The Official Voice of Vietnam Veterans of America, Inc. ®
An organization chartered by the U.S. Congress

January/February 2003
OFF THE SHELF
   
 

Heart Of Gold: New Music From Old

BY PJ ANDERER


It's new music, yet it's old music. It's familiar, but distinctly different. Kids love it, and so do their parents. 

In the liner notes of Don't Know When I'll Be Back Again, former VVA Veterans Benefits staffer Bonnie Schlegel Frasure defines her reasoning for assembling this compilation. She believes classic rock, loosely defined as the music of the Vietnam era, has been unappreciated by modern post-punk and indie artists.  However, throughout the course of the CD's twenty tracks, one can easily discern the influence of classic rock on current music. 

Schlegel Frasure also wanted to produce a compilation album that mixed modern sounds and methods with traditional, recognizable classic rock songs. The juxtaposition of old and new in this CD produces very compelling results, illuminating the overall strength of the original songs, which emerge as listenable after being remade. In addition, the compilation identifies several different genres of modern music back to the Vietnam War period.        

There seem to be three reasons bands selected the songs on I Don't Know When I'll Be Back Again. Many bands chose well-known protest songs directly about the Vietnam War:  "For What It's Worth" by The Reputation, "Fortunate Son" by Death Cab for Cutie with Sean Nelson, and "I Feel Like I'm Fixing To Die Rag" by the Panoply Academy Legionnaires. The reason for these choices is similar; however, the end results vary widely. "Fortunate Son" is fairly similar to the original Credence Clearwater Revival version, while "I Feel Like I'm Fixing to Die Rag" is full of sonic experimentation resulting in a modern sound unlike Country Joe and the Fish's original. Throughout the album, there is a wide range of faithfulness to the original recordings.  

Other songs were chosen because they were seminal to classic rock. These include "Immigrant Song" by Atombombpocketknife with Cash Audio plus guest Robert Lowe, "Come Together" by Cable Car Theory, "White Rabbit" by Enon, and "I Don't Live Today" by Beauty Pill. Their inclusion invites a re-examination of their meanings, for all songs from this era were affected by the events of the Vietnam War purely because of the time in which they were produced.     

Some groups chose to select songs by artists who directly influenced their sound. Washington, D.C., band Q and Not U selected Don't Let It Bring You Down by Neil Young. The cover demonstrates an understanding of the strength of the original song, letting the words and melody come through while creating a powerful song to open the album. Q and Not U put their own stamp on the song, subtly altering the rhythms and adding the vocal experimentation that is, in part, characteristic of Neil Young's own creative songwriting and musical style.      

The Gooses cover proto-punk pioneers the Stooges with a sound reminiscent of the electronic music of the 1980s.  While this may seem surprising, the respect for experimentation can be an inspiration, crossing genres and influencing differing artists. Despite the traditional use of guitars and drums in the original, there is an almost electronic sound. Conversely, deep down underneath the effects and electronic sounds of the Gooses cover is the driving punk rock beat, inspired by the original.        

Bonnie Schlegel Frasure's own band, Rogue, contributes a track to her compilation. "Happy Together" is a slower, trip-hop-inspired version of the original Turtles song. The drawn-out tones and resonant sounds are hauntingly appealing. The addition of subtle vibes, horns, and accordion establishes an unsettling mood that continues to build throughout the song. The song becomes catchier with each listen, and this makes it one of the album's best cuts.    

In the end, this CD provides an effective introduction to independent music. The use of familiar songs by less familiar bands helps ease the transition for those who might not regularly listen to music of the genres represented on Don't Know When I'll Be Back Again. The use of familiar words and music is twisted uniquely in each case in truly postmodern fashion.

This album recreated the songs of the Vietnam War era; it did not simply remake them. A lot has happened since these songs were written: Conventions have been challenged and assumptions discarded. Modern musicians strive to find a unique approach and sound, yet still produce great music.  The songs of Don't Know When I'll Be Back Again are precisely this, great recreations of some truly great music.  

One final benefit: It is a benefit. A portion of the proceeds from Don't Know When I'll Be Back Again goes to VVA Benefits Department.


Don't Know When I'll Be Back Again is available for purchase online at http://www.exoticfever.com/future_exotic_main.html or through mail order.

Send a $10 check or money order to:

EXF Mail Order
P.O. Box 297
College Park, MD  20741-0297

Specify that you want to order the Don't Know When I'll Be Back Again Vietnam veterans benefit CD. Please allow 4-6 weeks shipping.

   

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