Thursday, May 8, 2008

Powers That Be: New album and videos on YT from Tony Powers

A few weeks back I wrote a blog entry about my decades-long fascination with Tony Powers’ great song and video ”Don’t’ Nobody Move (This is a Heist).” I should note that Tony’s latest album is a welcome return for this “mystery” figure whom I had thought of as a “character actor who occasionally makes music,” but is really a one-time million-selling pop tunesmith who has been doubling as both an actor and a singer-songwriter who’s equal parts bright and literate, and streetsmart wiseass.

The album, called Who Could Imagine, finds Powers working in a number of pop genres, from old-fashioned ballad (“Lorraine”) to proto-Calypso (“Goin’ into Space”). As such, the album functions almost like an actor’s “demo reel,” showing how Tony the songwriter can channel his talent to fit a number of different moods. In reading about Tony online, I found that some of the songs were in fact written a few years back (and, yes, the classic “Don’t Nobody Move” gets an ever-so-slight update here), but they fit right in with these ever-so-fucked-up times. In line with the current era, Powers aims for the jugular with a few socially-conscious songs, including “Sadly.” (lyrics here)

Powers is working in the same vein as Carole King, Leonard Cohen and (especially) Tom Waits throughout, but I have to aim my focus squarely one more time on his ability as an urban sketch artist. His “Cartoon” offers a very nice and quite accurate review of livin’ in this very burg (although I hear that now TP inhabits the car-choked climes of L.A.): “The train is late 'n the/air-conditioning’s broke./And I’m wedged between/these two fat fucks whose/clothes are soaked./Is this the life?/All the people in Commercials/have so much fun,/a bunch of happy baboons/Is this the life?/Or are we just in rehearsal?/Excuse me — is this the feature/or is this the cartoon?”

Powers is a cult figure and, from what I’ve been reading, a “musician’s musician.” As such, I guess Who Could Imagine confirms that he is indeed a very cool tree falling in a very hip forest. Yez all should give a listen — the lyrics are on Tony’s site, and you can hear the first 2 minutes or so of each song on via the CD Baby site.

And just because this is a visually-oriented blog, I’m happy to report that the other two music-vids that Powers made back in the Eighties are up on YouTube. The first is a whole ’nother slice of NYC location shooting: Tony in a romantic mood with actress Lois Chiles on the Staten Island Ferry for the song “Odyssey” — which was later covered by KISS!

“Midnite Trampoline” is a two-part gem (at least on YouTube) that finds Powers playing a gigolo who isn’t quite… up to the demands of his profession (check out his ginzo buds, one of whom is played by a very young and svelte John Goodman). The video may not be as much of a shock to the system as “Don’t Nobody Move,” but it’s a nice piece’a lightly comic filmmaking that harkens back to the time when videos could be unpredictable in wonderful ways:


Anonymous said...

Ed...thank you for your kind comments regarding my work and, in particular, my new CD Who Could Imagine. It's very gratifying for any artist to know that someone "hears" what the work is about, and equally gratifying to be put in such august company by someone who knows, and listens to, a lot of music. A small fact you may be interested in knowing -- since you touch on it in your review -- two of my early work pop hits (which were co-written with George Fischoff) "Lazy Day" and "98.6", are each certified TWO million sellers. "Lazy Day" already, and "98.6" poised to hit that mark. Again, thank you Ed for your warm and inciteful review of my work -- I appreciate your kindness wholeheartedly. Tony Powers

Anonymous said...

As a musician who played most of the fretted instruments and some keys on Tony's new CD, I can tell you that it was a fulfilling experience as the seeds of Tony's writing allowed for many fertile expressions incorporating all the colors of the spectrum. I had a great time. Thank you, Tony.
Peter Andrews

Anonymous said...

Ed ..Please forgive me for not listing the wonderful musicians whose talents inhabited Who Could Imagine...they are:
Peter Andrews: electric, accoustic, pedal string and twelve string guitars, mandolin, charango, , banjo, electric bass, and keyboards.
David Wheatley: Piano, Keyboards.
Ray Hermann: Saxophone.
George Young:Saxophone.
Roger LaRoque: Drums, Percussion, (and engineer and co-producer)
Chris Palmaro: Piano, keyboards.
Doug Luban: Bass, Percussion,
Garry DeBerry: Bass.
Byron Benbow:Drums.

Ed, I have to send this "anonymously"--as I sent my previous comment--because I can't remember what my google account password is (?) typical.
-- tony powers

Anonymous said...

Tony "anonymous" Powers here again...In the line-up of "Who Could Imagine" musicians above I inadvertently omitted Marty Celay who played the great electric guitar on trk 4 (and the video) "Don't Nobody Move (This is a Heist)" my bad. My own instrumental credits on the CD are: Piano, Keyboards, Accoustic Guitar, and Percussion. Thanks.