The Baseball Project – Grand Salami Time!
Before non-baseball fans pass on this CD, note that the musicians are primarily 70s classic performers: R.E.M’s Peter Buck, Mike Mills, Dream Syndicate’s Steve Wynn, the Young Fresh Fellows’ Scott McCaughey, with fastballs by Steve Berlin (Los Lobos), Mitch Easter (Let’s Active) & Stephen McCarthy (The Jayhawks & The Long Ryders).
This 15-cut Grand Slam Time! (Drops June 30–Omnivore) was produced & recorded by NY-based The Baseball Project & Mitch Easter (at Mitch’s studio in North Carolina). It appears to be an ambitious concept project.
I’ll try not to use many cliches, no cheap shots like – “It could be a hit, they have some home runs, they pitched these songs to a record company, they got the ball rolling, some songs are a swing & a miss, this doesn’t fly, should get on base with this LP, they scored with this collection or there are no fouls in this showcase,” etc. There, out of my system. I think. But very tempting.
It’s all loaded with and augmented by new wave/punk/pub band accents. Steady beat, jangling & wiry guitar chords & unified vocals. There’s a hint of roots rock (“Fantasy Baseball”) with a garage band bent. Think Nick Lowe & Brinsley Schwartz. They wear their excellence in these short tunes.
“The Yips” is well-produced & polished. This tune with its crackerjack musicians is well arranged and performed well by experts. The most impressive aspect of the album is that the musicians are razor-sharp & competent throughout. There’s never a lack of melody or excitement. Some songs hover close to novelty (“Screwball,” “Disco Demolition” & “64 & 64”) but they are never played with a sense of silliness.
Older listeners have to tune into their younger 70s selves to appreciate this. It’s not a little league team. There are some cheesy moments (“Uncle Charlie”), but that adds charm. They go deep with “Stuff,” which features a Mike Mills lead vocal. High & tight is “Erasable Man,” another tune with good vocals, skill, fast drums & spirit. Coming off as a credible Hot Tuna is “That’s Living.”
Highlights – “The Yips,” “Journeyman,” “Erasable Man,” “New Oh in Town,” “Stuff” & “That’s Living.”
Musicians – Peter Buck (guitars), Mike Mills (bass/bgv/vocals), Scott McCaughey (guitars/keys/lead vocals/bgv), Linda Pitmon (drums/percussion/bgv), Steve Wynn (guitars/lead & bgv), & in the bullpen with designated hitters: Steve Berlin (baritone sax), Mitch Easter (guitar) & Stephen McCarthy (lap steel).
Color photo courtesy of Marty Perez. The 54-minute CD @ https://omnivorerecordings.com/shop/grand-salami-time/