Wendell Nightfall Troupe - 2009 Clumsy Grace

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ARTIST: Wendell Nightfall Troupe
ALBUM: Clumsy Grace
LABEL: Radionic Records
SERIAL: FC 1133-2
YEAR: 2009

COUNTRY OF ORIGIN: image

LINEUP: Norbert Wabnig - vocals, piano, nylon-string guitar * Richard Duncan - vocals, guitars, arrangements

Additional Musicians: Glen Cornick, Jack Deaton - bass * Thom Mooney, Rich Williams - drums * Don Schulz, Charlie Wehr, Buzzy Beano - guitars * Rob Schulte - drums, percussion * Brad Cohen - sax * Moria Cidledy - violin * Steve Johnson - viola * Debbie Yamak - cello

TRACK LISTING: 01 Stardumb * 02 Clumsy Grace * 03 Take A Chance * 04 There's Something Wrong * 05 You're Not Listening * 06 Stars In Manhattan * 07 Take A Bow * 08 Australia * 09 The Motor Song * 10 Hollywood Boulevard * 11 Suddenly It's You

Background

Once in a while an archive release drops from the clear blue that seemingly makes every reissue or highly rated collectable irrelevant.

You know what I'm talking about, music that sat on a shelf, in a vault or shoe box in someone's garage for years and was as good as or better than anything the majors were putting out at the time and for whatever reason was lost in the music biz shuffle, forgotten with the relentless passage of time.

As a '70s pop geek there have been two such offerings in recent years that, and I'm not mincing words here - have blown my mind. First was the 2010 release 'Test Flight' from the mid-70s UK group Airbus. A dazzling set of Wings/10cc influenced pop and after first listen I spun the damn thing every day for a month straight - no exaggeration and it still sneaks its way into the player every couple months or so.

The second is this disc from the duo Wendell Nightfall Troupe who according to the minimal sleeve notes moved from New Orleans to Los Angeles in 1974 with the hope of making the big time. Of course that never happened but the demos they created are remarkable to say the least.

The Songs

A few reviews have compared 'Clumsy Grace' to ELO, mainly due to the extensive use of string quartet although I hear bits 'n pieces of all sorts of things including Klaatu, Stackridge and a host of melody-minded European prog bands too numerous to mention here.

The sound quality is superb and while the packaging is bare bones, it's nicely presented in a glossy full colour gatefold mini-LP sleeve.

A couple familiar names show up as guests, former Wild Turkey/Jethro Tull bassist Glen Cornick and drummer Thom Mooney who from the time-framed guesstimate of the recordings were either in or out of the band Paris.

Apparently Wendell Nightfall Troupe had some major label interest and listening to tracks like the radio-ready period AOR of 'Stardumb' and the very Klaatu influenced title track, it's easy to hear why although the Troupe were probably too late in the game to be inked to a deal.

With so many consistently good tracks on display, it's not easy picking a favourite although the chamber pop of 'There's Something Wrong' reminds me of McCartney worshiping outfits like Richard Twice and Yellowstone & Voice both of which put me in a good place while the snappy 'Australia' in a perfect world would have made for a great single.

Like so many releases of this ilk, the best is saved for last with 'Hollywood Boulevard' recalling prime-time Al Stewart and 'Suddenly It's You' going for a pre-1975 Fleetwood Mac sound and succeeding wonderfully.

In Summary

You guessed it, my highest possible recommendation for 'Clumsy Grace' which is still easy to find through CD Baby or a download from any number of locations.

While you're at it pick up the Airbus disc on the Wooden Hill label and spend a week basking in the sunshine of pop music's most creative period and two band's that deserved so much more.


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