Review: BAAMO's 'Tales of Lust and Longing'
Tales of Lust and Longing is like a love letter to Tampa Bay, capturing the area‚Äôs lush beauty and seedy charms through musicians who embody the folksy and forward-thinking sensibilities of Central Florida.
Produced by the Bay Area Arts and Music Organization (BAAMO), namely WMNF DJ Lee ‚ÄúFlee‚Äù Courtney and local music scene supporter Laura Keane, the BAAMO CD remains within a very Florida rootsy-rustic comfort zone while branching out here and there beyond the distinctly defined niches of the music scene.
The CD stars singer-songwriters considered living legends around these parts, such as the acerbic and inspirational Ronny Elliott, who sings solo and in a duet with Rebekah Pulley.
Guitar rock virtuosi Rich Whitely, Experimental Pilot (brothers Robert and Stephen Vessenmeyer) and Ted Lukas cozy up to wild-eyed young ‚Äôuns like Tampa‚Äôs blues-poppy Roppongi‚Äôs Ace and Bradenton‚Äôs compelling ambient rockers Sons of Hippies. The duo is the most ear-grabbing act south of the Skyway since Have Gun, Will Travel took aim on Tampa Bay.
Speaking of Have Gun, Will Travel, the band‚Äôs Land of the Living perks up the mix with one of its most vibrant and introspective tunes.
We also get some non-scene-dwelling artists who haven‚Äôt attracted a huge buzz yet, such as the inspirational rock of Baluja.
All are solid, professional acts that perform folk, electro-pop, hard rock, power pop, indie pop and honky-tonks.
(Click here to listen to mp3s by Rich Whiteley, Military Junior, the Beauvilles and Ted Lukas!)
A couple of drawbacks: Tales of Lust and Longing lacks Latin rock, salsa and hip-hop, other staples of Tampa Bay‚Äôs musical landscape.
There‚Äôs a good reason, according to co-producer Flee. He says that he didn‚Äôt want to throw in a rap or soul tune that was out of place, and in keeping with the lyrical requirements ‚Äî artists submitted lyrics to prove their songs fell into the ‚Äúlust and longing‚Äù theme ‚Äî Flee didn‚Äôt want to distract from the overall motif with abrupt changes of genre. He says he was avoiding a played-out ‚Äúbest of Tampa Bay‚Äù CD and prefers coming up with more interesting concepts for the BAAMO collection, such as ‚Äútale‚Äù telling.
‚ÄúThe next CD will be themed more musically than lyrically,‚Äù he says of the next BAAMO comp, which will be geared toward more rhythmic styles like world beat, R&B and hip-hop.
Still, Tales of Lust and Longing is a must listen. It has variety even if it dwells a little too long on the hippie-twangy side. Much attention was paid to the quality of production. Volume levels stay consistent and songs flow well from one to another and are positioned to be complementary and thematically cohesive.
Those who dig straight-ahead rock, blues and folk will appreciate the rootsy earnestness of Annie Fuller or Judy Tampa and the Bunko Squad. Rebekah Pulley‚Äôs bare vocal opener on Dirty jump-starts the CD with sweet and sexy seduction.
She and the Ditchflowers‚Äô Love, the Conquerer stand out in their ability to bridge the generation gap between the older and younger artists and styles, offering a balance of mature insight and spunk. Military Junior does as well. The St. Pete band‚Äôs Unconventional sucks listeners in with sophisticated and energetic pop-rock.
The Beauvilles‚Äô Snow and Palantine‚Äôs Dead Wreck are two rousing standouts, the tunes you‚Äôll want to crank up louder while coasting on the Interstate. Mojo Gurus‚Äô Party Doll dresses down in a romp and stomp for gritty-rock-loving fans.
A special gem on the CD: a final departure from the sadly now-defunct Giddy up, Helictopter! ‚Äî Something That Needs Nothing ‚Äî gives us one last moody and swirly ride with one of Tampa‚Äôs most memorable indie rock bands.
The CD closes out with a groovy dance party courtesy of Jeremy Gloff‚Äôs Lights Out.
Each tune lures listeners in with a different sex or romance tale, a reflective or sassy mood. Topics range from pining for lost love, musings on incompatibility to declarations of passions. Some tales are romantic, some a little more realistic.
‚ÄúWe‚Äôre all aware that somehow people, despite being mistreated and abused, cannot stop being in love with their abuser,‚Äù says Palantine‚Äôs Vinnie Cosentino. ‚ÄúThat complex behavior has always baffled and in a way intrigued me and I just wish that crap didn‚Äôt exist or happen. Dead Wreck is sort of a real world view of longing and lust if you will ... not like running in slow motion towards one another in a field of wildflowers on a bright spring day.‚Äù
Meticulous care went into the packaging, too. Local artist Robert Phelps provides the richly layered artwork. On the cover, he depicts the lustful mythological satyr and a backdrop of distorted text from a romance novel. Phelps cleverly positions the figure to hide the juicy parts.
‚ÄúThe text in the background is from a naughty, naughty romance novel I found in a thrift store,‚Äù Phelps said. ‚ÄúIt‚Äôs the sultry adventures of a pampered heiress in the turn of the century Pacific Northwest. Ever since I caught my Mom reading historical romance books when I was a kid, I‚Äôve had a silly obsession with them.‚Äù
With all great love affairs, the element of enticement is at play throughout Tales of Lust and Longing, which as a whole draws us in and gives us a mere tease of the musical talent Tampa Bay has to offer.
-- Julie Garisto, tbt* columnist
The album Tales of Lust and Longing is available at baamo.org. It‚Äôs also included in the price of admission ($10) at a CD release show at 5 p.m. Saturday at New World Brewery in Ybor City. For more on the stellar local lineup at the show, see Page 27.