Spotlight Album Review #16

Reviewed on this page:

Rainy Day was an album released in 1984 on the now-defunct indie label Enigma. It consisted of cover songs performed by various musicians from California's so-called "Paisley Underground" scene. This loose collective was assembled by David Roback, who was then a member of Rain Parade and later of Opal and Mazzy Star. Other participants included Roback's Rain Parade mates (brother Stephen Roback, Matthew Piucci, Will Glenn) and members of the then-little-known Bangles (Susanna Hoffs and Vicki Peterson), the Dream Syndicate (Kendra Smith, Dennis Duck, Karl Precoda), and the Three O'Clock (Michael Quercio).

The songs that were chosen indicated the influences that were generally shared by bands from that scene; not only is a Velvet Underground song covered, but also one by Big Star, and two by the Buffalo Springfield which both happen to be Neil Young compositions. Some other selections are old folk songs which are best remembered as Byrds and Beach Boys recordings. Hendrix and the Who also made the list.

Rainy Day has not been commercially available for many years; it seems like every indie label that has distributed the album has gone out of business. But there is always hope that it may resurface.

Rainy Day opens with an easily likable version of Dylan's "I'll Keep It With Mine", sung by Hoffs. Hoffs brings a similar accessibility to the Velvet Underground's "I'll Be Your Mirror"; the sweetness of her vocals provides a nice contrast to Nico's vocals on the original recordings of both songs. Kendra Smith also does well with her two vocal turns: she lends just the right amount of emotion to the Buffalo Springfield's lovely "Flying on the Ground is Wrong", and her nearly emotionless reading of Big Star's "Holocaust" is appropriately chilling. The respectable cover of the folk classic "John Riley" is clearly based on the Byrds' version; the vocals (by Michael Quercio) and the guitar both echo Roger McGuinn. If you've ever wondered (as I have) what the Buffalo Springfield's "On the Way Home" would have sounded like as a Neil Young solo track, Roback's solo acoustic-strummed rendition is probably a close approximation. Although there are no guitar heroes in this bunch, it is nonetheless cool to hear these musicians apply their own quirky styles to the Who’s “Soon Be Home” and to an eleven-minute rendition of Jimi Hendrix’s jazz fusion jam “Rainy Day, Dream Away”.

It should be noted that less care was taken with the recording of the vocals on this album than with the instrumentation. Roback did not hold himself to high standards in this department, and "Sloop John B." suffers from a particularly underwhelming turn by Quercio. Even this type of casual indie project can be unnecessarily marred by such a flaw. Regardless, Rainy Day succeeds where countless other covers albums have failed. Its participants show genuine love for the material and manage to present it in their own distinctive way. It's a unique collaboration by like-minded musicians from a specific time and place. And it’s a fine record to listen to on a rainy day.

This album is a good companion piece to Under the Covers, Vol. 1, a 2006 collaboration between Hoffs and Matthew Sweet. That CD contained covers of '60's songs by some of the same artists covered on Rainy Day.

Track Listing:

1. I'll Keep It With Mine
Written by Bob Dylan; originally recorded by Nico.
Personnel: Susanna Hoffs - lead vocal; David Roback - guitar, tambourine; Will Glenn - violin; Michael Quercio - bass guitar.

2. John Riley
Written by Phil Belmonte, Bob Gibson, Ricky Neff; previously recorded by the Byrds, Joan Baez, Pete Seeger, Judy Collins, and others.
Personnel: Michael Quercio - lead vocal, bass guitar; Matthew Piucci - acoustic 12-string; David Roback - electric 12-string, background vocals; Will Glenn - violin, background vocals; Dennis Duck - drums.

3. Flying on the Ground is Wrong
Written by Neil Young; originally recorded by Buffalo Springfield.
Personnel: Kendra Smith - lead and background vocals; David Roback - guitar; Susanna Hoffs - background vocals.

4. Sloop John B.
Traditional; best known as a Beach Boys hit.
Personnel: Michael Quercio - lead vocal, bass guitar, percussion; Ethan James - keyboards; Dennis Duck - drums; David Roback - guitar, congas.

5. Soon Be Home
Written by Pete Townshend; originally recorded by the Who, as Part V of "A Quick One While He's Away".
Personnel: David Roback - lead vocal, guitars; Michael Quercio - bass guitar, drums; Vicki Peterson - background vocals; Susanna Hoffs - background vocals; Spock - tambourine.

6. Holocaust
Written by Alex Chilton; originally recorded by Big Star.
Personnel: Kendra Smith - lead vocal; Steven Roback - piano; Will Glenn - cello; David Roback - guitar; Ethan James - backwards piano.

7. On the Way Home
Written by Neil Young; originally recorded by Buffalo Springfield.
Personnel: David Roback - vocals, guitar.

8. I'll Be Your Mirror
Written by Lou Reed; originally recorded by the Velvet Underground and Nico.
Personnel: Susanna Hoffs - lead vocal, guitar; David Roback - lead guitar, bass guitar, tambourine; Sue and Kendra - background vocals.

9. Rainy Day, Dream Away
Written by Jimi Hendrix; originally recorded by the Jimi Hendrix Experience.
Personnel: Michael Quercio - lead vocal; Ethan James - bass guitar, keyboard; Dennis Duck - drums; Karl Precoda - guitar; David Roback - congas.


Other Spotlight Album Reviews:

#1: Sigur Ros - "Von" (1997)

#2: Various Artists - "Concerts For The People Of Kampuchea" (1981)

#3: Gerry Goffin - "It Ain't Exactly Entertainment" (1973)

#4: Graces - "Perfect View" (1989)

#5: Genesis - "Calling All Stations" (1997)

#6: hindu love gods (1990)

#7: Various Artists - "Message To Love: The Isle Of Wight Festival 1970" (1996)

#8: Distractions - "Nobody's Perfect" (1980)

#9: Deconstruction (1994)

#10: Juicy Groove - "First Taste" (1978)

#11: Emmylou Harris - "Gliding Bird" (1969)

#12: Various Artists - "Beyond The Wildwood: A Tribute To Syd Barrett" (1987)

#13: Candy - "Whatever Happened To Fun..." (1985)

#14: RTZ - "Return To Zero" (1991)

#15: Klark Kent - "Kollected Works" (1995)

#17: Alex Chilton - "1970" (1996)

#18: Feist - "Monarch Lay Your Jewelled Head Down" (1999)

#19: Attila (1970)

#20: Slipknot - "Mate. Feed. Kill. Repeat." (1996)

#21: Eyes Adrift (2002)

#22: Stoney and Meatloaf (1971)

#23: Elliott Murphy - "Aquashow" (1973)

#24: Evanescence - "Origin" (2000)