Ben Vaughn – The World of Ben Vaughn
Vocally, Ben has a good tone & has that attractive coloring that was evident with singer-songwriters of the early 80s. Bobby Sutliff (“Only Ghosts Remain”), Russ Tolman (“Marla Jane”) & Robert Forster among others.
However, Ben fills this LP with some novelty-oriented tunes that diminish its strength as a serious set. But maybe Ben wanted that charm – since even those songs are performed well (Feet” & “Deep In the Weeds” – nice banjo solo).
“Wayne Fontana Was Wrong,” is silly with its dated Farfisa organ & many listeners may not even know who Wayne Fontana is. He was the frontman for The Mindbenders who hit in the 60s with “The Game of Love,” which Ben’s song addresses. The tune despite the saccharine humor is performed quite well.
There are some attempts that are well-done but get dragged down a little by lyrical repetition. Vaughn does understand that was a key ingredient as a hook in 60s pop music. “Blind Alley,” is a noir-style song with dark streets, heavy bass, finger snaps & rain-drenched pavements. Repetitious, yes. Nice harmonica though & I’ll admit – it works within its limited degree.
The 11-cut, 31-minute CD The World of Ben Vaughn (Drops May 20–Relay Shack Records) has plenty to recommend it, nonetheless. It’s performed in a mainstream, commercial manner with its Top 40 AM radio slant. Pumped full of potential singles. “In My Own Reality,” leads off with its country-rock jangly notes & is likable & rootsy. Its 60s-inspired lead guitar is heavy on the deeper notes than the highs. Like Duane Eddy’s “Rebel Rouser.”
Vaughn played all instruments & after releasing 7 LPs Ben has the creds to create it all. Impressed when he was younger by the self-played masterpieces of Paul McCartney’s first solo LP & the even more ambitious first 2 solo LPs by the late Emitt Rhodes (a former member of an A&M Records band Merry-Go-Round), Ben needed to satisfy this itch.
The tunes are commercially-oriented & if that’s the aim they succeed. They’re high in musical calories & sugar & which often satisfies instant gratification hunger. Musical nutrition isn’t always on the menu, but Ben Vaughn is a pro–produced & wrote some wonderful stuff & he’s game enough to try his hand at something light-hearted & not superficial. A song like “Asking For a Friend,” is excellent.
“New Jersey Rock ‘n Roll,” is performed as if Bruce Springsteen himself had written it about himself. It’s silly, but it’s fun & it’s relevant. It brings to mind elements of Dion & the Belmonts.
Ben is in his Roger Miller mode. Miller wrote silliness like “Dang Me,” but he also wrote “King of the Road,” wrote “Chug-a-Lug,” but also wrote “River In the Rain.” This is where Ben is – the sugar bowl of songs is not too far from the burgundy wine. And he serves it all up in equal measures.
The CD available @ Bandcamp + http://benvaughn.org/