Monday, September 18, 2006

The Return of The Tickets!

On Friday night, Sept. 15th, I should have been asleep. After all, I had got up at 5 a.m. (East Coast time) to catch a flight to return to Orange County from Washington, D.C. But here I was at Fitzgerald's Pub in Huntington Beach. A lack of sleep was fine, thanks to great sets from Walter Clevenger & the Dairy Kings (who opened the show with a 45-minute set), and then two-length sets from The Tickets.

It was great to see The Tickets. I hadn't seen them perform since the 1980s when I caught them at a Battle of the Bands show at Mile Square Park in Fountain Valley. The good news, the band rocked. And although it was a one-night only show (the band was celebrating the release of a CD collection issued by Brewery Records), it was magic. The band played a number of their best original songs during the opening set, and then returned to play reworked covers of songs from bands such as Led Zep and the Knack later in the night.

Here is a copy of my preview that ran in the Orange County Register on Sept. 15. Get this CD folks!

Orange Pop: Tickets finally make a CD
Special to the Register

One of the most eagerly anticipated power-pop releases of the year is actually a long-lost treasure recorded more than 17 years ago.
"The Tickets Make a Record," a 1990 cassette-only release by Orange County's the Tickets, has been scrupulously remastered by Walter Clevenger and is finally seeing the light of day in 2006. It includes a number of bonus tracks. Moreover, the longest-running lineup of the original band has reunited to perform at a CD release party tonight at Fitzgerald's in Huntington Beach.
Copies of the 14-song "The Tickets" CD will be available at the show. The Tickets featured singer-lead guitarist Bryan Shaddix, singer-rhythm guitarist Brian Martin (who replaced Donald Mabbott in 1988), drummer Marcos De La Cruz (currently a member of the popular Tijuana Dogs) and bassist Andy Winston, and were likely Orange County's most popular and talented unsigned outfit during most of the group's 1985-95 run.
"Walter gave me a call one day (in 2005) and got me interested in making a record," said Shaddix, who moved from his native Washington to Orange County in the mid-1980s to play music, but then moved to Modesto "to relax a little" in 2000.
Shaddix is thrilled with Clevenger's remix and remastering of the album. In addition to cleaning up the overall sound of the original tracks, he removed some of the dated-sounding echo and reverb that were commonly used throughout the 1980s. Clevenger also brought up the lead guitar solo in "Heartland," enhancing one of the standout songs on the disc.
"I think Walter got it. We didn't go overboard," Shaddix said. "It's definitely 'now,' but still has the Tickets feel to it."
The release of "The Tickets" on Brewery Records and the one-time reunion show by the band tonight isn't the end of renewed interest in the group. An alternative version of the song "Dream About Me" (slightly different than the cut included on "The Tickets") will also be featured on a companion CD that is being included with copies of John Borack's "Shake Some Action: The History of Power Pop," a forthcoming published guide to the 200 most essential power-pop CDs being sold by the nation's leading pop-rock label, Not Lame Recordings.
This year may long be recognized as the year that provided the world long-thought-lost recordings. Just last month, the release of YMC Records' "Waylon Sings Hank Williams" showcased a dozen Hank Williams songs recorded by Waylon Jennings in 1985. And Amoeba Records announced earlier this year that the label is preparing an album of unreleased material by the late alt-country pioneer Gram Parsons (who died in 1973) for release. Power-pop fans around the globe that have worn-out copies of the Tickets' vinyl and cassette releases will be amazed by Clevenger's remixing and mastering efforts across the disc.
"Eric (Garten) was surprised anyone contacted him after so many years; the original sessions were in 1989," Clevenger said. "He said Brian (Shaddix) was one of the most talented guys he ever worked with. And he was excited about this getting out on CD."
Garten, who co-produced "The Tickets Make a Record" with Shaddix at his For the Record studio in Anaheim, wasn't sure if he still had the master 24-track tapes. Frequently when artists don't purchase the tapes, they are wiped clean and reused. After a week-long search, Garten phoned Clevenger with the good news that he still had the master tapes with all of the original recordings.
"Eric called and said 'It sounds like it was recorded yesterday,' " Clevenger recalled.
Indeed, "The Tickets" sounds like something from the digital age, with Beatles-styled harmonies layered atop ringing guitars and in-the-pocket rhythms that equal the strong songs themselves.
"We went into it with the sense as if you are in the studio when we were recording the album," Shaddix said.
For Clevenger, imagining that he had traveled back in time to 1989 to participate in the original recording sessions couldn't have been easier.
"I've listened to this album so many times, I had it committed to memory," Clevenger said. "I made it sound as good as I could."
The Tickets' CD release party is at 9 tonight at Fitzgerald's, 19171 Magnolia St., Huntington Beach. Walter Clevenger & the Dairy Kings will open the show. Admission is $5.

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