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Stanley, Michael: The Hang
Michael Stanley, was born and raised in my hometown, the home of the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame, Cleveland, Ohio. He is an American singer-songwriter, musician, and since 1990, the afternoon drive disc jockey for radio station WNCX in Cleveland. (Way to make sure the right music gets played Michael!).
Stanley graduated from Rocky River High School in 1966…(me a little further South from that place everyone used to call AMRAP). He made his name along with his band, playing heartland rock throughout the American Midwest of the 1970s and 1980s. Many even call him the "Bruce Springsteen" of the Cleveland area.
I saw so many shows as a youth in Ohio, that I couldn't possibly recount them all. Stanley… along with WMMS, "The Home of the Thundering Buzzard in Quad"…yeah memories. Springsteen, "Baby We Were Born to Run", then Murray Saul, "The Get Down" Man, and finish the weekend kickoff with "Friday on My Mind"…yah…the weekends of the '70s…before I left for "greener pastures". But some things never leave you…they just…yah…Hang…on. Good times.
When I first found out Stanley had a new album coming out I wanted a crack at reviewing one of the men who, with all of his work and support of the Cleveland area rock music scene, helped make the '70s such a fun time to grow up.
Stanley brings along his Resonators on this album. The band includes: Tommy Dobeck, on drums; Bob Pelander, on piano and vocals; Danny Powers, on guitar and vocals; Jennifer Lee, on vocals and percussion; Rodney Psyka, on percussion and vocals; Marc Lee Shannon, guitar and sauce; Eroc Sosinski, on bass and vocals; and Paul Christensen, on sax.
And yes…you better believe this review will be track by track…;^)
Yes, we're either all "From Somewhere Else", or many of the native Clevelanders have moved on to somewhere else. This opening track brings together the melodies of two greats from the American Heartland, Bruce Springsteen and Bob Segar. At times you can hear that constant rolling beat of "The Boss's", "Hungry Heart", and at other times Segar's "Night Moves". It's a great combination of some classic sounds from my and many a Midwesterner's childhood. Yes, you may be somewhere else, but this track and album will definitely bring you back.
A wonderful Stanley classic sounding track "The Last Great Illusion", brings back some of the magic I remember from classics like, "Rosewood Bitters", only this time without Joe Walsh on guitar. "Bitters" almost brings tears to the eye to remember the many times it comforted a lonely drive home after football practices or games in the dark fall of a "Northern Coast" orange sky. This track will take you back; just like that moment, extended 36 years over some time warp. Maybe it's an illusion, but it sure does sound good.
"How Many Guitars Do You Need" is easily one of the best tracks on this or any Stanley album. This one will be amongst his greatest hits someday. Boy does it hit home in this political and economic season. "Just trying to keep the beast at bay". So, "how many guitars", cars, or things "do you really need"? Glad someone finally said it. "You can wait for the stones to bleed". Yeh some of the best lyrics I've heard in a while. The guitar solo is simply Eagelsesque…right back to "Hell Freezes Over", even if it isn't Joe.
"Breaking Down" is another of those famous Midwestern anthems of fighting the good fight, carried on by this artist for so many years. Captures the power of the world caving in around us so well with lyrics.
"When It Don't Come Easy" is a continuation of the anthems that capture the uphill battle Cleveland, and towns like it, have been fighting since the "Rust Belt" began to "oxidize". Stanley, who has never left, has fought on despite the troubles, proving it can be done, if you have the heart and strength to make it. This track takes me back to some of Springsteen's '70s era tracks that also captured that daring spirit from the Jersey shores. Patti Griffn joins Stanley on vocals.
"Fait Accompli" is a sad song of loss. Fate, destiny, or "it was meant to happen...or be", are all wrapped up in the lyrics of this tear bringer. Powerful lyrics and soft piano mixed well.
After the last tough one we needed a great pick me up and "A Damn Fine Way to Go" is the perfect remedy. More fun with lyrics than "anyone has a right to", so they say. You'll swear Joe Walsh is playing guitar on this one. All men know the kind of lady described here. We love and we leave 'em in our youth, but they always have the upper hand. As Stanley says, "stoppin' was not an option right about now". Stanley's disc jockey sense takes over as he tells a great story, taking me back to the days of fellow DJ/musician, J. Geils who also made it big in the heartland with some great conversation mixed with music. ;^)
"Wonder Wheel" takes me right back to early Springsteen, circa "Darkness", "Asbury Park", or "Born to Run" or even Dire Straits, "Making Movies", (more on that later), only this time with a bit more of a country twang. Yeh, the echo of Joe Walsh, "Somewhere out on that horizon" "a glow of neon filled the air", ("far beyond the neon lights"). Everything you want in this kind of song, along with all the great memories wrapped inside.
"Down In the Stuck" brings a serious and desperate sound to the lyrics and music. Great guitar solos and good pounding drums and cymbals.
Yeh, take us all "Back in the Day" for another great trip to "My Town" era sounds from Stanley and the band. Great cymbals and drums, with those good grinding guitars like it used to be. "Back in the day we were dreaming…all we believed in was the heart of Saturday night". Couldn't say it any better. "We were makin' good time…", during our "Night Moves". (Any Clevelanders out there remember "Big Chuck and Hoolihan" or "The Goul"?)
"Martha" is another sad song of loss and golden memories of the past. Some of the best guitar and beautiful piano on the album. Where do we all go…"I'm just curious".
As I mentioned there would be more "Making Movies" later, and Stanley selects one of Dire Straits best, "Romeo and Juliet", to cover. He does an excellent job bringing out all of the essence of this magical song. Yah…"Boom…Like That"…(I just couldn't help myself).
"Another New Year's Eve" will bring tears to your eyes if you were in Cleveland back in the day. With the recent loss of Dick Clark and his magical New Year's Eve celebrations it only makes this track more poignant. Excellent piano and guitar work. Another one of the best songs on the album. How 'bout a little Bob Hope, "thanks for the memories".
The album title track, "The Hang", adds more to the volume of reminders of the past. No matter where you are today you can always come back to the "Hang".
"Little Michael on WGAR, (glad he found Pelander!)" is one last reminder of the past…from Parma Heights. Michael on piano…in his youth.
1. From Somewhere Else
2. The Last Great Illusion
3. How Many Guitars Do You Need
4. Breaking Down
5. When It Don't Come Easy
6. Fait Accompli
7. A Damn Fine Way To Go
8. Wonder Wheel
9. Down In The Stuck
10. Back in the Day
12. Romeo and Juliet
13. Another New Year's Eve
14. The Hang
15. Little Michael on WGAR, (glad he found Pelander!)
Added: April 27th 2012
Reviewer: Mark Johnson
Related Link: MichaelStanley.com
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