Record Store Day is almost here, and this year’s celebration of all things vinyl offers audiences plenty to applaud from one genre to the other. Friday Music is releasing a special Jeff Beck vinyl titled Truth. Sundazed Music has a new singles compilation record titled 16 All-Time Greatest Hits. For rap fans, Nature Sounds is releasing a special 2-LP recording titled Can I Borrow A Dollar? This is just the very tip of the proverbial iceberg in this year’s Record Store Day releases. Verve Records has a new Ella Fitzgerald vinyl on the way for jazz fans while Capitol Nashville has a special vinyl recording on the way from Lady Antebellum for country music fans. While there are plenty of releases scheduled for release this Saturday from plenty of really big acts, there are also some impressive releases from some lesser-known acts. One of the best of those lesser-known releases is The Secret Sessions, from a band by the name of Pompeii. Originally formed by Corky Laing, the rock super group also includes Ian Hunter, Andy Fraser, Steve Hunter (The Alice Cooper Band), Lee Michaels – and eventually Mick Ronson and Felix Papalardi – the group recorded the album between 1976 and 1978. The result of that work sadly never saw the light of day. Enter Rouge Records this year. The independent label will release The Secret Sessions this Saturday for the first time. The 14-song recording offers plenty for classic rock aficionados to appreciate, not the least of which is those songs. This will be discussed shortly. The record’s production is just as important to note as its songs. It will be discussed later. The record’s sequencing rounds out its most important elements and will also be discussed later. Each element is important in its own right to the whole of the record. All things considered, they make The Secret Sessions a record that with any luck will become anything but a secret this Saturday.
One-time rock super group Pompeii’s album The Secret Sessions is, without argument, one of the best of this year’s lesser-known Record Store Day offerings. Limited to only 1,000 copies it is a record whose secret definitely deserves to be spread among classic rock aficionados. This statement is supported in part through the 14 songs that make up the record’s body. The actual physical LP features 10 songs recorded in the initial sessions between 1976 and 1978. As an added bonus, three other songs recorded during those sessions were re-recorded for this special, limited release and made available only as digital downloads that come with the LP’s purchase. One more new song is also included with that trio of re-recorded compositions. The very presentation of the songs in both digital and physical platform, when coupled with the fact that LPs can nowadays so easily be transferred to CD and digital – and the fact that they have never before been made available in any format – makes these rarities truly special. Of course that availability is only part of why the songs are so important to the album. Their arrangements are important to discuss, too.
The songs’ arrangements are important to discuss because of their accessibility. From one song to the next, it is so easy to compare these works to those of Pompeii’s contemporaries. Case in point is the album’s opener, ‘Easy Money.’ This piano-driven arrangement, which is strengthened by its rhythm section, conjures thoughts of Foreigner, Kansas, Styx and other similar acts. That is of course this critic’s own interpretation. Other listeners might hear other similarities, and that’s perfectly fine. ‘I Ain’t No Angel’ leaves this critic making comparisons to works from the likes of The J. Geils Band, The Allman Brothers Band and others. ‘On My Way To Georgia’ lends itself, at least to a point, to classic Eric Clapton while the bluesy arrangement at the heart of ‘Silent Movie’ can be compared to works from Foghat, Cream, Taste and other similar acts. Again, these are comparison from this critic’s own interpretation and should not be taken as the only interpretations. The point of all of this is to point out the similarity of these songs’ arrangements to those from Pompeii’s more well-known counterparts. At the same time that these comparisons can be made, it should also note that the arrangements presented here are not just blatant rip-offs of the noted bands’ works. They merely exhibit the noted similarities. Keeping this in mind, these songs, if only musically, prove themselves easily accessible to classic rock fans everywhere. In regards to their lyrical content, there is just as much that can be said.
‘Easy Money’ would seem to be centered on…well…a prostitute, while ‘The Outsider,’ whose musical arrangement conjures thoughts of The Who and Pink Floyd, seems to center simply on a drifter figure, going from one place to another and always being a loner type of figure. Once again, this is only this critic’s interpretation. ‘Just When I Needed You,’ with its soft title and equally soft musical arrangement is another interesting addition to this record. That’s because despite those noted elements, it is in fact a song centered not on love found, but on love lost. That musical arrangement, by the way, conjures thoughts of Don Henley and his Eagles band mates. So, both lyrically and musically, audiences have yet again, more variety exhibited here. That variety is essentially what makes the albums’ songs so important to the record. Neither the arrangements nor the lyrical themes repeat themselves at any one point throughout the album. That being the case, there is no doubt as to the importance of the album’s songs. That having been noted, the songs are, collectively, not the album’s only key element. Its production is important to discuss, too.
The album’s production is so important to discuss because of the impact that it has on the record’s general effect. Thanks to the time and effort put into the album’s production, the songs sound just like they came right from the late 1970s. Initially, one might say that they’re supposed to sound like that. The rebuttal, though, is that many times, classic songs are re-worked for releases such as that, and that old school sound is, in turn, lost. Luckily, that didn’t happen here. Obviously, painstaking efforts were taken to make sure these songs didn’t lose their original sound. The end result is an album that – even with its re-worked digital downloads – sounds like a musical time capsule that has been freshly opened for a whole new generation of audiences. That general effect goes such a long way toward making this album enjoyable. When it is coupled with the enjoyment offered through the songs, the two together make for plenty of reason for classic rock fans to hear this rare record. The whole of those elements, while it does so much for the record’s presentation, is still not the last of the album’s most important elements. The sequencing puts the finishing touch to the record’s presentation.
The album’s sequencing is so important to discuss here (as with any album) because it plays just as much into the album’s general effect as the record’s production. From start to finish audiences will note that the sequencing exhibits a solid balance of energies in the songs. That refers both to the songs’ tempos and their feel. The record’s first four entries are solid, mid-tempo compositions that are sure to keep listeners engaged. What’s interesting here is that within that frame, the songs’ feel goes from somewhat serious to more playful, ensuring again, listeners’ engagement and entertainment. From there, the record’s mood turns a bit in ‘The Outsider’ before picking back up again in the more light-hearted ‘Silent Movie.’ ‘Growin’ Old With Rock & Roll,’ with its seemingly Doobie Brothers/Grateful Dead-esque style arrangement, is another happy song, yet is also slightly laid back. That change-up in tempo and feel keeps the album fresh and engaging. As noted previously, the next song – ‘On My Way To Georgia’ – easily conjures thoughts of classic Eric Clapton (and to a lesser extent, The Allman Brothers Band). It is laid back in its own right in its arrangement, yet in a different way than its predecessor. Again, that continued variety keeps the album interesting because it keeps the album moving. The album slows down even more as it moves into its penultimate song, ‘Just When I Needed You Most’ before picking things back up once last time in ‘Lowdown Freedom’ to close out the album. Looking back at the whole of the album’s sequencing, it becomes clear just how much thought and time was put into lining up these songs. It paid off greatly, too. Keeping this in mind, when that thought and time is considered along with the work put into the album’s production and the songs themselves, the whole of those elements comes together to make The Secret Sessions a record that hopefully will be anything but a secret after Record Store Day this year.
Rock and roll super group Pompeii’s upcoming Record Store Day offering The Secret Sessions is a record that deserves to be anything but a secret among classic rock fans. That is because it offers so much for said audiences to appreciate. From its songs, with their musical and lyrical content to the general effect of the record’s production to its well-thought-out sequencing, there is plenty for audiences to appreciate. Each element is key in its own way to this album’s overall presentation, as hopefully has been made clear here. All things considered, they make The Secret Sessions an album that hopefully will no longer be a secret after this Saturday. More information on The Secret Sessions and other titles from Rouge Records is available online now at:
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