Clutch Hits, Best of…
Reviewed by Kent Manthie
The great thing about DIY music is that you really can do whatever you want: any genre, any style, etc. and the tag “DIY” doesn’t have any musical connotations, i.e., there’s no expectation that it’s going to sound this way or that. DIY is only a descriptive that let’s you know that the artist/band wrote their songs, recorded them on their own and, possibly with a little help from a “buddy in the biz” or just plain hard work, released and distributed on their own. DIY is the apex of indie.
David Wakeling is one such example. He’s been writing and recording songs now, for the past 5 years at least. He played in a band called Against Medical Advice (David’s “day job” is as a GP doctor, taking care of the people up in the Pacific Northwest area, from where he hails: Portland, OR) as well as This, Not This, another band with whom he made some records. AMA put out an eponymous CD in 2009 and This, Not This also released a self-titled CD as well as one entitled Waiting for the World which came out in 2013. In between those projects, Wakeling did some solo work, recording a few full-length albums, such as 2013’s You Gotta Start Somewhere, Gravity and Altadena Avenue. He also released a few CD-singles in the same time frame, including “Not as Bad as it Seems”, “Hey Little Baby”, “Hero of ’44” as well as “Takeaway”, all in 2013.
This is where Clutch Hits, Best of… comes in. It puts together such singles as “Hero of ’44”, “Takeaway”, “Gravity”, “Not as Bad as it Seems”, among others. So, this really is a “Best of” album – the songs Wakeling thought stood out the most and so compiled in one album. The only song on Clutch Hits… that wasn’t written by David Wakeling is “Already”, an old Nik Kershaw tune, written by Nik.
He does have some help from some friends on here, including Gordy Johnson, who plays lead guitar on track one, “Panic Room” and “Today Might be the Day”; Frank Adrian on bass on tracks 1, 2, 4-6, 8 and the closing tune, “Takeaway (single version)” and Brad Wager picks up the bass on number 11, “Driving This Love Home”; Emily Lundgren lends her lush, lovely voice also on “Driving This Love Home”.
So, there are obviously other tunes on here where David himself plays guitar, which I found great, such as on “Maybe One More Chance” and “Hero of ’44”. Another stand out performance is the booming drums that punctuate, nicely, the songs. They don’t overpower the tunes, but act as great musical exclamation points.
The music on Clutch Hits… is a variety of mellow, laid-back Wilco-ish country-rock, with maybe a nod to Jackson Browne. Catchy tunes, no caterwauling overdubs, just a good, clean (musically speaking too) sound that has just the right kind of drumming and percussion.
Looking at his homepage, www.wakelingmusic.com, you can read his history for yourself and also go through the discography that is up there as well. In the “Bio” section of the webpage, it reads that Wakeling has been influenced by the best – it’s always good when you have a love and appreciate the style and work ethic of bands like Steely Dan, who have been one of my favorites, since way back when I was about 6 or 7, when Aja came out (1977) and I used to hear “Josie” a lot on the radio. I’ve been a big fan ever since, if you don’t count the crazy time of my early teens. Another great musician/songwriter he lists as an influence is the one and only Todd Rundgren, in my opinion, quite underrated, when you actually get a hold of a bucket of his albums, you can see the diversity, the craftsmanship and the use of the studio as more than a recording device. He put out so many albums throughout the 1970s and, while I haven’t heard everyone, I can say that the stuff I have heard all had their own special unique sound. Pat Metheny, another influence of David’s – I love jazz – is a good one to listen to if you’re looking for a good role model to heighten your own playing. The other one listed as an influence is James Taylor, who, all throughout the 1970s and into the 80s, wrote, co-wrote or sang Carole King compositions that he developed nicely into smooth, easy riding songs. I can see how David Wakeling can appreciate Taylor’s approach to songwriting and his style of performing. He does a great job of taking all the aforementioned influences and not copying anything they do, rather he’s soaked up the music and it’s been implanted to his unconscious where it stays and provides grist for the mill for Wakeling’s own music. In other words, you won’t hear this album and then say “oh, yeah, I can hear the influence of so-and-so in this song or that, etc.
I don’t completely know his schedule, meaning how he divides his time between the solo and the band experience, with This, Not This. But I hope he continues to make some more good stuff with both projects.
I am not completely sure how much of Clutch Hits is new, but I know that a good number of the songs are taken from various singles he’s put out in the past few years. Here’s hoping, too, that his day job won’t get into the way, too much, of being able to play live gigs as that is the best way to measure a band’s quality – by their live work. Of course, there is a lot to be said for being studio junkies who love to spend lots of time in the studio and are loath to take the show on the road (look at Steely Dan through the 70s, the majority of their existence. They didn’t tour. They were perfectionists who spent oodles of time with a vast quantity of session players, making sure everything was sparkling clear. And it worked! In comparison, I’d say Wakeling also did a superb job by utilizing the studio; the music comes out clear and precise, it’s got a great professionalism all through it. Can’t wait for the next, full-length album to appear! ENJOY! -KM.