Thursday, May 16, 2013

CD Review: Nicholas Tremulis Orchestra - For The Baby Doll

Chicago-based musician Nicholas Tremulis has covered a lot of ground since releasing his soulful self-titled debut in 1985. His multiple recordings include the dark but compelling Bloody Show in 1996, and his more recent work with Bun E. Carlos from Cheap Trick and John Stirratt from Wilco in the alt rock band, Candy Golde. He’s also a knowledgeable radio personality; serving as a host of WXRT’s appropriately named weekly program Eclectic Company. His latest venture, For The Baby Doll, combines roots rock with a bit of cutting edge literature. Recorded with The Nicholas Tremulis Orchestra, it might be his strongest effort yet.
For The Baby Doll comes packaged within a 36-page book with lyrics, a short piece by Tremulis, and a gritty, soul-baring Forward by Michael Thomas. Tremulis reaches back decades to a time when he was trying to land a record deal in L.A., and then reflects on living in one of New York’s low-rent but trendy neighborhoods. He obviously still treasures the times he spent in punk bars and strip clubs, as well as the friends he made in them. Anyone who’s into Tom Waits or the Beat Writers will feel at home reading these pages.

Tremulis employs a hip, talky vocal style for his descriptive lyrics, which gives the music on For The Baby Doll as narrative feel as well. The sparse title track depicts two lovers huddled in a door as snow blows past them , while the hopeful “Walk In The Sun Again” is a promise to a loved one that even in the toughest times, “We can find the light in each other’s eyes.” He has a cynical view of society on the soulful “Everybody Here,” observing, “Everybody here wants to get their kicks without delay/Everybody here wants a big fat fix of power play.” On the dance club song “Push It,” he evokes Dylan while describing guys, “In their wanna-be shirts and their hypocrite pants.”

Tremulis warns a lover to clean up her act on the energetic “You’re Gonna Lose (Everything You Got)” but otherwise For The Baby Doll consistently offers a sentimental but authentic take on the power of love. “Without You With Me,” written by Tremulis with Alejandro Escovedo, is a rough hewn love song with an aching melody reminiscent of George Harrison’s best work, while the old time blues of “Super Human Love” is a joyous celebration of the powerful emotion. “You’re Too Much (But Never Enough)” is just for fun; as Tremulis and his Orchestra cut loose with some freewheeling rock and roll.


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