Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Jim Basnight -- We Rocked And Rolled

Jim Basnight -- We Rocked And Rolled (Disclosed)

When I was in high school, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers were considered a new wave band (though that designation quickly faded away) and some folks classified Elvis Costello and The Boomtown Rats as punk. Yes, that seems hard to believe.

But those artists all represented a fresh take on classic rock and roll moves. Around 1977, that’s what rock really needed. There were others fighting this good fight, including The Nerves, The Scruffs and out in the Pacific Northwest, Jim Basnight.

Unlike the vast majority of his contemporaries, Basnight has never stopped fighting. While he’s never hit the big time, whether as the leader of The Moberlys (a band that got deserved props from Trouser Press), The Rockinghams, or as a solo artist, this is a big time compilation, brimming with vibrant hooky rock and pop. Perhaps because he’s never gone beyond his core audience, Basnight has never felt compelled to make any ill-advised artistic statements. Instead, he has stayed true to playing catchy rock tunes that mine from the past without aping it.

So let me hit the highlights of the highlights. I’ll start with the first song I ever heard from Basnight, a Moberlys song which was credited to Basnight individually on the first Yellow Pills compilation. Who cares who gets the credit, just enjoy a song that is top notch power pop in the vein of The Plimsouls’ “Million Miles Away”. It relies on powered up jangly guitars and a general restless urgent vibe, created by the combo of the guitars and the intent rhythm section. This track is a classic.

I’d say the same about the gentler “Last Night”, old school power pop that showcases Basnight’s personality filled vocals. His singing is rough around the edges, and the contrast between his pent up (sexual?) frustration and the light mid-tempo pop (somewhere between Marshall Crenshaw and The Scruffs) is compelling. This frustration boils over in a raucous guitar solo. This is followed by another gem, “Sexteen”, which is comparable to Paul Collins’ Beat.

Some of Basnight’s material is really classic rock that not enough people have heard. “Tonight”, another Moberlys’ song, would fit in well with anything on the first two albums by Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, while the solo cut “Opportunity Knocks” is a fun bluesy romp in the tradition of J. Geils Band.

The CD is arranged chronologically, which illustrates that Basnight has always been capable of knocking out a great song. For example, his second band, The Rockinghams, kicked out “Space”. As Basnight sets forth in his informative liner notes, this is a take on the cliched need that guys have for space from their girlfriends. This song starts out simmering and reaches a full burn in the chorus, Basnight’s vocals moving from a modulated tone in the verses to full mania in the chorus.

There are occasional respites. For example, The Jim Basnight Thing scores a winner with “Summertime Again”, in which our pal Jim takes a cruise down Rascals Road. While he doesn’t try to do the whole blue eyed soul, this track has a nice laid back R & B foundation. This is mixed with Jim Knodle’s trumpet and Jeff Castle’s violin, giving the song a distinctive sound.

I could go on and on. There are 23 tracks on this disc, which begs the question: will there be a Volume Two?

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