People of a certain age might recognize Gary Tanin's name as a respected producer/engineer who has worked with Daryl Stuermer (Genesis), Roger Powell (Utopia), Victor DeLorenzo (Violent Femmes) and Sam Llanas (BoDeans), and who operates Daystorm Music in Milwaukee . Others, perhaps of an older age, may even remember when Tanin was a singer-songwriter making albums that should have ascended the charts like ... well, an elevator.
Tanin's musical and production talents converge on this reissue of his 1975 album, Otto & The Elevators, a diverse, critically acclaimed pop-rock-country album that features Tanin on vocals and piano, backed by four other musicians, a pedal steel specialist, two strings players and two guys on horns. Available on vinyl with an accompanying CD version attached to the cover, this release of Otto & The Elevators was created from the original master tapes and sounds splendid and fresh.
Granted, a few tracks here — including "Up Down Lovin' " — have a dated vibe, but there's nothing wrong with that. Opener "Elevator Operator" (the first of many elevator references on the album) is a piano boogie to which some contemporary prog bands wouldn't be averse in an attempt to sound more commercial, "Then We Were Happy" sounds like latter-day Beatles, and the horns that begin blaring midway through "Motorhead" take inspiration from early Chicago. (To give you an idea how long ago 1975 was, consider that the band Motorhead formed that year.)
Some of the mellower tracks are reminiscent of Tanin's 1972 debut, Love Changes All, and country-rocker closer "Can You Believe Me" — complete with vitriolic lyrics tempered by lighthearted arrangements and delivery — may have helped set the template for generations of artists to come.
Otto & The Elevators is a welcome piece of rock history. Highly recommended, even for those who aren't familiar with Tanin's work.
1) Elevator Operator
2) Up Down Lovin'
4) Love Me for Tonight
5) Boss Rat
6) Help Me
7) I Love You So Much
8) Then We Were Happy
9) I'll Still Be Here
10) Can You Believe Me