Saturday, October 20, 2012

Dreamin' Wild: The Emerson Brothers

"'Baby' has been a staple on just about every playlist/mixtape I’ve assembled in the past 3 years. It is nothing short of sublime." ~ Ariel Pink
How could it fail? Start with a couple of rock and roll farmers from Fruitland, Washington, dress them up in Elvis leisure suits embroidered with their own names and - voila! - you'll set the world on fire. Well, sort of...or maybe not. Originally "released" in 1979, Dreamin' Wild by brothers Donnie and Joe Emerson didn't catch on until 2011 when collectors like Yoga Records founder Douglas McGowan started raving about it after discovering the LP in a Spokane antique shop. As he notes in the reissue from Light In the Attic records, "I love the Emersons because the album looks so goofy that you almost feel sorry for it - and then the music is basically perfect."

That last bit about the music may be true, but if you were coming of age during the late 70s and early 80s in suburban North America, the "goofy" part actually looks pretty cool from this vantage point. It's because that's what the hip kids in my town looked like and aspired to do - date Marcia Brady and star in our own episode of "Kids Are People Too".

The magic of this homespun gem is that it embodies a motley panache of yacht rockers like Pablo Cruise and Chuck Mangione, along with MOR castaways the Hues Corporation ("Rock the Boat") and Boz Scaggs ("Lowdown"). It's not surprising that Ariel Pink has been performing "Baby" for a couple of years and even included a cover of the "sublime" tune on his latest, Mature Themes.

Ghost melodies and rhythms haunt the album like vapor trails dripping from some gauzy horizon or rhizomes sprouting between the grooves. It all amounts to a hauntology that is both seductive and elusive, and above all, ever-present.

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