Dramarama – Vinyl

What I Think of When I Think of This Artist (part 3)

After several barren years despite significant effort, it was a surprise when 1991’s Vinyl turned out to be Dramrama’s best album. It also was the beneficiary of a major label marketing push, which included music videos. And the critical acclaim the band had generated probably helped lasso guests Benmont Tench, Mick Taylor, and studio pro Jim Keltner.

What I Think of This Album

Vinyl opens with the sound of a jukebox arm loading a record onto the turntable. The song that follows is the best Dramarama album opener ever. “Until the Next Time” blends acoustic and electric guitars, offers up a red hot solo, and John Easdale sounds completely energized, while also older and wiser. The tom-rolling “Haven’t Got A Clue” was a single, and deservedly so, as Easdale turns in a great performance, Chris Carter’s bass pushes and pulls, and Mr. E delivers a catchy wah-wah lead part and solo.

The mocking-but-sort-of-sincere protest song “What Are We Gonna Do?” features Benmont Tench (Tom Petty) and this downcast number was surely chosen as a single simply for the reference to Earth Day, which was a thing people were paying lip service to in 1991. The blistering attack on classic rock radio “Classic Rot” is enlivened by ex-Rolling Stones Mick Taylor’s guitar playing and the violin of Lisa Haley (a descendant of early rock ‘n’ roller Bill Haley), as well as more contributions from Tench. Perhaps appropriately, the band segues into a cover of the Stones’ (sort of – maybe just Mick Jagger’s) “Memo From Turner,” which is pretty good, and on which Mr. E does some impressive slide work.

I have to say that while the first half of lengthy ballad “Train Going Backwards” effectively bores me, I do like the second half quite a bit. Suspicious and sinister “I’ve Got Spies” is a sleeper deep cut, sinewy and dark and fucking fantastic – a masterpiece of arranging. “In Quiet Rooms” is a fantastic rocker, and “Ain’t It the Truth” is a cousin to “Spies,” sounding like a harder and faster version of something Lindsey Buckingham would’ve recorded in a cocaine-fueled frenzy during the Tusk sessions. The phased guitar would’ve made J Mascis smile. This also happens to round out a very impressive nine solid tunes in a row.

“Tiny Candles” is . . . not good, and eminently skippable. Final track “(I’d Like to) Volunteer, Please” is the Jim Keltner track for those of you keeping score, and I can take it or leave it (but mostly leave it, as it is too long). Basically, I think the album ends with “Truth,” though the short hidden track “Steve Is Here” is enjoyably stupid.

By this time, Dramarama had been reduced to Easdale, Mr. E, Pete Wood, and Chris Carter; they borrowed Brian MacLeod from Wire Train on drums and New Jersey friend Tommy T. for various other tasks.

Among the people mentioned in the “Thanks” section of the liner notes are Ian Hunter (Mott the Hoople), Tom Petty AND the Heartbreakers, the Posies, the Wonder Stuff, John Wesley Harding, Mitch Easter, and Clem Burke (Blondie). Former drummer Jesse is gently teased for having left the band to teach spiritual therapeutics; he died in 2014.

Production credit goes to Don Smith (Bash & Pop, Cracker, Tom Petty). Also Jeff Lynne (ELO) is credited for having listened to a rough mix.

The Best Thing About This Album

That Dramarama came back from the dead to deliver a phenomenal album.

Release Date

October, 1991

The Cover Art

Excellent! The colors, the quadrants, the shag haircut, the pop art chair, the composition of the band name and title. I think the models legs look like they are turning into butterfly legs or something insectoid.

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