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The Spongetones are currently signed to Gadfly Records, where you can order Odd Fellows. The albums listed below (and also Odd Fellows) can be ordered directly from the group. CDs cost $15 each, with a special offer of extra CDs only $10 each at the time of ordering. Mail cheque (payable to Patrick Walters) or cash to The Spongetones, PO Box 36492, Charlotte, NC 28236, USA.

Web sites:

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The Spongetones - Odd Fellows
(Gadfly 265)

The Spongetones - Odd FellowsThere are albums that you know from the very first note you are going to go apeshit over, and that is the case with this album by the strangely named Spongetones. A classic four man group set-up, the 'Tones mine a rich seam of 60's nostalgia with their original songs that strongly reminded me of 60's Britpop bands such as the early Beatles, Searchers, Mindbenders, Fortunes and Tremelos. This is nostalgia for a time when pop songs were pop songs, but the 'Tones aren't a tribute band - they've taken the best music stylings from that period of classic pop music and made them their own via a set of excellent original pop songs. Potential hits include You'll Come Runnin' Back, Boy Meets Girl, Paul McCartney's On The Wings of a Nightingale, the punning Eyedoan Geddit and the instrumental March of the Creaming Beezers. In truth, there isn't a bad track on this album, and it hasn't been out of my CD player for weeks now. I take my hat off to Jamie Hoover, Steve Stoeekel, Rob Thorne and Patrick Walters, they've produced one of the best albums I've heard in a long time.


The Spongetones - Beat & Torn

The Spongetones - Beat & TornSome albums evoke such a strong emotional response in the listener they will forever be considered a classic, on a personal level if not more widely. That is the case with Beat And Torn, a reissue of the 'Tones first two albums now amalgamated into a single CD. From the very first track, Here I Go Again, an almost perfect recreation of early 60's Merseybeat chimes out, raising the spirits and having a blast of a time.

The two albums are Beat Music and Torn Apart, dating back to 1982 and 1984 and featured the same line-up as currently: Patrick Walters, Jamie Hoover, Steve Stoekel and Rob Thorne. The nineteen original songs on this CD pretty much encapsulate the Merseybeat sound that I can remember as a kid: crystal clear sound, jangly guitars [and few solos], chiming harmony vocals, great tunes and songs that never outlasted their effectiveness or charm. The amazing thing to me is that the group aren't from Liverpool or that north-west region of Great Britain that exploded with emerging talents back in the early 60's. No, they come from North Carolina in the USA, a region more used to producing groups like the Allman Brothers and Lynyrd Skynyrd - yet the 'Tones look to pop's golden era and craft their own songs to that template. This is no tribute band, they rarely cover The Beatles, Hollies or Herman's Hermits, yet you'll hear their shades on this superb CD.

With nineteen tracks to choose from I'm not sure that I want to pick favourites or highlights as the quality level is consistently high. So high that on a few recent occasions where I've been feeling down, a quick burst of this album lifted that depression and made me feel a lot better. Anyone who is mourning the death of pop music by the corporate mandarins will love this CD, and you can get a copy simply by visiting the 'Tones web site and flexing that credit card. You won't be disappointed - instant joy is guaranteed


The Spongetones - Oh Yeah
(Black Vinyl Records, BV-12064-2)

The Spongetones - Oh YeahSince I received The 'Tones' latest album, the superb Odd Fellows {Gadfly 265), I've been in touch with Jamie Hoover of the group, and he kindly sent me a batch of their earlier albums - Oh Yeah is the earliest of these, dating from 1991. For those going through withdrawal symptoms from a lack of classic pop then look no further - from the very first track, the very Beatle-ish Not So, this is great stuff. The overall style of the group is 60's Merseybeat/Britpop with a side order of 70's powerpop and psychedelia. Prime cuts include Oh Yeah, Infatuation, Return the Boy, Brand New Start [very Dave Clarke Five!] - hell, there isn't a poor track on this CD!

The 'Tones are Jamie Hoover, Steve Stoekel, Rob Thorne, and Pat Walters and between them they play a wide range of guitars [acoustic and electric], keyboards and percussion. Sound quality, for an analogue recording, is superb, extremely clear and a joy to listen to. I guess some will call this album retro or a pastiche, but that really isn't the case - the 'Tones inspiration may be the 60's but the songs are originals and played with verve and conviction. I defy anyone to listen to this album and not be uplifted.


The Spongetones - Textural Drone Thing
(Black Vinyl Records BV 12246-2)

The Spongetones - Textural Drone ThingThis 'Tones album dates back to 1995 and right from the first track L'Amour/Le Guerre drops the pure poppiness of Oh Yeah for a more rockier feel. The mix is denser and there's a lot of good instrumental work going on under the vocals. And while the Merseybeat influences are still patently there you get the feeling that the boys have been listening to some blues and r 'n' b as well. This is most noticeable on Rattle My Chain and guest musician Bo Rosemond's wailing harmonica. The Beatles are still a major influence though, and you only have to listen to the superb Little Death, with it's McCartney vocal and jazz feel to hear what I mean. One of the most infectious and damn near perfect slices of pure pop on the album is Jamie Hoover's Skinny, a song so damn catchy you'll be singing it under your breath or out loud in the shower! Other outstanding tracks include Resurrection Man, Spirit World, and Better Luck Next Time. Overall Textural Drone Thing continues the fine work of Oh Yeah in showcasing the talents of four superb musicians and songwriters. If there was any justice in the world the 'Tones would be on a major label enjoying global megasales!


The Spongetones - Where-Ever-Land
(Permanent Press Recordings PPCD 52710)

The Spongetones - Where-Ever-LandWhere-Ever-Land dates back to 1998 and sounds like the group have gone through a rejuvenation machine: the powerpop quotient has increased mightily, right from the track one shriekathon of Forget about May! But the great pop songs and hooks remain: Anna, Self Sufficient Guy, the psychedelia-tinged Up in Smoke, Where-Ever-Land, Images, and, oh hell, just about every track on this CD! Where-Ever-Land is a bit of a marathon album, 11 tracks plus 2 unreleased bonus tracks and 3 live cuts from a radio show, where the group show off their 'unplugged' skills to very good fashion. This is an extremely impressive package, showing off all the 'Tones' best facets, and I can't think of a better group of musicians since Dave Edmunds and [more notably] Nick Lowe started trawling pops' heritage and retooled it back in the '70s into powerpop. What strikes me about all of the 'Tones albums is their ability to simply lift your spirits with their deceptively 'simple' songs. This isn't a 'new age' group or anything like that - they simply write and perform songs that are full of positive energy. It's a fix that is guaranteed to be good for your health!


GBU - Anthology (Stanzidisc SD 80992)
The Van DeLecki's - Letters From the Desk
of Count S. Van DeLecki

(Permanent Press Recordings PPCD 52702)
The Van DeLecki's - Ebum Shoobum Shoobum
(Permanent Press Recordings PPCD 52713)

The Van DeLecki's - Letters from the Desk of Count S. Van DeleckiThe GBU's are one of many spin-off projects by the musicians that make up the Spongetones - in this case Pat Walters. Not sure if the title is a reference to the Sergio Leone movie, but GBU stands for the Good, the Bad and the Ugly... This compilation contains music that predates the 'Tones, going way back to 1969, when the GBU's were just another garage band. It shows a band steeped in the music of the time: Hendrix, Cream, Traffic and John Mayall. So, what we have here is a much heavier and funkier sound than the 'Tones, with recordings from when the group began, plus newer recordings dating to the early 90's when they reformed to celebrate their friendship. The group consists of Pat Walters, Bobby Pace, Phil Lowe and Henry Steele - with 'Tone Jamie Hoover helping out on several tracks. I have to admit that while this album sounded okay, this style of rock music never appealed much to me, but the GBU's play well and it seems a shame they never had that chance on a big label to shine.

The Van DeLecki's is Spongetone Jamie Hoover's project with multi-instrumentalist Bryan Shumate, and it is recognisably a 'Tone offshoot. The same sort of powerpop/Britpop sound permeates these two albums. All the positive feelings I have for the 'Tones albums are the same for these, and that can't be bad. It is interesting to note that despite a mostly different set of musicians on these albums you'd be forgiven for thinking these are Spongetones albums. A tribute to Jamie Hoover's songwriting, instrumental and production skills. Letters... has a few more influences that show up during its songlist: the Byrds, Everly Brothers, Gram Parsons, the early Eagles and Crowded House. Highlights include Moonlight, What's Wrong With Yoyo, Catfish Moon, the lambent instrumental NBG, and the haunting A Photograph. Ebum..., the latest album, is more of the same formula, but with perhaps a little more harmonies and a little less rocking out. The best tracks to these ears are: Nurse Ratched, Diane, It's I'm About You Now, Desperation Is, Black & White, and Oleen. Okay, a brace of excellent pop/rock albums that should please anyone who cares for the song and the singer, rather than the drum 'n' bass machines which have stripped contemporary pop music of its soul.


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