Vera 1975 / Daystorm Music 2013
What’s not made Milwaukee famous rises into the retro-futuristic spotlight. Quite a ride it is!
Now a respected producer whose credits include Sam Llanas and UTOPIA’s Roger Powell, back in the ’70s Gary Tanin was a songwriter in the full bloom. A recording artist since 1969, when he was only 16, neither his debut single nor 1972’s piano-led LP “Love Changes All” troubled charts, so its follow-up, laid down a year later with a full band, should have been Tanin’s tour de force. It was – and still is, although, with 1,000 copies sold in the first month after its release and a good radio play, the album didn’t fare well commercially. And that is today’s gain as its 40th anniversary reissue sees a CD up the sleeve of a vinyl disc dusted off from 1975’s second pressing stock.
But the reason the record feels glorious even today is its mix of various genres and styles that, together its title, hints at a concept close to the “Sgt. Pepper’s” one, and a rather humorous one to boot. It might hark back to the big band era in pieces like “Then We Were Happy” that namechecks Glenn Miller or the glam foxtrot of “Motorhead” that could have given Ray Davies a run for his nostalgic money, yet what could have passed for pastiche in lesser hands, gets saved by the sincerity Tanin infuses it all with. The same goes for the warm orchestral sweep of “I Love You So Much” – maudlin but moving in a dramatic way as does the steel guitar in “Can You Believe Me.”
Running against the lyrical grain of the “Twenty Flight Rock” prototype, he balances the piano boogie of “Help Me” and the handclaps-abetted “Elevator Operator” with a lift-connected pun on the rock ‘n’ roll word-bundle original meaning in the Philly soundalike grease which is spread all over the funky brassy sleaze of “Boss Rat” and erotic “Up Down Lovin'” whose opulent strings give way to a sexy Hammond solo. Had someone like Barry White sung those, their writer would have up there at the top of the pops. Four decades on, Gary Tanin’s songs still possess a magic pull, and it’s quite a time to take a ride up the hit parade.