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Friday, July 17, 2009

Donnie Iris - Back On The Streets~, King Cool*

Name: Donnie Iris (and the Cruisers*)
Albums: Back On The Streets~, King Cool*
Years: 1980~, 1981*
Style: Power Pop
Similar Bands: Cars, ELO, REO Speedwagon, The Knack, Jackson Browne, Supertramp, Genesis, Art In America, Hall & Oates
"One-Word" Review: Pop-New-Metal-Mish-mosh
Based Out Of: Ellwood City, PA
Label: Carousel Records, MCA
Back On The Streets - Cover, Record
Back On The Streets - Back, Record
King Cool - Cover, Record
King Cool - Back, Record
King Cool - Lyric Sheet Insert
Back On The Streets (1980)
  1. Ah! Leah! 3:41
  2. I Can't Hear You 3:37
  3. Joking 3:10
  4. Shock Treatment 3:44
  5. Back on the Streets 3:32 /
  6. Agnes 3:26
  7. You're Only Dreaming 4:41
  8. She's So Wild 2:33
  9. Daddy Don't Live Here Anymore 3:45
  10. Too Young To Love 5:28
King Cool (1981)
  1. Sweet Merilee 3:37
  2. The Promise 4:06
  3. Pretender 5:15
  4. Love is Like A Rock 3:35
  5. That's The Way Love Ought to Be 4:19 /
  6. My Girl 3:59
  7. Broken Promises 4:21
  8. King Cool 4:05
  9. Color Me Blue 5:19
  10. The Last To Know 5:19
Album Rating (1-10): ~6.0,
* 5.0
Members & Other Bands:
Donnie Iris - Most Vox~* (The Jaggerz, Wild Cherry, Donnie & the Donnells, Cellarful of Noise)
Mark Avsec - Producer, Piano, Organ, Synth, Some Vox, the Dr.~* (Wild Cherry, Breathless, Cellarful of Noise)
Marty Lee Hoenes - Acoustic & Electric Guitars~* BackingVox*
Albritton McClain - Bass~* Backing Vox* (The Innocent)
Kevin Valentine - Drums~ (Breathless, The Innocent)
Carl Maduri - Exec Producer~* Asst. Engineer*
Kenny Blake - Sax~
Robert Peckman - Bass~
Jerry Reed - Recording Engineer~*
Don Garvin - Asst. Engineer~*
Robert E Rath Jr - Art Direction & Design~
Robert Holcepl - Photography~
Bob Janusz - Art~
Michael Barbiero - Mixing*
Jack Skinner - Mastering*
George Osaki - Art Direction*
Georgopoulos/Imada - Design*
Georgina Karvellas - Cover Photograph
Marcia Resnick - Back Photograph

Unknown-ness: I’ve never heard of Donnie Iris. But when I saw these two records come up in a row at a thrift store in Austin, I had to pick them up. Donnie himself has an image like Elvis Costello crossed with Marshall Crenshaw. I liked both album covers, the silly, stripping down from a yellow tux on “Streets” and the new wave potential of “King Cool.” The years were good too, 1980-81. Looking back in hind site, it is weird, being from Pennsylvania (as is Iris), having to go all the way to Texas to find these records.

Album Review:
~“Ah! Leah!” begins with a heavy metal electric guitar and heavy bass drums. The chorus is a harmonic choir. It sounds like any number of late 70’s rock albums, with synth and new wave combining with Middle America hard rock / power pop. It is somewhat catchy, but nothing to unique.
“I Can't Hear You” has a sort of deeper, Elvis Presley/ Roy Orbison type voice, thick and rich. The chorus is the same choir harmony as the first song. The music is skipping guitar and a whiny synth is added over the mini-instrumental break. The song is repetitive in its nature, thus, it feels like it drags on.
“Joking” begins right off the bat with a more energetic, jittery start with the bass and faster drumming, and a tone down on the electric guitar. The vocals are jitterier and nasally, this is the type of song I like. The backing vocals add the title of the song to the chorus, in a dual layered hook. It has a great build to a catchy footloose “dance when your angry” tempo chorus. The guitar solos fall within the building framework of the song, and add quite a lot to the over all production. It is a non stomp movement.
“Shock Treatment” begins with synth over top of laughing, feeling like being drunk at a carnival or on an amusement park carousel. It abruptly stops and the smooth power pop song begins. The vocals are stolen right from the Cars, and even a little Sparks…the nervous, unsure vocals. The vocals explode with energy and lose the nervousness with the bridge into the chorus. A sax is used late in the song, and all the melodies come together, overlapping as if to prove that they were all compatible, and consisted of the same melody.
“Back on the Streets” is the album’s title track, and ends side one, with music that is similar to the opening track, but the lyrics are sung like a Billy Joel song. Aggressive, but rolling along effortlessly. There still remains some of that Middle America urgency with the tone in his voice and the use of the electric guitar, synth keys and driving drums. As the song cloes down, the synth picks up the reigns and the tone becomes a cold calculated synth head rush.

“Agnes” drums and a “My Sharona” bass/synth beat begin the song underneath spoken dialogue. The singing begins and they sound like they have found some middle ground between the aggressive shouting and the nasally youthful new wave with this song. The harmonic choir of backing vocals brings some smooth texture to the rocking production, and adds a little Supertramp to the Cheap Trick.
“You're Only Dreaming” starts a little darker, but emerges with the Orbison/Presley like vocals again, laid over a bouncing synth keyboard, and it forms a song that should have been included in Fast Times at Ridgemont High, as it sounds exactly like Jackson Browne’s “Somebody’s Baby.” After the whole verse/chorus runs through one stanza, it recycles it self perfectly to a fresh start at the beginning.
“She's So Wild” is a name that just admits loud heavy guitars into its production. So that’s just what starts the song off with a heavy drum beat too. But once it reaches the chorus it goes glam, with the addition of the Queen/Supertramp like backing vocals. The lead guitar comes back to try and take over, but they are abandoned for the glam chorus a few times more.
“Daddy Don't Live Here Anymore” is a slow sad ballad. This feels like the slower of the A’s songs. The mood picks up as it approaches the chorus, which has quite a catchy vocal melody. The verse of the song is just built around the chorus, to build up to the bridge and fall into the chorus delivery. A neat synth sound, dare I call it Egyptian, covers the instrumental break before the bridge returns, again, delivering the chorus back again. It is a well constructed song, neatly organized, maximizing the hook’s effectiveness with its usage.
“Too Young To Love” gives off the sense of a monster ballad as it begins…I can see the Scorpions style “Wind Of Change” breeze blowing through the music video’s set, and an arena of lighters sparked, toasting the singer’s pain. The song is a mixture of singing and speaking, and both have a gruff, throaty sound; sometimes even a controlled yell. The second half of the song invites a sax to add to the questionable bluesy sadness of the song.

*“Sweet Merilee” begins Iris’s second album as a light power pop number. The harmonizing backing vocals blaze onto the song and bring with them a completely prog vibe akin to Genesis of about the same era. The bombastic and energetic vocals overpower the music, which is forced to bring itself up a level to an ethereal gospel sound.
“The Promise” with all its synth keys (which remind me of Goonies) and slower, slightly disjointed rhythm screams power pop new wave. This is a pop ballad mystical and steady. The mid song instrumental breakdown is good, though. It removes all the smoke and mirrors and it brings to light the intended melody. This reminds me a little of one of the earlier albums I reviewed: Art In America.
“Pretender” fllows the lay out of the first album, where this, the third song is very jittery new wave. The vocals are a not as jittery, but the music more than makes up for it. The vocals are fast and steady. But even a minute into the song, the jittery new wave sound is lost and traded in for a bland pseudo new wave sound. The production tries to bring the synth back, but it is already too late. It now feels like a Hall & Oates song (a band I read that Iris toured with).
“Love is Like A Rock” begins with synth electric guitars, something I know I’ve heard on Danny Elfman’s solo album. The vocal style is like a white boy version of James Brown. And the chorus is a chanting, shouting choir, mixed with a brief harmonic choir just underneath. But the driving momentum of this song comes off as disgusting. It is like a terrible remix of we will rock you, stripped of all its musical credentials, leaving all the stomping, basketball game chanting over top of the electric guitar sound. And it too is stupidly repetitive.
“That's The Way Love Ought to Be” dabbles in an off key sung verse, still a different aspect of Iris’s voice I have not yet heard. But it is layered over more stale, dated synth (which might have seemed fresh at the time). The melody is not that catchy, the only high point is the upturned note that is sung in the bridge. Again, this feels like more “Somebody’s Baby” synth. The yelling and repetitive ness at the end gets quite out of hand, and eventually fades out.

“My Girl” Begins side two with a side to side Billy Joel style groove. It is part oldie and part power pop. The structure is a little more complicated than the rest of the album. There are many different musical sections that build with overlapping vocal sections which leads us to the climactic chorus of the title of the track, which is the only section that releases the building pressure with a downturning melody.
“Broken Promises” blasts off with a power pop bouncy beat and smooth layered vocals. Lots of mini melodies bounce off each other as they get their chance to take the spotlight. The entire gathering of the melodies is so catchy, that there is no room to pick one out and follow it. Together it is tough to put a finger on and figure out where the song is going. Eventually after a percussive instrumental break, it fades out.
“King Cool” features the stylized pop wave keyboard sound of the 80’s and more Hall & Oates song style. The song has the razor blade slickness that borders on prog. It builds and builds with electric guitar at the end, and the entire thing just fades out in the end.
“Color Me Blue” is a slowish side to side swaying waltz. This could have been played at an oldies dance, and features a dip back into the Presley vocal style, particularly in the uttering of the song title in the chorus. The backing vocals and swaggering music repeat over and over ad-nauseum for way way to long. The end does not come soon enough as the soaring keyboards take you back to the middle school dances you hated. And then suddenly it stops.
“The Last To Know” picks up exactly where “Color Me Blue” ended…another ballady slow dance song, like something that could be over the end credits of a cheesy 80’s rom com that ended all right at prom night.

Stand Out Tracks:
~Joking

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