david crosby

REVIEW: Derek Smalls – Smalls Change (Meditations Upon Aging)

DEREK SMALLS – Smalls Change (Meditations Upon Aging) (2018 BMG)

So very desperately, I wanted this to be good.  Alas, it is very very remotely far from anything good.  It’s not the line between clever and stupid; it’s just foul smelling putridity.  Spinal Tap’s bassist Derek Smalls, who might be best known for his “Jazz Odyssey”, cannot hold a tune.  There must be a reason why Smalls sings the fewest lead vocals of the three Spinal Tap members.  He’s all but unlistenable.

The gimmick on Smalls Change is twofold.  It’s a collection of songs about getting old, which is a crappy concept to start with.  There is nothing wrong with songs that have some life experience, but who wants to listen to a tune about an MRI?  Who wants to think about it all?  The second gimmick is the roster of guests:  old fogie buddies like David Crosby, Steve Lukather, Paul Shaffer, and so on.  There are few somewhat younger folks here too, such as Dweezil Zappa, Joe Satriani, Chad Smith, and Phil X.  But the guest stars can’t save it.  Admittedly, the lyrics are sometimes funny.  “Butt Call” is about butt dialing!  “Nobody speaks, handset by the cheeks.”  “Memo to Willie” is about erectile disfunction (get it?), a subject I’m sure you like singing about as well.  Then there’s “Gummin’ the Gash” which you can figure out for yourself.

The biggest problem is the voice, which is a cross between a garbage disposal and Otto the bus driver.*  No amount of Spinal Tap references can save it.  When the singer cannot sing, then Houston we have a problem.  And the thing goes on for 14 tuneless tracks!  An hour of gargling words out in an English accent.  Without a David St. Hubbins or a Nigel Tufnel to carry the melody, Smalls is sunk.  When there is an actual melody, that is.

We sadly have to proclaim Smalls Change as the worst, most unlistenable album of 2018.  Clearly, a lot of time and money went into making it, but don’t invest any of yours.

1/5 stars

* Yes, of course we know that Derek Smalls is played by Simpsons actor Harry Shearer.  If Otto was British, this could have been his album.


Part 147: Cassettes Part III – Aaron’s Tale

RECORD STORE TALES Part 147:  Cassettes Part III – Aaron’s Tale

I first met Aaron in 1996, when I was given my own store to manage.  Aaron came in, and as he’s mentioned in his previous guest shots under his pen name Statham, he likes to befriend the local Record Store Guy.  That is an excellent way to get the inside scoop on cool new arrivals.  But Aaron isn’t a shallow person and this is a friendship that has lasted since then, across many provinces and many years.

Aaron also made sure it was a give and take relationship.  I made sure he got good discs at a good price, and he repaid me in kind.  But before he made me discs…he made me a cassette.

Foamfoot was a cover band side project featuring Chris Robinson and Marc Ford from the Black Crowes.  Back then, Aaron was my Crowes guru.  He knew everything, and was eager to share.  He made me this cassette, live at the Troubadour.  The exact date seems to be a matter of conjecture.   Aaron wrote 11/??/94 on the J-card spine.  The link above states the show is both 1/08/1994 AND November 1994.  So, either a mistake or Chris Robinson is capable of time travel as well as rock n’ roll.  Another site states the January date as the correct one.

The setlist features a heady mix of The Band, the Dead, CSNY and many more.  Needless to say this is now a legendary concert, and I had the chance to hear it way back in the day of the tape traders!

The concert is now widely available online, making the cassette redundant.  Except as a momento of a friendship and good times a long time ago.  I’d never part with it for that reason alone.  Aaron even provided his own liner notes — that’s David Crosby guesting on “Long Time Gone”.

Plus, if you take a look inside the J-card, you can see what Aaron was listening to before he recorded Foamfoot over this cassette!  Apparently Iggy Pop, Gene, Limblifter, Deep Blue Something, Bad Religion and Aimee Mann among others!

Thanks Aaron, I’m glad I found this again.

And this concludes my trip down the memory lane of cassettes from the record store days.  Hope you enjoyed!