Thursday, July 21, 2011

Ben Vaughn - Vaughn Sings Vaughn, Vol 1, 2, & 3 (2005 - 2007)

Ben Vaughn is not a household name but I have a feeling it's OK with him because the grin on his face never seems to fade. It's probably because he has had a successful career as a producer (count the legendary Arthur Alexander among his credits) while writing music for TV shows (He's responsible for the original music for Third Rock from the Sun and That 70s Show) and still touring and maintaining a recording career.

Retro-rocker Vaughn began recording in the late 80s when he acquired a cult following in Philadelphia and his native South Jersey. Now residing in California he still returns home frequently to play in front of audiences who know him well. He is quite entertaining live.

While most of his earlier CDs have been worthwhile, the best way to experience Vaughn is through the three discs he released in succession over the last five years, Vaughn Sings Vaughn, Volumes 1, 2, and 3 (VSV). His latest band, Ben Vaughn's Desert Classic, is a tightly knit unit that uses his fine baritone voice to bolster thirty-six roots rock and pop songs. Most of his music has a sense of humor without becoming too campy because it also has a touch of seriousness, maybe even some sadness, below the surface. Vaughn is not a novelty act.

The VSV series contains rerecorded versions of his better known older tunes as well as a bunch of new ones to keep things fresh. Vaughn’s music comes from the 60s and even though he incorporates a lot of other influences into his arrangements he is definitely a roots musician. All of the instruments he uses are real, there are no synths, so he and Desert Classic aren’t faking it anywhere.

Vaughn’s repertoire includes "I’m Sorry, but so is Brenda Lee," "Shingaling With Me," "Beautiful People (Need Love Too)," "Rhythm Guitar," and "When Free Love Reigned." Two tunes he performs live that aren’t on any of the VSV releases: "Seven Days Without Love Make One Weak," from Rambler 65, and a song he never recorded, the hysterical "I Want to Kill Mike Love," reveal his smirking personality.

You can buy each volume of VSV separately, or as a complete set at a reduced price, through Vaughn’s website.

Here is the original recording of Brenda Lee, not the version on the VSV set, Darlene, and two early songs not on any of the three CDs, Daddy's Gone for Good, and My First Band.

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