I find a lot of Dan Hill in Tom Freund. Hill (actually Dan Hill IV) is one of those hit 'n miss composer-musicians with a surprisingly large catalogue, and his sole huge chart-er, Sometimes When We Touch, was flanked later by a couple other numbers not quite so stratospherically fortunate, but his ace in the hole has always been an achieved intimacy with a soap opera minded audience. The lyrics to Hill's magnum opus were what resonated en sympatico with As the World Turns, General Hospital, and other turgid heartburn continuos (are those cheesy melodramas even around any more??? I stopped watching TV in '85, so hell if I know). There's a decent amount of that in Freund as well, but there's also a good deal of Van Dyke Parks and Tom Petty…well, Parks more than Petty, as cuts like Weekend Guy bring out Tom's city parables of street level love and loss quite nicely. Too, Hill, we well know, would never pen a ditty titled Same Old Shit, Different Day, now would he?
Freund's perhaps best known for a collaborative album with Ben Harper, Pleasure and Pain, but he's also worked solo and with Graham Parker, Mandy Moore, Josh Kelley, and others. From the gent's pen, voice, and guitar strings have come EPs, CDs, a live twofer, and a kids' release, among others, but this is, as far as I can tell, his first new documented gig in six years (Collapsible Plans emerged in '08), and it's a grab bag in the radio/chart spectrum of pop music engagingly wrought and well rendered, balanced between the heart-tuggery and amusing kitsch. There is, after all, definitely a place for kitschy musicas when they're this attractive (think back to The Buggles' The Age of Plastic: ultra-kitsch, mega-bitchin', so it ain't like the style is always a slam).
My favorite cut? The just-mentioned laconic Weekend Guy, but there are a number of tracks I also dig: Me and Bernice is way the hell cool, for one, and the slide guitar passages popping up in various cuts are superb. Can't tell if it's Freund or David Immergluck, maybe both, but, boy, do those lines shine. The intermittent semi-orchestral elements go a long way to matrixing atmospherics, though cuts like Mind of Your Own sparkle even without 'em, beefed up by a septet of players (and backing singer). Ben Harper, Serena Ryder, and Brett Dennen guest but blend in seamlessly with the roster of sessioneers, never hogging an inch of spotlight. Freund lives a few miles down the road from me (he in Venice Beach, me in Manhattan Beach) and nails the SoCal ethos in the aforementioned Same Old Shit, Different Day. I know because that's the exact same attitude I have in this bourgeois Beach Cities berg. Hill wouldn't say 'shit' if he had a mouthful, but Freund doesn't hesitate on that nor many other fronts, and this is what separates him from the herd…while riding nicely within it.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2014, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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