Dwight Twilley – Green Blimp

January 01, 1970

 

 

(Big Oak
Records)

 

www.dwighttwilley.com

 

Along with
such hallowed rock ‘n’ roll icons as Alex Chilton, Todd Rundgren, and those
guys in Badfinger, singer/songwriter Dwight Twilley is one of the godfathers of
power pop, influencing a generation of artists that includes Paul Collins,
Peter Case, and Matthew Sweet. Sadly, label mismanagement, poor distribution, and
pure bad luck conspired to keep the Dwight Twilley Band – really, just Twilley
and partner Phil Seymour – from achieving the level of success they deserved
for their whipsmart lyrics and Sun-Records-meets-Liverpool pop-rock sound.

 

Twilley’s
first single, the white-hot “I’m On Fire,” cracked the Top 30 at 16
in 1975, but when it took over a year for his label to release his debut album Sincerely, a true power pop gem, any
commercial momentum was seemingly forever lost. A full length album recorded
during this delay was subsequently shelved and went unreleased. Still, Twilley
and Seymour soldiered on, creating the equally awesome Twilley Don’t Mind album in 1977, but although it rode loud and
proud alongside the likes of Big Star, Badfinger, and the Raspberries, it sold
poorly with the typical label lack of support for a style they just didn’t
understand. Twilley and Seymour went their separate ways after almost a decade
together, and Seymour
tragically died young in 1993 after a brief solo career and a stint with the
Textones. To this day, Twilley honors his late friend by not performing those
early songs originally sung by Seymour.

 

Twilley
has forged a solo career during the ensuing years, critics heaping effusive
praise on his half-dozen studio albums and various odds ‘n’ sods collections
and live sets, while the artist himself has experienced trials and tribulations
that no musician should suffer. Blueprint,
a 1980 album recorded for Arista, was shelved by the label and remains
unreleased, and although Twilley’s 1984 album for EMI, Jungle, yielded a Top 20 hit in the song “Girls” – a collaboration
with friend Tom Petty – within a couple of years Twilley would find himself
without a label deal. The new millennium has been kinder to the artist as the
Internet has helped him build a new fan base, and a slew of archival releases
have cemented Twilley’s genius status as a power pop songwriter and performer.

 

It’s
against this backdrop of struggle that Dwight Twilley releases Green Blimp, his first collection of new
studio material since 2005’s wonderful 47
Moons
. While Twilley may have found more than his share of obstacles during
a career that has now spanned four decades, his skills as a wordsmith and
crafter of power pop magic remain marvelously intact. By way of example, check
out the album-opening track “Get Up” from Green Blimp. An incredibly fluid slow-grinder with a low-slung
groove and slightly echoed vocals, the song injects itself into your
consciousness with the persistence of a tick and the power of a tornado. If
“Get Up” doesn’t make you want to shimmy-n-shake like a hound dog,
then it’s safe to assume that you’ve reached room temperature, bubbie!

 

While the
rest of Green Blimp doesn’t exactly
replicate the deep-seated swagger of “Get Up,” is doesn’t disappoint,
either. The jangly “Speed of Light” features chiming guitarplay,
delicious backing harmonies from Twilley’s buds Susan Cowsill and Rocky Burnette,
and an overall shimmering musical vibe that doesn’t fail to mesmerize. It’s
just a damn enchanting song, but then again, so is “Me and Melanie.”
Sounding like a long-lost mid-1960s Beatles outtake, Twilley’s lofty vocals and
bittersweet lyrics evoke a thoroughly charming romantic soundscape while the
lush instrumentation makes one wonder what may have happened had Twilley first
broken through a decade earlier than ’75, when this sort of intelligent,
crafted pop-rock had a better chance to succeed.

 

The title
track opens with a little nifty guitar-strum and wan instrumentation before
Twilley’s sing-song vocals come bouncing in. The song’s fantasia-colored lyrics
are akin to the Beatles’ “Yellow Submarine,” but the instrumental
accompaniment is full and multi-textured while the guitars work at odd angles
against the whimsy, providing an edge to the lyrical sentiments. “You Were
Always There” is vintage Twilley, just a hauntingly lovely romantic ballad
with a disarming mid-tempo beat and vocals to melt the cold, cold heart of even
the most diehard rock ‘n’ roller. With a fat opening bass line and a jangle
worthy of T. Rex, “It Ends” is a dense glammy construct, with
Twilley’s vocals nearly lost in the mix, the guitars – Twilley and/or original
bandmate Bill Pitcock IV – riding high above the rhythm with a stunning
resonance.

 

The artistic
apex of Green Blimp, however, can be
found in the defiant sentimentality of “It’s Never Coming Back.” More
than just another shiny, shimmering power pop gem that rides on white-capped
waves of chaos, Twilley says “good bye” to the missteps, mistakes,
and miscues of the past decades with “It’s Never Coming Back.” Above
a gorgeous, radiating clash of sounds and emotions, Twilley sings “The
choices were made, for good or for bad; Things that you reach for, the dreams
that you had; We all wanted it all to last, but only fools can wish for that,
’cause it’s never ever coming back…the past is in the past.” With these
couple of lines, Twilley dismisses the heartaches that he didn’t have much
control over anyway, and sets the course straight for a future so bright the
man should buy a new pair of sunglasses. Comfortable, maybe for the first time,
with the albatross of fleeting fame, Twilley seems happy just making music and
to hell with the star-making machinery.

 

Don’t
think for a moment that the half-dozen or so tracks from Green Blimp that aren’t mentioned here are mere filler unworthy of
our attention…songs like the guitar-driven, energetic “Stop” or the lilting
“Let It Rain,” which is as beautiful a ballad as you’re ever going to
hear with your jaded 21st century ears, are as carefully-crafted and full of
life as everything else on Green Blimp.
It’s clear with this wonderful collection of songs that Twilley still shares a
special relationship with his individual muse, and although “justice”
as a concept seems to be woefully obsolete in these cynical times, if indeed true
justice did exist, then Dwight Twilley would be recognized and rewarded for his
contributions to rock ‘n’ roll. The man deserves no more and no less than
everything….

 

(For those
power pop fans wanting to know what all the fuss over Dwight Twilley Band is
about, Australia’s
esteemed archive label Raven Records has recently released On Fire! The Best Of Dwight Twilley, 1975-1984. This 24-track
compilation includes such Twilley faves as “I’m On Fire,”
“Sincerely,” “Twilley Don’t Mind,” “Girls,” and
many more! There’s not a duff track in the bunch, and the album receives the
Reverend’s official seal of approval.) 

 

DOWNLOAD: “Get Up,” “Green Blimp,”
“Me and Melanie,” “It’s Never Coming Back” REV. KEITH A.
GORDON

 

   

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