Sunday, August 14, 2016

Michael Fracasso: “Here Come The Savages” (2016) CD Review

Michael Fracasso is a singer and songwriter based in Austin who has performed with Patty Griffin and Lucinda Williams, and has released several CDs as well as a cookbook. I haven’t read the book, but I’ve certainly been enjoying his latest CD, Here Come The Savages. This album features some wonderful original material, as well as some interesting choices of covers, including songs by Brian Wilson and The Young Rascals. The album was produced by Mark Patterson, Jim Lewis and Michael Fracasso. Patterson and Lewis also play on some of the tracks.

The album opens with an original song, “Say,” which has a dreamy atmosphere from its start. I love these lines: “Fly anywhere you choose/You’re not mine to lose/And you never were.” There is an oddly positive feel to it. There is something of a Beatles influence here (in its sound, and in the fact that it ends with the line “Love is all you need”), and on other tracks, especially in “Open,” which follows “Say.” “Went to sleep last night/And my dreams were strange/Woke up in the morning/And the world had changed/I’ll keep an open mind/I’ll keep my mind open.” There is a bit of Rufus Wainwright too in the sound. Gary Newcomb adds some nice touches on electric guitar.

The first cover on the album is “Caroline, No,” which was written by Brian Wilson and Tony Asher, and originally released as a Brian Wilson solo single (it was Brian Wilson’s first solo record). It was also included on The Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds, where it concludes that album (along with sounds of a train and a barking dog). Michael changes “Break my heart” to “Don’t break my heart” the second time he sings that stanza: “Don’t break my heart/I want to go and cry/It's so sad to watch a sweet thing die/Caroline, why.” That’s followed by “Daisy,” an original tune that has something of the sound of a 1960s folk song – in the music, in the guitar, if not the vocals. Gary Newcomb plays pedal steel on this track. “Daisy, come out of there/Let me see you step into the light/You’re in some lonely place/And nothing there is going to make it right.” It’s interesting to have this song follow “Caroline, No,” because both songs look back at a girl, and both have a sweet sadness to them.

As good as “Daisy” is, it is the following track, “Boy In A Bubble,” that is probably my favorite of this album. There is something completely delightful, almost magical about this song, about the overall sound of it. Something about it makes me bloody happy, even though the lyrics wouldn’t suggest it: “He couldn’t feel a thing and he never got in trouble/He couldn’t feel the rain falling on his skin/Couldn’t feel the changes of season in the wind.” Jenni Wieland joins on French horn, which is wonderful. I love this song. (And that’s Mark Patterson bouncing the basketball.)

The Monkees seem to be on many people’s minds these days (check out my review of The Minus 5’s Of Monkees And Men), which makes me happy. “Here Come The Savages,” the title track, mentions Davy Jones in its opening lines: “I recall the night/That Davy Jones died/How suddenly/You started to cry/But you didn’t know him/Never heard his songs/But you were touched/As we sang along/To ‘Daydream Believer.’” This song also directly refers to “Here Comes The Night” by Them. It’s a really good and moving song, with Michael Fracasso on vocals and piano, unaccompanied by other musicians.

“How Can I Be Sure” is an interesting choice of covers. It was written by Felix Cavaliere and Eddie Brigati, and originally recorded by their band, The Young Rascals (later shortened to The Rascals). This song has been covered by several artists over the years, including Dusty Springfield, Helen Reddy and David Cassidy. Michael Fracasso’s version sounds quite a bit different from all of those. It has a stronger, more pronounced groove, and doesn’t have horns or that French café sound. BettySoo (of Charlie Faye And The Fayettes) and Gina Chavez join him on vocals. And I love the piano toward the end, reminding me just a bit of that fantastic piano part to David Bowie’s “Aladdin Sane.” That’s Jim Lewis on piano.

Michael Fracasso also covers Willie Cobbs’ “You Don’t Love Me,” here titled “You Don’t Love Me (No, No, No).” Dawn Penn recorded a reggae version of the song, and that version is also titled “You Don’t Love Me (No, No, No).” Michael Fracasso’s version is bluesy, and interestingly contains a sort of march beat on the snare drum at times, as well as some psychedelic elements. Whit Williams and Jim Lewis play guitar on this track. This song is delicious. “Yes, I love you/I’ll do anything you say.” The other two covers are Johnny Thunders’ “You Can’t Put Your Arms Around A Memory” (with Whit Williams adding touches on banjo) and The Kinks’ “Better Things.”

CD Track List
  1. Say
  2. Open
  3. Caroline, No
  4. Daisy
  5. Boy In A Bubble
  6. How Can I Be Sure
  7. Here Come The Savages
  8. You Don’t Love Me (No, No, No)
  9. Little Scar
  10. Blind Man On A Bicycle
  11. You Can’t Put Your Arms Around A Memory
  12. Interlude
  13. Better Things 
Here Come The Savages was released on June 10, 2016 on Blue Door Records.

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