To me, a really great song is one that gets stuck in your head, tickles your mind and touches your heart. Typically, a Record of the Week has one or two. With Mike Daly & the Planets’ self-titled debut on Daly’s Pop Goes the World label, it’s nearly the entire 11-song album.
A former managing editor of The Aquarian Weekly, Daly is a literate, passionate songwriter whose rich, clever use of wordplay and heartfelt, endearing vocals stir emotions and inspire smiles. On Mike Daly & the Planets, a crackerjack band features a lineup of great lead guitarists and strong ensemble of other guest musicians. But the heart and soul of this collection are delightful, memorable melodies with hooks a-plenty both musically and lyrically.
In addition to his longtime power-poppin’ croon, Daly has added a bit of the piss ‘n’ vinegar of a young Bob Dylan on a couple of tracks. Like his scrumptious ’90s band, Every Damn Day, he continues to rely heavily on a strong Beatles influence not only with melody but luscious backing vocals and harmonies. And he’s come into his own as a producer, capturing great performances littered with infectious nuances. They include the percussive hand slap on the Springsteenesque, Elvis Costello-like “Follow You” that sounds like a snake slithering about such piercing lines as, “I hold these truths to be self-evident/That when God made woman/You were what He meant.”
I also really love the Dylanesque “Broken,” a bittersweet tale of strength found in adversity. Daly snarls, “You can’t strangle my faith cause it’s already chokin’/And you can’t break a heart that’s already broken … So slice me, dice me/Flush my soul down the drain/It don’t matter none/ ‘Cause I’m already numb to the pain.”
Another standout among a pile of great tracks is “Salvation,” featuring a soulful lead by Every Damn Day guitarist John Reynolds, who has joined the Daly Planets full time and also is a former managing editor of The Aquarian Weekly. The beautifully poignant and meaningful love song declares thankfulness for God’s gift in a world whose rot parallels the degree to which He increasingly is ignored.
The Mark Knopfler-like solo by Daly’s brother, Chuck, on “No Simple Task,” also impresses as it brightens the tale about a potential love that turns the despair of desperate passion into the delight of shared hope. The opening single, “Never Too Late,” shares similar emotions about Daly’s musical comeback, while the Cheap Trick-like “Hero’s Trial,” slays demons in a declaration of departure.
Daly also makes a personal statement with “Shot of Confidence,” which takes an emotional toll not only because of the redemptive sentiment expressed but because the tune’s rich croon recalls the late Pat DiNizio, one of the songwriter’s greatest influences. Daly also demonstrates his love of Dave Edmunds-style rockabilly on the mischievous macabre of “Kill a Clown,” which sports the best use of kazoo I’ve ever heard, much like The Beatles paradoxically used children’s music to tell the tale of a serial killer in “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer.” And then there’s the Edmunds-like “Mikey’s Lament” about time running out for a single guy to get married that features a great piano solo by Daly’s brother-in-law, Charles Moeller, who would make both Jerry Lee Lewis and the Peanuts’ Schroeder proud.
The impressive collection closes with the reflective folk rock of “Letter from the Front,” a stirring nod to veterans that sounds a bit like Tom Petty’s “Freefallin” but on the downbeat and with tasty harmonica playing by Patrick Maturo of the Zeke Carey Band. Like each of Mike Daly & the Planets’ shows, their LP includes Every Damn Day’s Beatlesque “Electricity,” which recalls early Fab Four with the kind of beat that would get Ringo bopping his mop top.
Experience that and much more when the band — also drummer Jim Smith and Daly’s longtime bassist Jim Van Sickle — play Jan. 19 at The Brighton Bar, Long Branch, with The Cryptkeeper Five, The Turnbucklers, The Clydes and The Accelerators; Feb. 3 at Bowery Electric, also NYC; Mar. 2, Tierney’s, Montclair, with Stuyvesant and Sad About Girls, and Mar. 31 at the Makin Waves 30th Anniversary Party at the Stone Pony with Solace, Colossal Street Jam, Nalani & Sarina, Renee Maskin, Karen Mansfield, Tom Kanach, Mike Brody vs. the People, Sutton Thomas, and DJ Lee Mrowicki.
Bob Makin is the Makin Waves columnist and former managing editor of The Aquarian Weekly, the reporter for www.MyCentralJersey.com/entertainment and also the Makin Waves columnist for New Jersey Stage magazine, NewJerseyStage.com, and NJArts.net. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Like Makin Waves at www.facebook.com/makinwavescolumn.