Barry Greenfield is a Beatles afficionado so he’ll understand when I say that Paul McCartney needed John Lennon and Lennon needed McCartney. They completed each other just by one another’s character imposing itself.
So, it seems, with the Wizard Brothers, Greenfield and current partner, Mick Dalla-Vee.. Mick gives Barry a consistent edge while Barry gives Mick more focus. It’s an unexpected collaboration as each has a career and were fine on their own, but the Wizard Brothers adds something more.
At this point, it’s a songwriting partnership whose videos can be seen on You Tube but, if a record comes out of this activity, it’ll be varied, entertaining and informative. I’ve heard six songs so far and enjoyed them at the least or been provoked as intended.
Greenfield was one the few Vancouver writers to have a big international hit about 50 years ago with New York Is Closed Tonight. That started off a career on a high note that’s been impossible to duplicate, though there have been songs that have earned him respect as a writer. No acclaim, however , and it’s that elusive recognition that seems to have spurred Barry for much of that time.
He opted out of the music business and became a financial adviser/planner and from that secure vantage point has recorded several albums, does at least a two concerts a year, and has built a modest following. The albums have been ambitious in concept or direction and choice of collaborators. Apart from a miscue called The Up, in which Barry immersed himself in new wave rock, he’s taken the independent route that mostly has been artistically successful, even trying out DOA’s Sudden Death distribution and promotion for one album. Albums solo, acoustic, electric and recorded in Nashville. Being independent, he’s paid for this steady stream of records by himself. The concerts have been as ambitious in their themes and accompanists.
Della-Vee is more well-rounded in that, if Greenfield always has been a songwriter, Della-Vee has organized international tours, runs his own studio, produced, been in his own bands or served as a sideman. He thus can be termed a team player, though independently creative, and a valuable person to have on your side.
As the Wizard Brothers, they seem to able to utilize their various talents to bring out the best in each other.
Cupid’s Arrow is a real departure for Barry. It’s refreshing and shows a sense of humour. It’s easy to do rockabilly by utilizing all the cliches of the form, but he and Mick have a unique slant.. “All I need is Cupid’s arrow in you is” sung with attitude. The background vocals are discreetly used but fill out the song without descending into Jordanaires cliche. I’ve been listening to Dave Edmunds lately. I don’t know if he’s planning a new record but he should hear this.
Water Is The New Gold has that edgy quality in no small part to the lead guitar, but also its information, which makes you pay attention. It has a bridge, too, that works and gives an added dimension…just as bridges are supposed to.
Obama made me wonder at first where it could go with a figure who is a disappointment to some but still shows that there is hope.
I think Neil Young cornered that pattern (see Out On The Weekend on Harvest) but it’s such a firm foundation. They also have added another good bridge. Speaking of which, the line “We need a bridge not a wall” is great. I also like the fact that a theme centered around Obama soon opens up into a song about heroes, socially or politically.
I’m Hanging On To You so far is the only keyboard based song. Once past the orchestral start it becomes more country-folk with flute. It’s the most tender song of the five. It made me think, somehow, that it could be a soul song? Not the grunt-howl kind but more like Otis Redding’s Dock Of The Bay? Or The Rolling Stones reworking of The Temptations’ Just My Imagination. I love the Tempts’ elegant recording but The Stones have found its backbone in the groove they establish.
The Quiet Canadians takes a chance as such a patriotic theme can be divisive. I like it, though, because I am one of those quiet Canadians. For me, it’s about time. Canadian pride is swelling and so far has not become jingoistic, which is what I feared. That Dire Straits style helps elevate the song without seeming derivative. In a way, it illustrates what Barry and Mick are doing and might open doors stylistically. Still, they are taking a chance both lyrically and musically.