The musicians: Jim Basnight (Lead & backing vocals, electric & acoustic guitars), Steve Aliment (Backing Vocals), Dave Warburton (Drums), Garey Shelton (Bass), Bruce Hazen (Electric Guitar, tracks 1, 3, 4, 5 & 9), and Jay Phillips (Spoken intro on track 14).
This was easily one of the most challenging reviews I’ve written to date…and I mean that in a good way…because I listened to the CD four times before I wrote a word, and the nuances kept revealing themselves. Jim is a chameleon, a master alchemist whose craft is the result of decades’ worth of writing, recording, and relentless gigging.
You can’t readily categorize the sound of this album, because it’s not “one” thing. Power Pop? YES. British Invasion? YES. Does Lou Reed show up for a visit? YES. But what about David Bowie and Marc Bolan? YES, and YES, and that just scratches the surface/ There is a staggering originality and restless energy that prevents Jim from standing in one place for too long, but the album still holds together as an album.
In short, this boy runs with scissors, and no one’s gonna stop him. This is a jaw-dropping work of art from a seasoned musician who is firing on all cylinders.
“Not Changing,” track by track:
“Code To Live By” opens with a little Flamenco / Spanish guitar figure and a sound that harkens back to Doug Sahm…“Sitting in your velvet cage, lookin’ for a war to wage…” The song feels like a great lost gem from the Sir Douglas Quintet, the whole Tex / Mex essence.
“Not Changing,” from the spoken intro to the song itself, feels like Lou Reed circa the Velvets’ third, eponymous album. “I don’t want wanna be another tommyrocker, makin’ money finding flags to wave…” Jim’s lyrics go far beyond the usual rock cliches, a mix of introspection and defiance, closing with an A Capella manifesto…“If I had another life to live, I would not change a thing…”
“Big Bang” is Jim’s Bowie / Bolan explosion of metaphors, a glam-drenched revelry of distorted, snarling guitars and the repeated “Big bang, big bang” refrain. It brilliantly taps into a major “secret ingredient” of that genre, bemused detachment and an air of ennui in the vortex of larger-than-life experiences. The somewhat languid vocal as all hell’s breaking loose…Jim “gets” what many musicians overlook when delving into this genre.
“Avenue Of The Star”…Hello, Seattle. The city’s sound is loud and proud on this track. Drums once again reminiscent of the V.U.’s Mo Tucker intertwine with the ghost of Layne Staley.
“Making Love For A Living”…a lively, rollicking bluesy roadhouse take on the things most of us would rather do instead of working in a factory. “I could start by waxing your Rolls Silver Shadow Royce” made me laugh out loud…“Rolling Truck Stones Thing,” anyone? The bridge morphs into a funk shuffle before a full-throttle guitar solo kicks in.
“Suicide Evening”…Interesting combo of influences here…Lou Reed meets Eric Burdon meets Mick Jagger meets Eddie Vedder, and he makes it work. A couple of guitar solos worthy of Television’s Richard Lloyd. I could also imagine The New York Dolls’ David Johannsen strutting and preening through this one in grand fashion. Another spoken interlude, which Jim uses to great effect.
“Best Lover In The World”…Twangy roots rock / Americana / Heartland Rock, in the best Petty / Mellencamp style. Jim knows the exact setting on the simplicity / complexity dial for each song. He can effortlessly shift from deep and moody to upbeat pop star without breaking a sweat.
“Kurt Cobain”…reminiscent of Lou Reed’s elegy to Andy Warhol, “Dime Story Mystery.” Nice reference to Nirvana’s cover of Bowie’s “Man Who Sold The World.” “I hope that somewhere in the stars you hear my song…I hope you can understand the words and sing along…” GENIUS, because show of hands…and be honest…how many of you knew all of the words to “Smells Like Teen Spirit” without a lyric sheet?
“Never Get Lost”…amazing, booming, bass-anchored riff opens this one, harmony vocals play a key role, and it sounds like a great, lost Badfinger track, from the killer bridge to the lyrics to the Beatle-y guitars. It’s like Jim had a seance with the late Pete Ham and said “Show me everything in your trick bag,” and Pete said “OK,” and did. If I were a DJ, I’d have this one in heavy rotation until I was told to stop, but I wouldn’t. I’d keep playing it endlessly, it’s that damned good.
“Second Street”…a twangy stroll through the bad part of town with drugs, guns, Cuban stores and “luscious girls.” A guitar worthy of Al Perkins in the Flying Burrito Brothers. An amphetamine Norman Greenbaum “Spirit In The Sky” riff barrels under the closing section, and…a STRING SCRAPE. Bonus points are ALWAYS awarded for string scrapes, because they DEFINE BADASSED.
“Saturday Dream”…The repeated refrain “Saturday Dream, the best it can be” in a song that sounds like a somber elegy. Irony is another tool in Jim’s box that’s used to great effect. “We’ll go down to the lake and see if we can make a little love before this evening’s gone”… spiraling guitar fills are the backdrop, the lyrics becoming a hypnotic mantra.
“You Never Cease To Amaze”…Power Pop, Raspberries echos, tight and alright.
“Having Fun”…Fab Four revisited, circa “Rubber Soul,” more intricately crafted pop simplicity. He makes it look easy, but trust me, it isn’t. This is what skill and talent sounds like.
“Living The Way I Want”…I’d pair this with “Never Get Lost” for the “Double A-Side Single” of the century. Big late-60s British Invasion textures all over this one. Beatles, Who, Kinks, and also the feel of how those bands found their way into Tom Petty’s sound. An album closer that’ll knock your socks off. Jim’s havin’ a rave-up, and you’re all invited.