So imagine that you are looking back on a career of music and wonder. And you write a memoir reflecting on that life, touching on people you met along the way, bands you played with and artists you knew…
And… you remember this great music from a bygone era and the many friends you made then…. And you decide to make some phone calls… And in the grandest golly-gee-lets-throw-a-party can-do spirit you invite them to “play the soundtrack to the book.”
And… your concert celebrating said local music scene makes everyone merry. A splendid time is had by all. And… then you listen back to those recordings made all these years after with those friends from yesteryear and you realize how good it is. So you decide it is worthy of formal release to the universe.
That, Dear Readers, is — in a nutshell — the story behind this fun new album from Omnivore Records called Yesterday’s Tomorrow, a celebration of the music scene in the Winston-Salem North Carolina area from the 1970s as produced by Chris Stamey.
Indeed in 2018 a concert was organized at a club called The Ramkat, inspired by Chris Stamey’s then new book A Spy in the House of Loud. This local scene eventually gave the universe legendary American new wave groups like The dBs and Let’s Active. It also gave us equally legendary producers Mitch Easter (Game Theory, Richard Barone, Pavement) and Don Dixon (Smithereens, Guadalcanal Diary, James McMurtry) both of whom together co-produced several of R.E.M’s seminal early albums on I.R.S. Records.
This concert however features bands that many of these artists were in before they became famous. And, that is where the fun begins…
“Rittenhouse Square” is one of my immediate favorites on Yesterday’s Tomorrow which includes Peter Holsapple from the dBs on great songs like “Hot Smoke & Sassafras.” “Like Wow” is a trippy boogie rocker with a signature breakdown riff and a vibe that falls somewhere between Hot Tuna and Wings.
Sneakers — a band which included future dB Chris Stamey and Let’s Active’s (and super-producer-to-be) Mitch Easter — rock the house with “Ruby” and “Condition Red.” Little Diesel’s “Kissy Boys” deconstructs The Kingsman’s “Louie Louie” into a monster rocker that falls this side of The New York Dolls’ “Private World.”
“Room With A View” by The Royal Opposition (featuring Easter and Lynne Blakey) has a great Beatles-y hook wrapped up in a quirky off-kilter song structure which reminds me at times of The Flying Lizards. They turn the beat around quickly into power pop realms with the inside-out Byrds vibrations of “Every Word Means No.”
Yesterday’s Tomorrow is not without its covers and The Imperturbable Teutonic Griffin’s — you can’t make up these band names, folks! — version of The Music Machine’s “Talk Talk” is a smoker. They wind up the show with The Electric Prunes’ “I Had Too Much To Dream Last Night.”
Generally Yesterday’s Tomorrow is a fine sounding album, mixed from multi-track recordings so the quality is quite high. But really what makes it all work — and why you might want to listen, Dear Readers who are fans of all things jangle-guitar-power-pop — are all these terrific songs!
Yesterday’s Tomorrow is a fun collection that stands on its own right. But now I would like to hear a companion release of studio versions of many of the songs if they exist. If you want to read more about the show and the scene, visit Chris Stamey’s commemorative website (click here). Also, if you want to preview the album via streaming services, you can find it in CD quality Tidal (click here) and in 24-bit, 44.1 kHz fidelity on Qobuz (click here).