Smithereens - B-Sides The Beatles (Koch; KOC-CD-4504)
reviewed by Michael Macomber
Fame may come and go, but good music is forever. While The Smithereens aren’t in the national spotlight anymore, they are still cranking out some of the finest retro pop records ever. The band’s sound was always a mixture of the best of old and new, blending vintage mod, rock, folk, and beatnik sounds with a contemporary touch that can only be described as Smithereens.
This latest offering finds the boys following up last year’s tribute to Meet The Beatles, Meet The Smithereens, with an equally fab nod to all those marvelous Beatles flipsides. Once again, Messrs. Babjak, Diken, Dinizio, and Jornacion demonstrate a deep understanding of what made these songs so great in the first place.
No guitarist is more in tune with the sometimes rough, sometimes sweet tone of early George Harrison than Jim Babjak. He captures Harrison’s wonderful talent for surf on the instrumental “Cry For Shadow,” and he nails the soaring romantic delicacy of “Ask Me Why.” His folky jangle on “I Don’t Want To Spoil The Party” is sheer delight. And on “Some Other Guy” he rocks the roof right off the place.
Vocalist Pat Dinizio’s slightly smoky, laid back style is perfectly suited to this material. He doesn’t sound like Lennon or McCartney, but instead inhabits the spirit of these songs with his own heart and soul. “If I Fell” is absolutely exquisite, brimming over with emotion. “P.S. I Love You” is equally touching. On “There’s A Place,” he strikes just the right balance of vulnerability and strength.
Drummer Dennis Diken not only provides the ideal backing for these tunes, he also steps up to the mic to belt out an appropriately hard edged lead vocal on “Slow Down.” In the grand Ringo tradition, Diken makes the most of his moment in the spotlight, kickin’ it with charm and fury.
And speaking of drums, this record marks an event of historical proportions: Andy White, the session drummer who played on the original Beatles recording of “P.S. I Love You,” once more provides the beat, with Diken taking on Ringo’s original studio role — shaking the maracas.
The truly remarkable thing about this tribute, aside from the first rate performance by The Smithereens, is the fact that all these songs are indeed B-sides. Very few pop groups can claim such an enormous catalog of brilliant tracks. When it came to The Beatles, even the B-sides were classics.