Friday, August 05, 2022

JEM Records Celebrates Pete Townshend

It delights me that the JEM Records Celebrates series is turning into an annual event. Previous editions honoring the songs of John Lennon and Brian Wilson have set the bar for what all tribute albums should aspire to be. Producer/director/label president Marty Scott has found the formula for success: turn to one of the finest label rosters in the power pop world and trust these talented bands and artists to creatively interpret some of the best songs ever written. Out today on vinyl, CD, and digital formats, JEM Records Celebrates Pete Townshend is another smashing success. It's also a wonderful full circle moment for Marty Scott, who came up with the idea to start importing records while he was searching for a copy of The Who's Direct Hits during a trip to England. The rest, as they say, is history!

As much as I appreciate the greatness and importance of John Lennon and Brian Wilson, I have an emotional connection to this installment of the series that I didn't have with the previous two. In my youth, The Who was by far my favorite classic rock band. And as a lifelong power pop fanatic, I consider The Who to be foundational to the genre (Townshend himself coined the term). If these JEM artists had managed to screw up a Pete Townshend tribute, I would not have been reluctant to air my grievances. But my only grievance with this album is that it has left me wanting more! Right off the bat, Lisa Mychols & Super 8 turn in a stunning and completely unexpected arrangement of "Baba O'Reilly" that is the first of many "Wow!" moments on this compilation. Others include the same band's jazzy rendition of "I Can't Explain," The Grip Weeds' masterful take on "A Quick One," and The Airport 77s' successful mashup of "Substitute" and "Won't Get Fooled Again." With this being a JEM release, I was hoping for a few of these bands/artists to deliver the goods power pop style. I was not disappointed! In particular, The Midnight Callers ("Let My Love Open the Door"), Nick Piunti ("The Seeker"), and The Anderson Council ("Mary Anne With The Shaky Hand") turn in inspired, punched-up versions of Townshend-penned classics. Elsewhere, The Gold Needles transform "So Sad About Us" into the best '80s radio hit that never was. And Johnathan Pushkar ("The Kids Are Alright") once again shows that he can make any song sound like something he wrote! 

What I love about JEM Records is that it represents the best of the current generation of power pop and melodic rock. With that in mind, I can't think of another label better suited to properly pull off a tribute to Pete Townshend. The ten bands/artists included on JEM Records Celebrates Pete Townshend are keeping the influence of bands like The Who alive and well in 2022. The music being made by these artists isn't "retro" -- it's timeless. They all must have been incredibly excited to contribute to this release, and it shows. This is truly a first class production featuring musicianship, singing, and creativity worthy of this exalted material. It delivers a great mix of the types of tracks I was hoping to hear and some truly wonderful surprises. Best of all, this album makes me want to go back and listen to all my Who records! This collection coincides with the label's 50th anniversary, and I can't think of a better way to celebrate five decades of JEM. Whether you're a Who freak like me or just a huge fan of JEM's formidable roster of talent, you should consider JEM Records Celebrates Pete Townshend an essential purchase.

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