ON GOLD VINYL
One of the most stubborn myths of revisionist musical history is this: the early '60s were the Dark Ages of American pop, a sad and embarrassing era of prefab teen idols and silly dance crazes that was put out of its misery by the British Invasion.
In reality, strange and wonderful things were happening with American music in the months before The Beatles met Ed Sullivan, creative big bangs that continued to evolve for decades to come.
In Detroit, Berry Gordy was defining the Motown Sound, while Stax and James Brown were inventing soul music. At 1650 Broadway, the Aldon table of songwriters was bringing sophistication to teen pop, while The Four Seasons reinvented group harmony. And in California, where America's youth culture was being born, a trio of songwriters–Brian Wilson, Roger Christian and Gary Usher–were drawing up the blueprints for the West Coast sound.
This collection explores Gary Usher's tenure as co-architect of the happiest pop music ever written, a guileless celebration of sun, surf and cars that's become an enduring symbol of the American dream.
Barefoot Adventure does more than simply collect a bunch of songs that sound great on the car radio and mean exactly what they say (take that, psychedelic music!). It's also a remarkable glimpse of the process, of a struggling songwriter angling for a break, sometimes tapdancing in tangents, oblivious to the bullseye he was hitting on the way
to forging an important new sound.
So here's the whole story, 36 terrific tracks, including exclusive Sundazed interviews with Usher himself, with an illuminating essay and track commentary by author and Usher-biographer Stephen McParland. It's musical scholarship that's perfect for parties!
We're not sure if this is history masquerading as fun, or vice-versa, but we're definitely sure that it's fun. Which, in the end, is all that matters.
Also available as a digital download on iTunes.
R.P.M. • My Little Surfin’ Woodie • Barefoot Adventure • Four On The Floor • Cheater Slicks • C.C. Cinder • The Chug-A-Lug • Gary Usher Interview Part 1 • My Little Beach Bunny • Playmate Of The Year • Lonely Surfer Boy • Soul Stompin’ • Nifty ’50 • Power Shift • Mag Wheels • Gary Usher Interview Part 2 • My Sting Ray • 426 Super Stock • Wax, Board, And Woodie • Draggin’ Deuce • ’54 Corvette • My Little Surfin’ Woodie • Gary Usher Interview Part 3 • R.P.M. • Barefoot Adventure • Cactus Juice • Coney Island Wild Child • Sugar And Spice • Twins • Milky Way • Quicksand • Gary Usher Interview Part 4 • You Made A Believer Out Of Me • Waiting For The Day • Tied Down • Harder And Harder
"This is true Gary Usher history! Having uncovered these rare and unreleased gems is like finding the key to a vintage woody - ready to cruise Pacific Coast Highway. These Usher classics are raw, energetic and playful, just as the lifestyle my Father was living.- and Leave it to Sundazed to offer up this fine collection of nuggets on a vintage vinyl platter!!"
-Gary Usher Jr.
The best measure of a great summertime record: how it sounds when fall comes around. The salt-air tang and drag-strip vavoom of the music that Los Angeles writer-producer Gary Usher made at the short height of the surf-rock and hot-rod eras -- gathered on Barefoot Adventure, The 4 Star Sessions 1962-1966 (Sundazed) -- have already survived a lifetime of seasons. At the time he cut these tracks under names like the Four Speeds and the Sunsets, Usher was also co-writing songs like "409" and the sublime "In My Room" with Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys and on his way to producing some of the Byrds' best albums, including 1968's The Notorious Byrd Brothers. These singles and demos are rougher fun and, yeah, a little corny. But Usher was a wizard with the limitations of beach-party pop, and the best of this set -- including the not-quite-Beach Boy harmonies and clipped-treble jangle of "R.P.M." and "Cheater Slicks" by the Four Speeds and "C.C. Cinder" and "My Little Beach Bunny" by the Sunsets -- is classic California innocence. Just as good yet never originally issued: the sun-kissed Ronettes sparkle of two 1964 tracks with the Honeys and the surf-splashed spin on garage rock in "Tied Down" and "Harder and Harder."
--David Fricke, Rolling Stone magazine
(Issue 1066 - November 27, 2008)