Silver and Gold - Cub Callaway (East Dominion)
Alternative title: "He Gets by With Some Help From His Friends".
Producer-guitarist Bruce "Cub" Callaway assembled a stellar cast for this, his 2013 return to recording after a lay-off, and it shows.
John Hoey (Died Pretty), Warwick Gilbert (Radio Birdman), Paul Larsen (Celibate Rifles), Clyde Bramley (Hoodoo Gurus) and Julie Mostyn Gilbert (Flaming Hands) all played roles. Lesser-knowns Ian Johnson, Louis Callaway and Harry Rothenfluh also contributed drums.
Callaway himself has an impressive pedigree, playing guitar for one of The Saints' post-Kuepper line-ups, producing records for Kuepper and The Triffids and playing on the first New Christs 45. "Silver and Gold" demonstrates he writes great songs.
Musically, "Silver and Gold" is very much in the vein of those uncomplicated '80s recordings. Dry drums, a dash of reverb int he right places. No gated effects tomfoolery. The guitars of Callaway and Warwick Gilbert are central to the sound. So too, John Hoey's keys and synth work, which adds colour.
Callaway is afflicted with Guitar Player's Voice but his vocal limitations shouldn't be a drawback for anyone brought up on the music he's been involved in ("Electrical Storm", anyone?) You wanted an auto-tuner?
Having said that, Julie Mostyn's lead vocal on the bluesy album centrepiece "Framed Within The Law" would reduce most singers to sobbing karaoke hack status. It's a good song made great. Julie's backing vocals on three other tracks are a bonus.
Of the originals, "I Know I'm Doing Fine" and the title track are note-worthy. In other places, Cub goes out on a limb...
It does takes a brave artist to tackle Died Pretty's "Godbless" and Callaway wisely doesn't try and match Ron Peno's vocal gymnastics. John Hoey co-wrote this and is fully entitled to bring it to this party. The re-arranged version takes on a much different feel, with Julie Mostyn's vocal part and Callaway's lean solo making for nice counterpoints.
The take on "Waiting World" really works a treat with Callaway's deadpan vocal in synch with Rob Younger's yowl on the original single. Hoey lays down a flourish of keyboards to leaven proceedings.