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The Feelies’ second album was released in 1986, six years after their Crazy Rhythms debut, a gap mystifying a lot of people but not bandleaders Glenn Mercer and Bill Million, who said, long story short, that it just plain took that long. Not that they didn’t try, but at one early-’80s point, the two cooked up a demo so interstellar that their first record label, Stiff — a punky English imprint stocked with five-pints-a-night poets — delivered unto them that classic corporate “We don’t hear a single” shuck.

That material ended up in a side project, and on first listen, The Good Earth, co-produced by R.E.M.’s Peter Buck, slides out deceptively simple. Acoustic strum defines the rhythm guitar, though Mercer and Million’s electric leads still spray through the latticework like sparklers tossed in tall grass. Anton Fier’s crisp, neurotic tom-tomming on the debut gives way to a relaxed but canny team of Stan Demeski on a drum kit and percussionist Dave Weckerman on anything that isn’t nailed down. They massage each song in exactly the right places, laying back on the backbeat, pushing ahead for fills.

Mercer’s such an unassuming vocalist (and presumably such an easygoing fellow) that he didn’t mind when his singing got pushed so far down in the mix that he sounds as if he’s around the corner. And the lyrics, while not exactly giveaway, serve the sound, not the other way around. On Crazy Rhythms everyone came off jacked up on gas station java and lost on the New Jersey Turnpike on their way to the Shinto shrine. Here, and over their next two albums, they’ve found the right spot. And demonstrate, through example, that the right spot can be any spot. Change your mind to free your mind. And your spirit shall follow.

  • Album: The Good Earth (2009)
  • Artist: The Feelies
  • Label: Bar None
  • Songs: (1) On The Roof (2) The High Road (3) The Last Roundup (4) Slipping (Into Something) (5) When Company Comes (6) Let's Go (7) Two Rooms (8) The Good Earth (9) Tomorrow Today (10) Slow Down
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Comments

Russ Lewis Dec. 10, 2009 @ 8:42 p.m.

"Slipping (Into Something)" is still the song this album lives for.

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