Beatles stuff.

Happy Together

On the other hand, I’ve always really liked this Turtles song. This version isn’t a huge change, but it’s also very strong.  There is a bit of a musical theater feel on the arrangement to this tune.

Ain't That Peculiar

The horn section and inspired rocking music that make up the arrangement here are classic. This really feels like a 1970s tune from any number of classic artists. It’s one of the highlights of the set.

Dawn

While that 1950s sound shows up here, the horn section seems to bring something closer to the Blood Sweat and Tears kind of textures. It’s another cool tune, but not really a standout in my opinion.

Candy Girl

The 50s type vocals on this don’t fit well for my personal tastes, but really they are well done. I like the musical arrangement as it’s got a bit more of a modern sound to it. All in all, this is a decent cut, but not a highlight.

Up On the Roof

A bouncy cut, this is fun. It’s a step up from the last two, in my opinion.

California Dreamin'

I’ve always loved every single version I’ve heard of this song. This one is no exception. In fact, the vocal arrangement here is great and this is a great rendition. It’s one of the highlights of the disc and might be the real winner here.

Time of the Season

Here’s another where I’ve really liked the original song for a long time. I’d have to say that the vibe on this feels a bit too pop music like, losing some of the magic from the original. That said, they do a great job on this and it’s another highlight of the set. It just doesn’t seem as strong as the original.

Big Girls Don't Cry / Sherry

Here we get another medley, this time 1950s music. One might guess, from my personal bias against 1950s music that this cut wouldn’t work all that well for me. Somehow, though, it’s really a highlight. Sure, the vocals aren’t really my style (at least the ones that are trademark 1950s) but for some reason, these stand taller than the rest of their ilk. Add to that a cool musical arrangement and this actually stands as one of the cooler cuts here. I love the whole R&B vibe the horns bring to the table on the second half of this medley.

Bye Bye Baby

Here is a track that really showcases some of that Broadway musical vibe. It’s certainly got the 1950s thing going, too. While it’s not one of my favorites, it’s a good tune nonetheless and serves well as an excuse to hit the “repeat” button as the disc ends and start the ride all over again.

 
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