Okay, okay, okay, so it seems a bit fruity for a guy who critiques Stockhausen, Sun Ra, King Crimson, Subotnick, Roland Kirk, Morphogenesis, and no end of weird, bludgeoning, outside, and noiseur artists to go all goo-goo when The Cars rear their collective commercial head, but, goddammit, that's great music!!! Few groups in the history of rock have produced such seamlessly crafted work of such appreciable magnitude, but Ric Ocasek and crew worked their asses off in every conceivable way to achieve the apogee, and the multitude of virtues that went into the end result are worthy not only of comment but of study. Face it, every single cut the Cars ever wrote is a gem, and the fact cannot be erased. Thus, it's waaaaay past time they were tributized, and Kris Delmhorst has crafted a beautiful, subtle, happily laconic homage that stands on its own despite the fact that all the materials started in hands and heads other than her own.
Ocasek 'n da boyz were incurably romantic Romantics, but the deepest longitude of their power lay in the darker side of many pop masterpieces, cuts like the twin-barreled Shoo-Be-Doo and Candy-O (on the Candy-O LP and later re-echoed in Ocasek's juggernaut They're Coming for You off This Side of Paradise). That cynical and fairly morbid figuration seasoned everything they did, and though Delmhorst sides with stunning reveries on the band's innumerable charters, trotting over the soft white underbelly of a purposely high schooly but almost Blake-ian cognizance of the joys and perils of relationships to land on a perky, happy, upbeat set of finger-snappers, she nonetheless nailed the bete noir in her superb take on Why Can't I Have You?, a slow Stygian threnody tugging at heartstrings in its sugared mephitic undercurrents. Then, of course, there's Drive, the song that, to my mind, inspired Ben Orr to pen the killer Stay the Night.
The sessioneers here are numerous—15 musos in all, band included (if there's a steady ensemble, it's kinda hard to tell)—and embed her pleasantly melodic, mellifluous, college-girl-next-door voice (and guitar) (and Wurlitzer!) (and cello!!) in a distinctly American air somewhere north of Nebraska but south of New York: mandos, lap steels, harmonicas, and, holy cow!, Greg Hawkes (the Cars' keyboardist) on ukelele. Tres cool, mon chere, tres cool! Lush backing vocals abound, male and female, even jazzy middle eights (Shake It Up), fills, and various whatnots. Without question, Cars is one of the absolutely coolest tribute CDs I've ever heard…and I have at least 100, probably twice that, of the marvelous things. I love 'em, no matter how fidelitous or exotic they are (c'mon, how many of you guys knew there were tribs of Capt. Beyond and Klaatu, huh?). Just like the wellspring of her inspiration, though, no track of this mouthwatering disc is less than a lustrous jewel, and you need to hear each and every one. It's my—and don't tell anyone this, lest my Tuff Guy Terror Of The Crit Ecosphere rep be tarnished—latest go-to-sleep disc, 'cause I drift off to dreamland with a big big smile while blissing out the moment You Might Think, the first cut, kicks in.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2011, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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