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Ryan Trevor - Introducing: Ryan Trevor

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Artist: Ryan Trevor

Album: Introducing: Ryan Trevor

Label: Drag City

Review date: Jan. 22, 2010

Introducing: Ryan Trevor is an unexpected relic of the late 1970s, a self-produced, self-released record mired in the sounds of the Beatles and late 1960s Los Angeles psych bands. Many have compared Trevor to Emitt Rhodes, which doesn’t seem quite right to me aside from the whole "guy who played every instrument and produced the album" angle.

I knew there was some Southern California band that had a similar sound to Ryan Trevor’s, it was driving me crazy and I couldn’t for the life of me figure out which one. The other night while I was checking out the Where The Action Is: L.A. Nuggets box set I figured out who I was thinking of: The Penny Arkade, a terrific band that worked with Mike Nesmith on a legendary unreleased album that was finally issued on CD by Sundazed in 2004. If not for the synthesizers, several of the songs on Introducing could almost be mistaken for Penny Arkade outtakes. You could also say Ryan Trevor is something like a psych-pop Kenneth Higney. Okay, maybe he’s not quite as weird as Higney, but there’s a distinctly strange, outsider quality to a lot of the music on the LP.

Ryan Trevor started recording the album in 1976. At the time he was already a professional songwriter and had co-writing credits on two Barry Manilow songs. A few years later he found some degree of success writing songs for “Sesame Street.” Trevor was an avowed Paul McCartney fanatic, though he doesn’t quite wear the influence on his sleeve as much as you might guess. After the bombastic symphonic "Prelude," "Nights In The City" (a song Barry Manilow had turned down) starts off with a borrowed riff from "Taxman," then goes off in a more interesting and original direction.

"Different Form Of Harmony" is easily the strangest on the album. The lyrics are boilerplate psychedelia—"try and sing high and you’ll find / it’s the same form of harmony / and melody sings through your mind"—but the music is weirdly slow and dark, and some of the backing vocals are screechy and sinister, almost like something off of Comus’s First Utterance album. But the best songs—fairly straightforward pop tunes like "England," which is sung in a full-throated British accent, and the closing track "Rama (Come And Take Me)—are the least weird of the bunch, and sound like they could have been written by the bubblegum songwriter Tony Hazzard. It’s odd that "England" and "Different Form Of Harmony" even exist on the same slab of vinyl, which is part of what makes totally independent, private-press albums like this one so much fun to listen to. The mistakes and odd stylistic choices amplify the quality of the songs that actually work.

By Rob Hatch-Miller

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