REVIEW: Who Can Find The Dreamer?
Reviewed by: Keith "Muzikman" Hannaleck, May, 2009
It has been a long wait for the next Rock City album. Six years between albums is not your typical time frame however this is not your typical band by any means.
Rock City made some extraordinary music and one of those albums that never made it out to the general public was Who Can Find The Dreamer? Was this second coming a complete surprise or just long lost classic just itching for a chance to live again? That question is only answered by those in the know and I do not count amongst those select few. I can tell you one thing without any hesitation; this was a classic that was waiting to happen. 1984 was the year it was intended to be released but everything happens for a reason. 25 years later the band decided to blow the dust off the master tapes, add some live drums and select guitar parts and magic happens, we have a new release 25 years later more than just freshened up a bit .
Original members Jeff Smith (guitars), Thomas Dean Eubanks (bass, vocals), and Terry Manning (keyboards) got back together to remaster and add all the new parts while bringing in Joshua Dougan (Jonah 33) to handle the drums. The drums are all excellent and the overall sound is exceptional, highlighting every nuance of the original intent of the recording and more.
Eubanks sounds like Byran Ferry, particularly on the opening track “Seems So Long” but only in spots thereafter. He has a solid rock voice that is full of emotion always enunciating the lyrics with profound clarity. There are some interesting things going on with the storyline of the Dreamer. Track #2 “Denied (Intro) ” and “Final Message” are the same. It has a distraught man sobbing leaving a message to an overprotective father telling him “You won, I hope you are happy” - the poor me story we all know too well coming from the all time loser, or is he the Dreamer in all of us? Then it launches into the full rocking track with verses such as “you cannot do this, you cannot do that”. I felt that was the best cut on the CD.
What it ends up sounding close to when it’s all over is a rock opera. You get the feeling that perhaps this is just the beginning of an ongoing story with an eventuality that is up for grabs, leaving room for another album. There are a lot of possibilities to speculate with this fine recording but you can bet your bottom dollar that what you will hear is a rock solid album full of great music and fine tuned musicianship.
The effort put into this package is commendable. Every aspect is above average. The bizarre Chuckie looking character on the cover is surrounded by a menagerie of freak clowns and one very sad little girl. What it all means is anyone’s guess but it does fit the concept of the album quite well if you listen to the words and how the tracks are arranged. The artwork is stunning regardless of how chillingly odd it may be. Think art/music psychosis and you are getting the drift.
My first inclination was to tab this as a progressive rock album and it is progressive in regards to the presentation and artwork coupled with a compelling story then matched up with some complex music at times. After listening carefully and breaking it all down, what you really have is a rock album with pop elements that are filled with lyrics that are a bit intense, in comparison to anything else you would hear on an album today. It does not sound dated as you may anticipate because it was intended for release in 1984, instead you get a very modern recording thanks to the embellishments and remastering and additional guitars. I would recommend this CD to any rock fan, besides aren’t you wondering now Who Can Find The Dreamer?
Keith “MuzikMan” Hannaleck
May 19, 2009
Rock City - The Backstory
Following the disappointment of the first Rock City studio recordings with Chris Bell that immediately preceded the formation of Big Star by Chris Bell and Alex Chilton not being picked up by a record label; Thomas Dean Eubanks spent years depressed and wandering the mean back streets and alleyways of Memphis Tennessee; seemingly with no purpose in life. Eubanks had become caught up in the revolving door of being in and out of various rehabilitation centers due to his having become hooked on phonics at an early age. The addiction to phonics was exacerbated by his not being able to hold a steady job due to chronic restless leg syndrome which would cause him to break into fits of uncontrollable improvisational dancing. This would occur at inopportune and inappropriate times during the work day and would inevitably result in termination of employment.
Over a period of several years, aided by experimental treatments involving the judicious application of aroma therapy and the wearing of copper bracelets; Eubanks was able to manage his addiction to phonics and control his restless leg syndrome. As a result, he was ready to once again become a functioning member of society; although somewhat broken in spirit and ever mindful that a relapse could occur at any time. Anxious to resume his musical career, Eubanks went abroad to seek out guitarist Jeff Smith, who had for years been living a reclusive existence in a monastery in the foothills of the Himalayan mountains as an acolyte of a certain well known mystic and shaman in Nepal. These two old friends had previously worked together on the few Thomas Dean Eubanks solo efforts recorded for Terry Manning’s short lived Privilege Records label, which was distributed by Stax Records.
Thomas Dean Eubanks and Jeff Smith returned to Memphis and proceeded to form a songwriting partnership similar to the partnership that had previously existed between Eubanks and Chris Bell. Eubanks and Smith spent months writing the bulk of the material found on “Who Can Find The Dreamer?” in the spring and summer of 1983; recording the material in the fall of 1983 and winter of 1984 with Terry Manning at the helm as engineer at Ardent Studio and Cognito Studio.
All songs on “Who Can Find The Dreamer?” were co-written by Eubanks and Smith with Eubanks ( bass guitar and lead vocals), Smith ( guitar), and Manning (engineering, keyboards and drum programming).
As with the original Rock City recordings, once again there was no record label interest.
Fast forward to 2003. The 1st Rock City CD is released to critical acclaim. Eubanks, who had always thought the material recorded with Smith in 1984 to be outstanding but mishandled; set in motion the arduous and expensive process of re-establishing Cognito Studio as a base of operations from which to transform the 1984 recordings from a somewhat undistinguished mess into a unique rock classic.
The true story of “The Dreamer?” can now be told to all who care to listen! These long dormant recordings; which clock in at anywhere from 6 minutes plus to over 10 minutes per song; have now been reworked in beautiful vibe drenched Memphis, Tennessee, at Ardent Recording Studio and Cognito Studio. Utilizing his powers of mysticism honed during his years in Nepal; Jeff Smith was able to channel the presence of “The Dreamer?”; whose message was captured via a telephone answering machine. The happy circumstance of obtaining this recording of the message from the beyond accounts for the eerie, some might say, disturbing message from “The Dreamer?” found at the end of the song “Who Can Find The Dreamer?” and the raw, unadulterated version of the message found on the “Final Message.”
The CD is titled “Who Can Find The Dreamer?” by Rock City. Rock City is the name that Chris Bell bestowed upon the first studio project recording by Chris Bell and Thomas Dean Eubanks in the year just prior to Chris Bell, Alex Chilton, Andy Hummel and Jody Stephens forming the legendary band Big Star.
A Review Of The 1st Rock City CD
Rock City - Rock City
Rock City - Rock City
Released: Recorded 1969-70, released 2003
Label: Lucky Seven Records / Rounder Records
Cat. No.: 9209
Total Time: 43:43
Reviewed by: Keith "Muzikman" Hannaleck, September 2003
T-Rex, The Beatles, Eagles, The Guess Who … those are a few of the bands that came to mind while listening to this classic rock ‘n’ roll music. To evaluate any band while mentioning any of those all-time greats is quite a tribute. The self-titled album Rock City is the subject of my adulation. It is finally seeing the light of day after over thirty years of sitting on the shelf collecting dust. Recorded during 1969-70 under the guidance of legendary Big Star collaborator Chris Bell and his partners Terry Manning, Jody Stephens and Thomas Dean Eubanks, this great rock album was a precursor to the Big Star venture and subsequent recordings from that great band. It became more than obvious to me immediately why Alex Chilton became interested in what this group had to offer.
The original Memphis sound is part of the grand scheme of things, and that is the very factor that enables this music to travel on such an open road. The recording is broken down into three segments, Rock City, Thomas Dean Eubanks (whom wrote most of the songs) and Icewater. There is so much to offer on this one album, not to mention the stellar liner notes and the interviews with some of the original band members.
I think power pop is the operative word when summarizing what this music sounds like, although it is not that cut and dried. I heard rock, country, blues, and rhythm and blues sprinkled with pop. Every aspect of this recording was handled expertly by the then budding masters of pop rock, it will totally amaze you how good it all sounds. It is so vitally engaging absorbing music that it will never grow old. The magic of music like this has an uncanny ability to transcend time and to sound fresh every time you hear it, no matter what decade it is. Rock music does not get any more pure or honest than this. With 14 killer unrestrained tracks, this is a necessary album for anyone that enjoys great music. It is a crime that it took this long for this album to come out.
More about Rock City:
Track Listing: Rock City: Think It's Time to Say Goodbye (4:02) / I Lost Your Love (3:16) / The Wind Will Cry for Me (3:07) / My Life Is Right (3:07) / Lovely Lady (3:12) / The Answer (3:32) / Introduction (1:50) / Sunday Organ (3:16) / The Preacher (3:38) / Shine On Me (2:30) / Try Again (3:46) / Thomas Dean Eubanks: Oh Babe (2:39) / Try A Little Harder (3:59) / Icewater: Feel (3:41)
Alex Chilton - Guitar (Steel), Vocals
Terry Manning - Organ, Bass, Guitar, Percussion, Piano, Piano (Electric), Vocals (bckgr), Moog Synthesizer, Producer, Engineer, Liner Notes, Photography, Cover Photo
John Boyd - Saxophone
Bill Cunningham - Bass, Horn Arrangements
Fred Prouty - Drums
Jody Stephens - Drums
Chris Bell - Guitar (Acoustic), Guitar, Guitar (Rhythm), Vocals, Vocals (bckgr), Producer
Jeff Smith - Guitar
Thomas Dean Eubanks - Bass, Guitar (Rhythm), Vocals, Vocals (bckgr), Producer
* Rock City (2003)