Sunday, December 9, 2018

Charlie Faye & The Fayettes: “The Whole Shebang” (2019) CD Review

If you are looking for some music to wash away the taste of the nation’s current troubles, an excellent choice is The Whole Shebang, the new release from Charlie Faye & The Fayettes. This girl group rode a train straight out of the early 1960s, hardly making any stops between then and now (perhaps just one in the mid-1970s), seemingly with the sole intention of making us all happy. They released their self-titled debut in 2016, and it was a delight. When I saw them perform in August, they played several new songs, songs the audience immediately embraced, songs which have now found their way onto their new album. Backing them on this release are Eric Holden on bass, synths, organ, baritone guitar, glockenspiel, percussion, vibraphone, and mellotron (Holden also produced the album); Pete Thomas on drums and percussion; Marcus Watkins on guitar; and Chris Joyner on keys. There are also several guest musicians on certain tracks. Though they may sound like classic pop songs, all the songs on this album are originals, written or co-written by Charlie Faye.

They get things off to a wonderful start with “1-2-3-4,” a ridiculously fun and adorable pop song. This is one I saw them perform at The Federal Bar in August, and loved immediately. It has an appealing innocence. Bill Barrett adds some really nice work on harmonica. That’s followed by “I Don’t Need No Baby,” which begins with a familiar drum beat, then goes in a great direction. The vocals and the attitude behind them are sweet, yet strong. “I know that look there in your eyes/I’ve seen it more than once on other guys/Before you say a word, let me get in a few/It’s best you knew/I don’t want, I don’t need no baby.” They played this one in August when I saw them in concert. Then “The Cream Rises To The Top” is a seriously cool song, with an oddly haunting vibe to its delicious pop sound. I dig that percussion, helping to make this one of my favorites. It was written by Charlie Faye and Eric Holden.

“The Whole Shebang,” the album’s title track, is one of the its most fun numbers. It has a cheerful, playful sound, one I can’t imagine anyone not falling for. “Never lined up all the pieces right, or had all the puzzle parts/But now that I’ve met you, I can believe in the real thing/Because to me, to me, baby, you’re the whole shebang.” “The Whole Shebang” was written by Charlie Faye and Bill DeMain. That’s followed by “Stone Cold Fox.” Just the phrase “stone cold fox” is kind of adorable at this point, and takes us to a different time. This one is rock and roll with a country flavor. “But when it comes to rockin’ no one else compares.” Bill Kirchen joins the group on guitar for this one, which is seriously cool. Then “Night People” has more of a late 1970s vibe, with a distinct disco feel in the music, and also in the lyrics. “Night people are my kind of people/Meeting up at all the coolest clubs/Night people are a different kind of people/Dancing to the music that they love.” Steve Herrman is on trumpet, Kristen Weber is on violin, and Austin Hoke is on cello, with the string arrangement by Jim Hoke.

My absolute favorite track on this release is “Baby We’ll Be OK.” I love this one, in part because of the message of the song, in part because the vocals have the sweetest possible sound. Their voices are just absolutely wonderful, as they tell us that we’ll be okay. And I believe them. The first line is “There’s something wrong with the world today,” a statement I don’t think anyone could possibly argue with. But the next line, in response, is “Baby, we’ll be okay.” And I love these lines: “Sometimes I just need to hear those words/I know that reality is absurd/But I can’t fall asleep ‘til you say/Baby, we’ll be okay.”  This is the perfect song for our time, wrapped in the sounds of another time, and is a song I know I’ll be turning to often. It was written by Charlie Faye and Bill DeMain. That’s followed by “Tonight’s The Night,” which has a classic vibe. It’s hard to believe this is a new song, particularly when listening to that first section. It kicks in to become a fun, rocking tune, a song that has a delightful innocence, one that reminds me of Happy Days.

“That’s What New Love Is For” has one of the album’s best vocal performances. “You don’t need to make me sigh/Or look up when I walk by/You say love grows every day/But the passion fades away/That’s what new love is for.” “Riding High” is another cheerful song of love. The world is a good place, isn’t it? It certainly seems so while I listen to this song. The album then concludes with “You Gotta Give It Up (Party Song),” a great rock and roll number with a strong beat. This is the song they opened with the last time I saw them in concert. It was a great opener, and it’s a great closer here, another of the disc’s highlights. “We’ve got to wake up/Yeah, we’ve got to get wise/We’ve got to speak up/We’ve got to organize.”

CD Track List
  1. 1-2-3-4
  2. I Don’t Need No Baby
  3. The Cream Rises To The Top
  4. The Whole Shebang
  5. Stone Cold Fox
  6. Night People
  7. Baby We’ll Be OK
  8. Tonight’s The Night
  9. That’s What New Love Is For
  10. Say Those Words
  11. Riding High
  12. You Gotta Give It Up (Party Song)
The Whole Shebang is scheduled to be released on February 8, 2019.

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