In a business that seemingly eats its young, the music industry constantly is looking for the next big hit. The process of bringing talent to market and achieving even a modicum of success is fragile, at best. It begins by managers who seek and find new talent. They then bring the group to the record company and get them signed to a record deal. The record company finds an A&R guy who then produces an album for the group. The marketing department of the record company then swings into action and gets writers to write about the band and simultaneously places the bands’ videos on networks like MTV. All through this process, the band is touring to win over new fans while at the same time is working on new material for their follow-up records. And in the end, none of these steps assures success.
We are besieged with the introduction of new groups, new music and new attitudes. In spite of the hype, the money spent by the record company and the hard work of an army of people, it will be the public that ultimately decides what the next great musical trend or performer will be.
I have always been a fan of new music. I rely on alternative rock stations to introduce me to the latest. I also read a number of publications that highlight new music. Finally, I receive a listing every two weeks of the top and upcoming music from England. Much the same way I knew about the Beatles a year before they ever had any success in North America, I was following their growing success in the U.K. For whatever reason there has always been and continues to be a treasure-trove of new music in England that may or may not make it to our shores. For aficionados of new music like me, keeping up with the trends is a labor of love, but well worth it.
In a previous column, I spoke about my friend, Larry who owned Larry’s Record Store in Bayside, New York. He was a great source of information about the new music of the day. Stores like Larry’s are for the most part gone and replaced by giant music chain stores that usually hire people who don’t know the difference between Buffalo Springfield, Norton Buffalo or Buffalo, New York. I miss guys like Larry who understood the music and was able to translate this knowledge to his customers. It was Larry who told me that I had to buy an album by an unknown group from England called "The Who sings My Generation." It was Larry who also cajoled me into buying my first Pink Floyd album, "The Piper at the Gates of Dawn." Aside from the fact that he was right on both suggestions, I was the first guy in the neighborhood to play these albums for my friends.
I bring up Larry because I just listened to an album by a group called The Music and I began to wonder what Larry would have thought about them or if he would have known about them before me. The album is titled "Welcome To the North" and it was released in October of this year on Capitol Records. Much like the first record releases by The Who and Floyd, the members of The Music are four young men, barely out of their teens that come from Leeds in northern England. I couldn’t help but draw parallels to this band and how it felt when I first heard The Who and Pink Floyd in relation to the energy, and raw rock ‘n’ roll talent that this band clearly generates.
The title tune, "Welcome to the North" continues to be my favorite although choosing a favorite on the album is difficult since all the selections are punctuated with tremendous vitality and style. Lead singer, Rob Harvey is right on the money with a strong vocal performance backed by the steady beat provided by drummer, Phil Jordan rounded out by lead guitarist, Adam Nutter and bass player, Stuart Coleman. According to the brief liner notes, the band has taken credit for collectively writing the material contained in the album.
"Breakin’" is another favorite of mine showcasing the vocal talents of Rob Harvey. His strong vocal range blends beautifully with the rest of the group to offer a tune that will delight the listener either at home or in a club or in an arena. There are no bad cuts on the album. Each song is energetic, well crafted and leaves you with respect for such a young group to produce such an exceptional album. One can only hope that they can continue producing quality music as they mature and progress.
Just when I thought that the entire album would be comprised solely of upbeat tunes, I listened to "Fight the Feeling" a ballad that once again showcases Rob Harvey’s incredible vocal range.
Too often, bands become taken with themselves and release over produced albums that bury their creativity and energy under a wall of unnecessary fill-ins. The beauty of this album is in its simplicity. It’s as though producer, Brendan O’Brien just let the group write, play and sing while he tended to the whirling tape machine capturing their essence. Of course, having produced bands like Rage Against the Machine, Pearl Jam and Soundgarden, Mr. O’Brien was a perfect choice to work with these young lads from Leeds.
For a 60’s rocker like myself, I continually compare the groups from that time to the current music. To me, good music is timeless. I can still play "The Who Sings My Generation" and find it to be just as great today as it was when I bought it. I am hoping that The Music, "Welcome To the North" will age as gracefully as the aforementioned. I suspect it will. To sum up, four guys, great music, no nonsense.