Once again your rockin’ writer felt the need to resurrect his “Listen Again” series. For those of you just joining us, the “Listen Again” series is a series in which we revisit albums that for one reason or another didn’t receive the attention or acclaim they deserved when they were originally released. Whether it was the recording was ahead of its time, broke away from the artist’s usual style, was poorly publicized or initially misunderstood, the “Listen Again” series urges music fans to listen again. This time we revisit John Tabacco’s Rubber Solstice (Late Octobra Vol. 2).
For those of you who have not yet read the previous pieces on the artist, John Tabacco is a multi-talented New York-based performer with an experimental L.A. attitude. He’s a composer, a recording engineer, a graphic artist, a multi instrumentalist, a producer and a singer. He’s also CEO of It Iz What It Iz Music Publishing and specializes in the genres of alternative, experimental and pop music.
Although songstress Susan Devita notes: “Actually late Octobra is November 4”, this seemed like a close enough time to rediscover John Tabacco’s Rubber Solstice (Late Octobra Vol. 2)? Originally meant to be the second disc in a double CD diary of sorts, this recording was meant to be paired with his CD It Wuz And Still Iz Late Octobra. Unfortunately, when Tabacco went to market his music he learned that “at the time it was too complicated to release it that way due to digital retailer restrictions.”
The 20-track 2007 release opens on “Song Regarding Mr. Dammit”. Vaguely reminiscent of something that could have worked on The Residents’ 1980 Commercial Album, this abrupt intro could almost be considered comically sacrilegious by some had it been any more specific. The second selection is “My Aggravated Gunzel” which focuses on an imperfect relationship and yet one important enough for Tabacco to include in his college radio compositions.
“Critic’s Choice” here goes to an honest homage to one of his favorites—the fab four. He covers the George Harrison-written Beatles’ song “Don’t Bother Me” and manages to make it new but familiar and not foreign. If one to pin down a single, however, that might possibly be “Why You Have To Be So Cruel?” Much like a few of Harrison’s songs this is a workable marriage of a serious subject and comparatively upbeat music.
“Spoon Fed Criminal” was co-written with Anthony Pomes who also plays guitar and bass here. This is perhaps a word of warning of sorts has actually has some commercial potential to it. Not sure what a “harpoon holiday high” is but your rather rascally writer has a permanent proclivity for a lot of alliteration so it’s not a major issue. The song is highlighted by the addition of Val Vigoda (electric violin) and Jim Kober (drums).
“W.T.F.W.Y?” is a jazz-tinged tune. While it demonstrates Tabacco would at times rather laugh than cry, it does make one wonder how many flawed relationships he has been in and how much of his music catalog is in some way cathartic and therapeutic. (Ah, but true artists suffer for their art, right?)
“When a Problem . . .” This is a nice foil to some of the more problem-focused pieces. Here Tabacco discovers a silver lining in the cloud that is all too often present in his life and further demonstrates an affinity to Frank Zappa. “Doin’ Up the Best That I Can Do” is yet another “glass half-full” piece that perhaps proves the artist is sometimes down but never out as long as he has his true mistress—music. Additionally, how many songwriters can use “adversity”, “status quo” and “bug-eyed beans from Venus” and even a pinch of the O’Jays’ “Love Train” in the same tune and somehow make it work?
“Residual Echoes Residing In Bogle Cabinet 47 (part A)” is in part inspired by material by Marci Geller and includes some interesting story-telling. The next number is “I’ve Got Creatures In My Yard”. Don’t we all, man; don’t we all?
“Frank’s Medication”, a newer number Tabacco says was “finished after my Dad’s death in Nov. of 2006” still somehow works with the other, older tracks completed years earlier. He states: “Most of the music was finished at Sonic Underground Studios just before I left for Maui in the summer of 2004. I later embellished the disc with some newer material that seemed to keep the reminiscent concept that prevails afloat.”
Like Zappa Tabacco also has his almost mean moments as witnessed by this minute moment titled “World’s Strongest Men”. “Waiting For Pierro (Natalie That Is)” in an aural pallet cleanser in the form of what he calls a “faux horn instrumental” for the architect (?)
It’s followed by yet another tribute track—“You Go Where I Go”. It’s his cover of a Steely Dan tune from 1973. Tabacco adds his material to make it more his own. “Palm Springs Song” is a 2006 composition by Steve Bergman and is a perfect light traveling tune.
“Time And Time Again” slows things down briefly only to break out into another groove. This, too, is one of the newer songs. Tabacco adds the song has a sense of hopeful wonderment” and was originally “written with my girlfriend in mind”. He says the newer material brings “a new perspective to what has gone before.”
Somehow “The King Of Preachers” and “Bottom Line Waltz For Carol Landis” both sound familiar. Perhaps they appear on another disc or perhaps your all too often imbibing author should only enjoy adult beverages after articles are complete. Complete with religious references and organ music, they provide a fitting transition as the draws to an end.
“Residual Echoes Residing In Bogle Cabinet 47 part B” according to Tabacco is “the soundtrack to a movie I had in envisioned called ‘Residual Echoes Residing In Bogle Cabinet 47’. (It) ultimately sounds like the musical part of my brain hemorrhaging uncontrollably.” The humor and comments also make this piece a bit like his version of one of The Beatles’ Christmas records.
“Old Hand Sign” is the closing cut complete with a punny title. (Listen and you’ll get it.) This parenthetical piece stands as an apt ending to the recording. As an indie artist Tabacco is free to be unconcerned with the opinion of others and to share his life experiences freely. His ups, downs, individual idiosyncrasies and other oddness are what make the music despite any insecurity or imagined issues of obscurity. If you’ve never listened to John Tabacco’s Rubber Solstice (Late Octobra Vol. 2), listen to it . . . if you’ve already listened to it . . .listen again.
My name is Phoenix and . . . that’s the bottom line.