|Doug Powell is very influenced
by artists such as; Todd Rundgren, Andy Partridge (of XTC), Elvis Costello,
ELO, and of course the Beatles. His albums burst with catchy melodies
and intelligent lyrics that challenge the listener on many levels, often
bringing to mind albums such as Rundgren's "A Wizard A True Star" or The
Beatles' "Sgt. Pepper." Unfortunately, Powell has had little success with
record companies, much like the woes faced by
Utopia and Badfinger, that kept a lot of incredible music from becoming
as popular as it should have. For now, we're fortunate to have four wonderful
albums to savor.
In addition to his solo work, Doug is also a member of the band SWAG - with Powell on lead guitar and vocals, Tom Petersson (Cheap Trick) on bass, Ken Coomer (Wilco) on drums, the Mavericks' Robert Reynolds (rhythm guitar/vocals), Jerry McFadden (keyboards/vocals), and Scotty Huff on guitar and horns.
And you have certainly seen his graphic work, although you may not have been aware of it at the time. Doug has done a lot of work for www.tr-i.com, and www.patronet.com, along with all of the work at www.ferenzik.com and www.dougpowell.com. Additionally, he did the cover artwork for his solo albums, as well as "Lynne Me Your Ears - A Tribute To The Music Of Jeff Lynne," for which he was also the executive producer.
There are 13 songs on this release - 6 of these were songs written for The (New) Cars, who were looking at having Powell join the band before they settled on Todd Rundgren. It`s amazing how Doug captured "the sound." The scary thing? Doug tossed this babies off as a creative exercise. The next four songs are from his Japanese only EP, Venus DeMilo`s Arms, which only had 500 printed up. Classic Powell. It was a project of songs from 1996 that he was shopping around for labels after being dropped by Mercury the year before.
Two other songs were recorded in 2004 towards a new
record that was never finished. The last song, Song #13, was written
for Ringo Starr`s 1999 Christmas CD (quite good, btw!) but went unused
by Ringo. What was he thinking?!!
|Day For Night|
|The Lost Chord|
Doug Powell is a protégé of Todd Rundgren,
and his fourth solo album, 2002's The Lost Chord, sounds like his
version of over-the-top '70s epics like A Wizard, a True Star. Much
more ornate than his earlier records, The Lost Chord is so top-heavy
with tape effects, excessive instrumentation, and overdubbed vocals
that the whole thing threatens to topple at any second. That it doesn't
is testament to Powell's gift for meaty melodies and quirky lyrics;
only a chorus as memorable as that of the pounding "Queen of Hurts"
could withstand the onslaught of over-driven guitar amps, Gary Glitter
drums, and extraneous noises Powell throws at it. Then there's the
title track, a sensitive piano ballad with noise-guitar backing that
sounds like Eric Carmen dueting with Sonic Youth's Lee Ranaldo. The
whole thing is more than a little odd - especially on the two-part
"Nietzsche Is Dead," a play on the old philosophy school joke that
sounds like one of Ian Whitcomb's music hall ditties - but The Lost
Chord has considerably more charm and personality than any of Powell's
more pedestrian earlier efforts. Four albums in, Doug Powell has finally
found his niche.
|Venus DeMilo's Arms|
This has the usual Powell virtues - sparkling production,
Powell's beautiful powerpop perfect voice, and songs that build a
bridge between The Beatles and Jellyfish.
For his third outing, Doug Powell follows much the
same formula as with his first two albums: straight-ahead rock songs
with a definite, pronounced pop leaning. Powell's influences are plastered
all over this, from Jellyfish-like vocal harmonies to Todd Rundgren's
brand of smooth pop and Cheap Trick-style guitar crunch. But thankfully,
Powell does manage to mold the record into more than just a sum of
its parts. The album's best songs- the uppity rock of "Dinah Might,"
the soulful pop of "The Scent of a Rose," and the hard rock of "Empty
V," amongst a few others - are extremely well-crafted modern pop.
While not exceedingly commercial or adventurous, the devotees of verse-chorus-verse
song structures and gooey background vocals will agree that not only
is More catchy and memorable, but it manages to steer clear of potholes
of derivation. With that being said, there are a few flaws that keep
More from being a classic. The production is appropriately crisp but
strangely tinny, and on the requisite mainstream music rant "Empty
V," Powell appropriately gives the musical finger to MTV and their
ilk. But the problem is that the listener is torn between believing
whether it's appropriate commentary or a cranky old man who is upset
that he never got his commercial due. Maybe it's a little of both,
but that assessment is probably a bit too harsh given the songwriting
expertise displayed by Powell here and with his band, SWAG. And something
does seem wrong if a song as infectious as "Rise" isn't all over mainstream
rock radio. The true assessment, then, is that More is very much music
by a pop fan who hates MTV, for pop fans who hate MTV. It can't be
fairer than that.
Power pop is fundamentally music written for the
radio that nowadays plays nowhere near the radio. The talented Doug Powell
handles multiple instruments and technical aspects, but more importantly
writes simple pop songs. For Curiouser, Powell recorded "flaws and warts"
onto an eight track and released the raw product in an attempt to emulate
the freshness and excitement of spontaneity and creation. Surprisingly, Curiouser
is not raucous or noisy, but a solid pop record. The sound is fine and
the songs are well-structured enough to avoid that demo rip-off feeling.
If the liner notes didn't indicate the rudiments of this experiment, none
would be the wiser. Of course the project reeks of evil-genius Todd Rundgren,
but the tunes are unmistakably Powell's. "Just Like Montgomery Clift" shares
a strange celebrity fascination with the Clash. Powell's former Nashville
neighbor, Cheap Trick's Tom Petersson, helps out on "When She Awoke" (later
laid down with the rest of Swag). The great piece "Torn" also graces the
excellent Nashpop collection. "Cross My Heart" exudes pure obsessive romanticism:
paralyzing and fascinating. Sometimes Powell's forlorn feeling recalls Freedy
Johnston, but with better vocals. Curiouser actually gets better as it rolls.
Don't see Doug Powell shooting up the charts, and of course he deserves
much more credit than he'll ever get, but, in a perfect world, he rides
the top of the pops.
|Notes: A limited amount of "Curiouser" CDs have been signed by Doug Powell exclusively for TR BAZAAR.COM. Get yours while they last!|
|$8 (signed CD)|
|Ballad Of The Tin Men|
From the opening guitar riff of Return to Sender
(not the Elvis song), it's evident that Ballad of the Tin Men, the
debut from Oklahoman Doug Powell, is the work of a promising young
tunesmith. Powell is a fetching melodist who, like his mentor Jules
Shear, fills his tunes with smart lyrics which are always quite musical.
He's at his best when dishing out pure pop/rock, as on "My Sweet Revolver,"
"Unmutual" and the record's best cut, "Return to Sender." On the other
hand, a good portion of Tin Men suffers from cumbersome production
which occassionally betrays some of the better songs and does absolutely
nothing to redeem the lesser material. Even though he doesn't consistently
connect, Powell with his sense of history (he tips his hat musically
and lyrically to the likes of Elvis, Badfinger and the Kinks), intelligence
and knack for melody and hooks is worth watching.