Cheeksters – The Golden Birds

January 01, 1970

(Caterina Sounds)


The last time we checked in with the Cheeksters – their Movers and Shakers album (reviewed here)
was released in the fall of 2008 – the Asheville,
NC, combo was in the process of
perfecting a pristine pop sound steeped in classic Brit iconography – Beatles,
Zombies, Kinks, Small Faces, et al.
That founder Mark Casson originally hails from England and has a distinctively
accented singing voice not unlike a young David Bowie are not insignificant
details, either. For this newest effort those British roots remain on display,
but the band – Casson on vocals, guitars and keys; wife Shannon on bass and
vocals; producer Brent Little on drums, keys, guitars and more (onstage the
ensemble expands) – also appears intent on showcasing its soulful side, and
with admirable results.


Indeed, it’s on the more soul-steeped tunes here that the
Cheeksters seem most inspired. For example, the Marvin Gaye-like “How Do You
Feel Now” has a solemn-but-slinky vibe abetted by trumpet and brusque swipes of
electric guitar as Casson hits his mark with a spine-tingling falsetto vocal.
“When Will I Reach You,” with smoky guy-gal vocal harmonies, is full of
yearning and cloaked optimism. And the sinewy wah-wah guitar in album standout
“Who Said Life Would Be Easy” helps ease the tune into a funk groove that holds
out immense possibilities for an extended concert version. Casson has indicated
how Paul Weller was always a big hero of his, so it’s not hard to imagine that
Weller’s successful immersion in soul and funk towards the end of The Jam’s
tenure and onward through his Style Council era proved inspirational for
Casson. The trick with blue-eyed soul, of course, is to make it come across as
credible and sincere, and there have been plenty of artists over the years who
could be accused of cultural poaching; to the Cheeksters’ credit, they slip
naturally into their parts and emerge with a sound that is uniquely their own.


Plus, the rock still pops and the pop still rocks for these
cats, with strummy gems and piano-powered ballads in abundance  – check tracks like the pulsing powerpop of
“Why Don’t You,” the brash, blazing glam of “Thrill of a Lifetime” or the
‘70s-inspired sunshine rock of “Everywhere” for proof. It’s a celebratory
album, The Golden Birds, and a
hey-it’s-summer! record to boot. Grab the kids, put the top down, crank the
stereo, and hit the highway.


Said Life Would Be Easy,” “Everywhere,” “How Do You Feel Now” FRED MILLS

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