Saturday, January 09, 2010

Orange County music highlights: Part 1

Ben Wener at the Orange County Register has put together an ambitious and strong list of the 50 best and most influential releases of the first decade of the 21st century. When Ben approached me about helping provide input for the project a few weeks ago, I started going through my big collection of local releases. Here are some overlooked albums I wanted to highlight for those who want to explore the area scene a bit more.

Artist of the Decade: Michael Ubaldini
Fountain Valley singer-songwriter Michael Ubaldini has released a number of great albums since the mid-1990s, with many of his strongest discs coming in the last half of the last part of the past decade. Since 2005's excellent "Avenue of Ten Cent Hearts," he has been on an incredible roll with the subsequent release of "Storybook," "Street Singin' Troubadour" and 2009's "Portable Record Player." Incredible.

Artist: Dana Parker (singer-songwriter-keyboardist)
Album: "Eclectic" (release was in 2005) - amazing jazz-pop. One of the most original and overlooked artists to emerge in O.C. I wrote a big feature on him after I happened to be at a Border's and caught him performing. I was blown away at the power of an artist playing in a bookstore. Great artist and great songs.

Artist: August Burning
Album: "Zero" (release date 2001). This was the final of three strong albums released by August Burning, a band formed in the mid-1990s by several Chapman University students. Singer-songwriterJohn List and multi-instrumentalist James Wagner wrote and produced some of the most articulate and affecting songs I heard while writing Orange Pop.

Artist: Color Theory
Album: "The Thought Chapter" (2008) - Long-time Huntington Beach singer-songwriter-producer-keyboardist Brian Hazard is Color Theory. Although Hazard's sound draws natural comparisons withDepeche Mode, his artful and intelligent songs fused with skillful studio production are his own. His most recent full-length album is also his strongest.

Artist: Beyond 7
Album: "Smoke" (2006) might have marked the end of the 10-year journey featuring singer-songwriter Greg Stoddard and guitarist-songwriter Brian Stewart dating back to their Warner Bros. Records deal as members of Psychic Rain in the '90s, but the independent release of "Smoke" in 2006 proved the talented team still could deliver a winning mix of strong songs and commanding performances that appealed to fans of power pop, alt rock and classic rock.

Artist: Dusty Rhodes and the River Band
Album: Palace and Stage (2009) - If members of Yes and The Band had formed a band with Gram Parsons, it might sound a bit like Dusty Rhodes and the River Band. The Fullerton outfit's powerful live performances really translated well with the studio recordings that comprise 2009's "Palace and Stage" too. The title track is one of my favorite songs of 2009.

Artist: Wonderlove
Album: "Getting Off the Revolution" (released 2001) - Recalling the sound of early '90s-launched Huntington Beach outfit Altered State, Wonderlove blended tuneful and well-crafted rock with powerful performances. And like Altered State, Wonderlove is missed. And if you don't know the music of Gregory Markel's great Altered State, seek it out via Amazon.com or YouTube.