Pop goes the memories, says Gary Frenay, and it is good

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Gary Frenay, File Under Pop Vocal
Northside Records

Syracuse music fans know what a cool cat Gary Frenay can be. He’s got nine band lives, too.

Well, that number’s a bit of a stretch, but the singer and guitarist has made the Syracuse Area Music Hall of Fame twice with the power pop of the Flashcubes and as a soloist. He’s also made great waves with Screen Test, the Neverly Brothers, the FabCats and in his duo act with Arty Lenin.

So impressive, all of it.

Now Frenay’s released his third solo record, a neat throwback package. He’s titled it with love: File Under Pop Vocal. That’s a nod to the days when record companies would place those words on album covers to nudge record store owners to put the vinyl in that rack.

Frenay explains further in his self-made promo to push the product: “And whether it was the Beach Boys, Dusty Springfield or Nat King Cole, that four-word designation meant AM radio music,” he wrote. “Throughout my career, I’ve co-opted the term to express what I want to hear in an arrangement or a studio mix: ‘It’s gotta be more File Under Pop Vocal.’ ”

These nine original songs and one cover bring you back in fine style. It’s modern technology meets days-of-yore melodies and harmonies. Frenay worked for more than two years with Flashcubes drummer band mate and forever friend Tommy Allen producing in New York City a shining lineup of musicians that includes fellow Sammys hall of famer Mark Doyle, Blondie player Paul Carbonara and pop-rocker Marshall Crenshaw on guitar; The Kennedys, Syracuse native Maura and her husband Pete; longtime partner Lenin; Japanese power pop star Osamu Satoyama; Andy Burton and Tommy Mandel from John Mayer and Bryan Adams’ bands on keyboards; and his rising star son, Nick Frenay.

Listen and delight. Close your eyes and wish that your transistor radio under your pillow would have sounded this good way back when.

From the first-cut start of love song “Blue Topaz” — sweetness and love on the line — to the big beat and equally big guitar of “We Could Be Brothers” to the pretty closing folk feel of “Luckiest Man,” which zips up the package gloriously with Doyle on piano and synth strings and Nick Frenay on flugelhorn, this is an album to play and play and play this summer.

The lone cover, “It’s Like Heaven,” comes from the mind of the Beach Boys’ Brian Wilson. Indeed. The following song, “Winterview” has a loving ballad feel of the 1972 Climax hit “Precious & Few.” Bingo again. These are moments to be shared and cherished.

Syracuse music veteran releases new album.

Syracuse music veteran releases new album.

Here’s the link to the CD Baby page for the record.

Here’s the link to Frenay’s blog.

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Stevie Tombstone, Live Cuts and Scars
Altco Records

Roots rocker Stevie Tombstone called the Syracuse area home a few years back, and made the most of the Armory Square union of SubCat Music Studios and the adjoining Red House Arts Center.

He recorded tracks in the studio, inviting me to sit and observe as he worked with engineer Ron Keck, for a story that was published in glossy Central New York the Good Life Magazine.

He put together a wicked little Syracuse-area band, and played a sizzling show in the intimate, 100-seat Red House theater. I was there. Memorable, it was.

Tombstone sent me a Facebook message two weeks ago with the news that although he’s moved back to Austin, the Red House show is coming back into his spotlight. He’s started his own label, Altco Records, and he’s releasing “Live Cuts and Scars” on it just about now.

It includes songs from that night plus a few laid down during a radio session in Knoxville.

It’s a snippet of hard Americana, modern blues, old-time anguish, today’s road warrior meets yesterday’s guitar kings and gravel road vocal travelers.

Opening cut “Nuthin’ Sweet About Sixteen” feels rockabilly to its core.

“Blade” rips with hard nose passion. “Murder City” takes a takes a villainous swipe and runs on down the alley. “Lucky” isn’t, a waltz for sad times.

“I’ve Been Down That Rocky Road I’ve Been Down” is a tour de force, an epic trip that captures hard times and slivers of faith and hope. I feel a bit of Woodie and Bruce and many more who’ve felt such things in their heart and just had to share.

Tombstone can sound like a guy who has nowhere to go but his music as he sings, “If you’ve lost the blues, I’ve got ’em,” in the closing “The Long Way Down.”

Here’s the link to Tombstone’s page to order the album.

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The New York Rock, One More Trip Around the Sun

Front man Mike Brindisi keeps The New York Rock on the road to power and pride with “One More Trip Around the Sun.”

The Ithaca-based rockers, five-piece strong, attack arena anthem rock with pride and passion.

It shows their fireworks. Figuratively. The red-hot song “Passfire” was captured for video during a live show in front of 7,000 fans in Mason City, Iowa. The pyro is expansive.

So too is the rock on the record. That song samples Neil Young and, hey, hey, my, my, rock and roll will never die.

Heavy rock in “Away.” Harmonies and edgy cuts in “Let It Go.” Power ballad rides in “Book Wide Open.” And the honey-voiced rich silk of “One More Trip Around the Sun” shows that these guys are ready for their summer tours to the midwest, indeed.

Here’s the link to The New York Rock site.

Which album would be your first choice, and why?

17 thoughts on “Pop goes the memories, says Gary Frenay, and it is good

  1. My generation was a day or two before transistors bro Mark. I’m not sure our radio would fit under my pillow, my bed or even if I could have lugged it to my room. My downfall was reading in bed, using a flashlight, but then I never would have thought of that one if my Mom hadn’t told me she did it herself back in the covered wagon days. We had horse drawn buggies when I came along, so we were considered rich. Also a two hole outhouse, with a half moon carved in the door. Made our own music too –you know, Daddy sang bass, Mama sang tenor, me and little brother jumped right in there…..I tried playing the fiddle, but was banished to the barn when I got it out. Where’s the justice in that?


      • I’m so happy you agree with me on that one Mark. Just because the cow went dry and the chickens stopped laying — my grandmother let me play at her house. Of course she was deaf so it didn’t matter to her.


  2. This is great writing and such a fine tribute to Gary Frenay and his newest album, Matk. Some fine phrasing, description and details which emphasize this musician’s talent. I really find the title catchy and wonder about the good old days. It sounds like this will take me back there where music had meaning and good lyrics. How cool is that?
    I did not register on the link nor pay the good price of 99 cents to listen. I hope he may give the country a new “classic” song. Wonderful wishes sent his way and am interested in listening to the Brian Wilson song, too. Wow! Cannot wait to hear this whole album with such nest songs in it. We have an old style record store on Winter Street called Pat’s Record Store. Maybe this will be good suggestion to get them to stock it 🙂


    • You should ask them to get Gary’s work, Robin. That would be great. But I think it would be just as inexpensive to order it from him online! His price is pretty reasonable on CDBaby. By the way, if you want, link to his blog and talk to him directly in a comment. Tell him I sent you. He might even send you one in the mail for a check. A friend recommending a friend, you know? That’s life, too.


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