Les Fradkin – Artist Kit Sampler

 Les Fradkin – Artist Kit Sampler

Les Fradkin – Artist Kit Sampler – EP Review

Someone out here has gotta be brave enough to say it, so it may as well be me.  That jacket and that guitar are…well…they are certainly at odds with each other, Les.  Maybe that’s just my perspective…it might be some kinda signature thing he’s got goin’ on…he wore it for the cover of The Les Fradkin Story too, which was released last year and contains five out of the six tunes you’ll find on this EP right here.

Anyhow.  I’ve never claimed to be any kind of fashionista…my look is ‘dumpster sheik’ so it’s probably best that I stay in my lane and just write about the only thing I do know…what does/doesn’t sound good.

So…”Jangleholic” starts up the record, and gives you that jangly guitar sound that Les grew up playing and performing back when he was first making a name for himself.  “The 70s, it was my time” as he mentions…and he’ll go on to name drop another important act that was around in the same era within this song, when they were all doin’ their jangly thang & dominating the airwaves.  Interestingly enough, he takes on a few different eras of music afterwards, like the 80s & the post-millennium sound too…and while I wouldn’t say that he sounds like the proverbial ‘old guy’ that thought the tunes were so much better way back when…he’s cutting it pretty close and it is kinda implied.  This track is built on nostalgia and celebrating the past for not only what it was, but also for what it continues to be to this very day – these musical soldiers fought the battle on the front lines, they won it, and the ripple effect of all they accomplished continues to echo across the spectrum & will for all-time.  It’s tougher to find completely recent examples, but I think of bands like The LA’s that leaned on that sound from the late 80s to the early 90s, and you can still point to many out there based in the UK that draw on the inspiration that the timeless vibe jangle-rock provides.  Even early R.E.M. draws a large influence from the ol’ jangle, and without that influence, who knows how well they might have caught on in their own quest to bridge the past & the present.  It might have already experienced its prime in the Heartbreakers, as Les himself somewhat points out in “Jangleholic” – but you just never know, it could come back at any moment.  Fradkin gives this opener a triumphant and celebratory sound that makes a good case for the jangle.

I know what you’re all thinking…how, oh how, can we get another song about California – am I right?  Those pesky Chili Peppers keep us on such short supply, do they not?  They can’t do it ALL on their own, so we’ve got Fradkin here thankfully to help fill in the gaps.  I mean, he is IN a band called California now too…so you know…he comes by his love for the place honestly I’d suppose.  It’s a beautiful area, I’ll give him that…been there many times myself and I’ve got an aunt that has called San Diego her home for the past several decades after jumping ship from Canada to live down south.  Anyway…I actually dig “God Bless California (Oooh L.A.)” more than you’d probably assume, and I think it’s one of the better tracks to be found on this particular EP.  Les has got his thing…he’s well aware of where his strengths are and he plays within them…I don’t think he’s really out there to test himself beyond the limits at this point in his career; I’m sure he’s been there and done that in just about every capacity any of us could think of.  He’s got this track right though…the melody comes across sincerely, the background vocals are great, and it’s got a very comforting vibe that feels good to listen to.  What ends up making the difference for me on this particular cut, is that I felt like the verses really hit the mark and arguably enticed me in to listen even more than the chorus did.  That being said, I appreciate the attention to detail in the main hooks, and Les has added in some impressive backing vocals to help complement the lead he’s singing.

I do get where this self-professed “Jangleholic” is coming from, don’t get me wrong – it’s a sound I appreciate and enjoy still on a personal level myself.  I can recognize that it’s past its prime, but music is a cyclical beast, and you just never know when it’ll make a comeback to be the dominant sound again.  When it does, Les and tracks like “Magic Attic” (or, you know…the majority of his catalog) will get their due respect and recognition for the role they played in helping shape the sound we all know and love.  I like the songwriting here in terms of the melody…I’ll remember “Magic Attic” for sure.  I don’t know how much I love the approach Les took with the vocals at the top of his register, but he’s still on-point and the tone is there.  The main hooks come out great, it’d be more of a question that surrounds the verses and whether or not his high-up sound will be just as much of a hit with people out there listening.  I like the concept of a “Magic Attic” and how it holds all these memories we create over time, essentially becoming a time machine of sorts years later down the road when we decide to go through it all.  Les will allude to the better times being in the rearview here once again as well…which…whether it’s life or it’s music or it’s otherwise, I think you have to let people have that perspective believe it undisturbed, especially when they’re probably older and wiser than you.  Will I feel that same way when I’m older than I am now?  Perhaps!  I’ve done my best to program myself to thwart that feeling when the time comes, but it could still get me in the end and I’d understand why…the allure of our youth and the wild times we have is always going to seem like time we wish we could get back, or at least revisit like Les does with his “Magic Attic.”  Strong conviction and sound in the drums gives this cut the strength to spring off of…there are some really great things about this track when it comes right down to it.  I might be in the camp that feels like it’s a bit on the uneven side when it comes to what we hear and how he’s chosen to sing the verses, but what works in the chorus is enough to get any of us listeners onboard I’d say.  Above all things, the sentiment and theme in this song is one that we can all connect with, 100%.

“Everything Is Wrong” – fair enough!  His words, not mine.  This ‘Radio Edit’ might take a bit to grow on ya like it did for me, but I’m not claiming to be everyone – it might be the sound you’re looking for right away, who knows?  To me, this track felt a bit on the melodramatic side of things, almost like you’d find it on a Meatloaf record – or, at least the way the chorus hits ya in that sense.  The verses seemed a bit matchy-matchy…I’m not all that enamored with the rhyme scheme, but I’d readily acknowledge that it’s punchy & Les sounds filled with the conviction of his words & the rebel spirit that pumps the heartbeat for the proletariat in this song.  We’ll talk a bit about how he believes the next song (“System Crash”) was able to predict the future a bit, but if you ask me, “Everything Is Wrong” might even be more accurate.  The best way I can put it is that while I might not be a huge fan of the results in terms of how this song moves or how it sounds etc., I think the words are great, they’re substantial, and they mean something.  It’s the concept, spirit, and energy of “Everything Is Wrong” that connects with me more than anything else…and that’s okay, sometimes that happens.  I can certainly acknowledge its low-end heavy groove is catchy, it’s just not my thing if we’re considering the music, overall melody, and vocals, but lyrically it’s one of Fradkin’s strongest for sure.  I’d never dispute that, not even remotely – he’s fighting for the right ideals on this track, and despite it not being suited to my taste in terms of how it sounds, I admire the fact that he’s willing to stand up for what he believes in – I genuinely respect that.

As far as I’ve read, Fradkin feels like “System Crash” could very well be the best song he’s ever written, which is of course, a very bold claim to make in the context of a career that spans the length of the one he’s been rocking with for years.  Do I feel the same way about it?  Probably not, no.  Am I alone in that?  Probably not, no.  Does he already know that?  Of course he does!  Every musician knows that their own favorite songs are never the same ones that the public respond to in at least nine of every ten cases.  Do I understand why Les would be so partial to “System Crash?”  Sure!  I’m not saying that it’s not a good song, it is – I just know that he has material that has already resonated more strongly with me, that’s all.  According to what he’s had to say about “System Crash,” this song ended up being a prescient cut that has predicated the predicament we currently find ourselves in on a global level…and who would I be to say he’s wrong about that?  I’m paraphrasing to a degree, but as far as I can tell, that’s what he’s getting at.  I don’t know that we get a whole lot of that concept outside of the chorus, but I get where he’s coming from.  The verses are more designed for the contrast required to make the chorus work, you feel me?  Things have to be going right before they can go wrong…and this would again fit in with Les’ view that the best days of this planet are already behind us.  I’m an optimist at heart and still hopeful for the future ahead, but I don’t have any reason to dispute the way he feels.  I think life is very much what we choose to make it, what we choose to give our attention & energy to, what we choose to prioritize and such…but I’ve still got a long way to go.  Do I feel like this shit mess we’re currently in is practically unbearable and really tough to live through?  Absolutely.  But just because there’s been a “System Crash” doesn’t mean the system can’t recover one day, or perhaps reform itself into something even more relevant.  He’s got a really beautiful intro leading into this song that makes it unique on the way in; it becomes a bit like a musical number as it plays on, but it’s as professional as you know Fradkin to be.

“Under The Covers” is a song that I’ve had good things to say about in the past – I reviewed this song back at the end of 2021, and I still feel like it’s a strong song in Fradkin’s catalog.  It’s memorable, and that’s pretty much all you can ever hope for when it comes to the art of songwriting in a world that is overstuffed with material from one side of the map to the other.  But that’s a fairly key thing that does separate the good from the great though, know what I mean?  Being memorable is truly a crucial thing, and it’s by no means any kind of easy accomplishment.  I put on “Under The Covers” and instantly knew that I’d heard this song before in the past…and though it’s fair to say I’ve listened to my fair share of Les Fradkin tunes & then some at this point, it wasn’t like I felt like I was hearing a sound I recognized so much as I was certain it was this very song.  As I always tell ya, there are precious few times where I feel like my opinion on any tune or record would ever change due to how many times I choose to listen before I ever write a single word…so even though I haven’t reread my previous review on “Under The Covers,” I’m positive I had great things to say about it – it’s a solid song, all the way through.  Not just a good track, but one of the stronger tracks in the Fradkin catalog so far as I’ve personally heard it.  I also think the accessibility he’s consistently seeking out exists on a universal level throughout this track as well…as in, “Under The Covers” probably isn’t just one of my own favorites in what Les has created throughout the years, but quite likely a favorite of many listeners out there that have put the time in to listen to his tunes.  I enjoy revisiting a great song the same as any of you would…and I look forward to mining through the “Magic Attic” of my mind one day for that same very reason.  You can read the original review of this single by clicking here…“Under The Covers” made for a reliable and conclusive ending to this sample set of singles from Fradkin’s catalog that I’m sure many folks out there will enjoy.

Find out more about Les Fradkin from his official website at:  https://lesfradkin.com

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