Are You Listening? The Top 100 Albums Of 2001 – 2010 From New Jersey Artists – book by Gary Wien

In the great Garden State, most rock music books hover around the same few acts. Springsteen and Bon Jovi probably being the biggest two. I can honestly never figure out how each consecutive writer comes up with anything to add to the volumes we already know about these top artists, but I do acknowledge the fact that even they started at the bottom of the heap. That brings me to the real workhorse that still has a story to tell. It comes in the form of New Jersey’s original music scene. Its musicians have been responsible for legend, lore and shore resurgence, flourishing the avenues and hotspots all over the state for years and literally keeping shore clubs open at a point in time when these beachfronts were a desolate and unpopular destination for anyone but rockers, bums and bikers.

Going back to the ‘70s, local or regional acts have been the ‘quiet constructors’ of New Jersey’s reputation when it comes to any kind of scene, and people still come from all over the world to enter this musical circle. The ‘80s gave us bands like the Smithereens, Dramarama, The Misfits, Skid Row, Overkill and Adrenalin O.D., a band that is credited with igniting the ‘80s hardcore scene.

Bands like this all came from humble scene beginnings and went on to accomplish some great things. The ‘90s birthed new sounds from bands such as Fountains Of Wayne, Saves The Day, Thursday and many, many others. And so, like a college fraternity or secret society, it continues here into the next century.

Journalist Gary Wien has had New Jersey music in his sights for years now. He actually took his first stab at the Jersey scene in his book, Beyond The Palace, a cool read that tipped its hat to bands that built original music bridges back in the day. Combining oddities with mainstream successes, he gave us one of the only introductions to musicians and bands that were never heard about in this form before. His next literary installment comes in the form of a rich and detailed Top 100 soft cover book titled Are You Listening? The Top 100 Albums of 2001-2010 from New Jersey Artists.

Are You Listening? is a thumbnail look into the mostly unsigned world of Jersey bands who have put their lives into the represented discs you’ll read about in this book. Not all bands in the book are unfamiliar and bonafide stars rub elbows with neighborhood start-ups. But one thing is for sure; all of the included records are at the top of their class. Gary had this to say: “I was looking for great records, not records with a great song or two. Digital downloads of singles harken back to the beginning of rock and roll 45s. With more and more artists releasing songs one at a time, the concept of the album may be obsolete. These 100 records are the best of an era that we may never see again.”

The book is laid out with the care and perspective of a person that not only has done his homework, but also respects the artist, the music and the overall scene. And even though this is the book of a true blue music fan, the choice of artists came about through a very technical way. Wien says, “I rated each album out of the 2,200 I listened to while searching for releases by Jersey artists. The ratings were put into a database that crunched the numbers and spit out the list of 100 albums. I then listened to those 100 albums several hundred times before handing out the final ratings. Those ratings gave me the final order. So, there wasn’t a specific purpose to put any particular artist upfront or anything. In fact, there are artists who made Billboards Top 10 albums that are in the 90s as far as placement in the book.”

Wien’s writing style is direct and even. With 100 artists to cover, pages are concise and understandable, even for the non-technical fan. Each page you read guarantees something new that you didn’t know about your favorite band before. The big print makes it easy on the eyes and the size (approximately 9×9) makes this a mini coffee table edition that can go anywhere with the reader. With outstanding album facts on everyone from Arlan Feiles to The Gaslight Anthem, Are You Listening? is getting a resounding yes! We hear you loud and clear. This is the kind of constant reader that goes right next to my well-worn copy of The Wall Of Fame, New York City’s Legendary Manny’s Music by Henry Goldrich.

The b/w version is available for $19.95 at Amazon.com and several places in Asbury Park including Asbury Galleria on the boardwalk and Words and Holdfast on Cookman Avenue. It is being added to book stores and record stores throughout the state. A color version will be available for $49.95 at Amazon.com and select retail stores. For more on Are You Listening? and the author, head over to njmusic.org.
Almost There

The Saint

June 24, 2011

ASBURY PARK, NJ—This Jersey shore three-piece tore the roof off The Saint. Tight two-part harmonies and simple, melodic rock in the vein of the Foo Fighters, Kings of Leon and Weezer put this band right in the middle of what’s going on in music today. Before plugging in and taking off, the band unveiled their new video titled “I Cried Wolf” a zany, Monkees-vibed play fest (I liked that wolf) that drew appreciative hollers of the people who came for them. Playing great material off their trio of CDs, the band’s onstage humor and style was a welcome break from the previous frat house nonsense. It’s interesting to note that both Eddie Soles (guitar/vocals) and Zach Sicherman (bass/vocals), switch off lead vocal duties with a compelling ease and continuity that matches the music with their carefree presentation.

Songs like the aforementioned “I Cried Wolf” are interesting enough to lift this band out of the bevy of emo whiners, giving them an intelligent slant and style. Their use of complex rhythms, timing and spatial dynamics showcase top-notch playing power. It just goes to show you what can be done with guitar, bass and drums if you put your all into compositional know how.

Other cool songs were “Can I Take You Home,” a syncopated and heavy number that settles into a great verse bounce before launching into a complex, two-part chorus and clever skin work from drummer Phill Serzan. Other notable songs off of their last CD, Silver Lake, include the Paul McCartney vibe of “After All,” a classic song of loss and regret capped off with rich, melodic harmonies and chimey, acoustic guitar chords. Piano trills spill over the song in a sparse raindrop splatter and the acoustic lead is no-nonsense and fun. Special guest Bert Lz took the stage with the band as well.

Almost There is returning to the recording studio this August to start recording their first full-length album. They be recording at Overlook Studios in Warminster, PA with producer Bruce Wiegner, former member of Victory In Numbers (Bullet Tooth Records.)

Commercially viable while still being wary enough to retain their souls, Almost There may be right around the corner of bigger things. I always wish that for any band from the area, but these guys seem to have their proverbial shit together. Go check them out on July 9 during the Barbecue at the Brighton Bar show (hosted by Breathing Blue), an all ages, all day event promising lots of great pop-punk acts. Check out Almost There over at almostthererock.com.

 

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