Hot damn! It took these guys three years to get there, but here it is—another great Maggi, Pierce and E.J. album and oh, man, is it great to hear. If you don't know about these guys, it's time you did. They are one of Philadelphia's best kept secrets and somehow (I seriously don't know how) remain so. I mean, these guys drip talent like sweat on a hot humid day in D.C. (and if you've ever been in D.C. in late summer, you know what I mean).
Not since the incredibly overlooked and underrated Gruppo Sportivo have I been so in love with a band. Like GS, they're all over the map musically, but that's a good thing. It's adventure! See, they do everything so well, style barely matters. Take what's in the grooves here, for instance. The fade-in on Around the World, percussive thumps bleeding into keyboards bleeding into violin bleeding into acoustic rhythm guitar and Maggi's melodic and unique voice, is magnificent. A great light rocker, it puts together the elements which captures the heart. Everything clicks, right down to the Beatlesque wo-ow-wo-ow-wo and ethereal violin break. And those harmonies—man, these guys blend like you can't believe. More great MPE harmonies on Brass Bowl, a downright great song with an outstanding melody and feel. Doesn't hurt to have that folk rock harmonica in there, either. They lighten it up with Rong Song, a tune which would be a ditty if it wasn't so damn good. Don't like light ditties? Helen, Chatahoochee might just change your mind, ukuleles light and airy beneath almost fifties variety show vocals and lyrics. I hated this kind of stuff when I was young, but MPE pulls it off with aplomb (and an apple, and a pear…). Slightly bluesy acoustic picking sets the tone for "Birds", though Maggi's vocals take it more toward the jazzy side of Americana. They rock it up a bit more on Y Don't U? and then slip back into the forties and fifties vocal group sound with a remake, Manhattan Transfer style, of a song they recorded a few years ago on their Gold album, that version more R&B/jazz with a touch of Ken Nordine jazz backup. They borrow from the great Jimmy Liggins next, rocking out with his excellent Drunk, fifties R&B primo magnifico (the guitar solo is exceptional). And if MPE doesn't have you by then, a topnotch remake of the Hoodoo Gurus' Like Wow-Wipeout should put the nail in the ol' coffin. Nothing like revisiting the best of the eighties now and again. It rocks! Maggi finishes the album with a short remembrance of September 11th, not really somber but heartfelt. It is obvious that she means it.
What I received was a bare-butt package—jewel case and CD—but the artwork on the CD is outstanding. A young high schooler from Maine drew it, one Zoe Reifsnyder, and it captures the tone of the album perfectly. Right on, Zoe!
Seriously, sports fans. Maggi, Pierce and E.J. have playing together since '95. They have eight other CDs under their belts—okay, one is a compilation, but that counts too—and every one of them is worth a listen. If you really love music, do yourself a favor and check them out. Their CDs are available for sampling at cdBaby. Here's your chance to discover music which is great and no one on your block has. Yet. Do it!
Edited by: David N. Pyles
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