Richard X. Heyman’s “Tiers” a pop gem
RICHARD X. HEYMAN Tiers/And Other Stories (Turn-Up)
I’ve never heard of Richard X. Heyman, and you haven’t either. And in many ways, that’s the theme of Heyman’s Tiers, an intricate, elaborately constructed song cycle about young love, dreams of stardom and the crushing realization that fame is as elusive as advertised.
Heyman tells this tale having long ago reached out for this dream and made peace with failure. But it’s not a failure of musical vision – this is a gorgeous Brian Wilson-fan worthy production brimming with beautiful melodies, lush orchestration and bittersweet vocal harmonies. Heyman just didn’t get to hit the big time in L.A., joining the ranks of talented singer-songwriters whose genius is known to only a few. His reward: After a few years of struggle, he reunited with the girl he left behind.
Although Heyman employed several guest musicians, he performed most of the album himself on a wide array of instruments – guitar, bass, drums, keyboards – that would make Prince or Stevie Wonder take notice. In an era where iTunes has blurred the impact of full-length albums, Tiers demands you listen to the whole work. Oh, and if that 15-song, 80-minute pop opera is not enough for you, Heyman presents another batch of songs on a second disc, And Other Stories, packaged with this album.
ELVIS PRESLEY Elvis is Back!: Legacy Edition (RCA/Legacy)
Elvis Presley’s first LP upon his return from the Army was a No. 2 bestseller that not only signaled his return at the time but has grown in stature since its 1960 release as arguably his best album. During his two years out of recording action, studio technology had improved, and Elvis was teamed up with a group of Nashville session aces on such now-classic tracks as “Fever,” “The Girl of My Best Friend,” “Soldier Boy” and “Such a Night.” It’s great to hear Elvis cover Lowell Fulson’s blues staple “Reconsider Baby.”
This two-disc version pairs Elvis is Back! with the lesser known 1961 follow-up Something For Everybody plus collects a dozen singles released during the same period, including “Little Sister,” “Good Luck Charm” and “Are You Lonesome Tonight?” And the king is in fine voice throughout.
BOB DYLAN Bob Dylan in Concert Brandeis University 1963 (Columbia Legacy)
This 50-minute recording of Bob Dylan performing at Brandeis University between the release of his first and second albums was discovered in the collection of the late music critic Ralph J. Gleason. Dylan’s debut, out more than a year at the time of this performance, had failed to make him a star, and he was low on the bill at this folk festival.
The 21-year-old sing-songwriter previewed a few songs from his upcoming Freewheelin’ album (“Masters of War,” “Bob Dylan’s Dream,” and “Honey Just Allow Me One More Chance,” which begins mid-song.)
“Bobby” Dylan was still aping Woody Guthrie (“Talking Bear Mountain Picnic Massacre Blues”) and poking fun at communism (“Talkin’ John Birch Paranoid Blues.”) It’s a fine document of the artist shortly before he became a star.