Sonny Smith – 100 Records Vol. 3 Sonny Smith – 100 Records Vol. 3

sonnyIn 2010, Bay area artist Sonny Smith, celebrating his love of both music and art, embarked on an incredible endeavor. He would create 100 fictional bands and meticulously mold tracks to fit with each of his imaginary artists. Additionally, Smith would have 100 visual artists create the cover artwork for each record. If you were fortunate enough to have resided in San Francisco then, you may have been able to catch these works on display at Gallery 16 with an accompanying jukebox.

Smith’s newest release, 100 Records Vol. 3, is the final installment compiling this project. What’s difficult in reviewing any conceptual work of this nature is whether or not there is any cohesion or narrative in the formatting of the album. I was concerned that a record featuring 15 tracks by 15 different fictitious artists might have problems conveying an overall flow and listening pleasure, playing like a disorganized mix-tape. That being said, I found myself really enjoying this work and didn’t find any of my apprehensions realized.

Musically, this album can be broken down into three sections aided by carefully placed instrumental jams. The album opens with “Life Ain’t Clear,” a late 50s/early 60s style surf rocker reminiscent of The Ventures’ “Walk Don’t Run” or Duane Eddy’s “Rebel Rouser.” While my favorite song in this segment is the reggae-infused track, “Half Boy Half Girl,” the first four-song section purveys an overall sense of the beach and early surf culture.

Following the first instrumental of the album (“Medication”), Vol. 3 picks back up with a mid 60s era track, “A Steady Stream of Love” before transitioning into the seemingly only experimental song, “Space Travels in My Blood.” Think Gordon Lightfoot meets Velvet Underground with a little David Bowie thrown in for good measure. I would consider this the apex of the album, as it then delicately recedes into the easy-flowing, good-natured fun of its final third.

Looking at my notes, with one lone exception, every remaining track has a similar folk, old-time country, or rockabilly feel to it. The lone exception is the song “If You Don’t Make a Change.” It was truly the only track on the album that I thought was oddly placed and almost feels like a forced attempt at trying to infuse The Rolling Stones with a Motown beat. This song aside, the latter third of the album really stands out as a great example of the early foundations of rock and roll. Whether you hear Ry Cooder, Johnny Cash, Bob Dylan, or Ronnie Hawkins, the influences are pretty apparent.

I must admit, there is nothing musically groundbreaking in Vol. 3. Rather, this record is a visit into the past by a very dynamic artist. Taking into account the enormity and creativity of Smith’s overall project, it is hard to be overly critical of his work. Looking at the music alone, however – while very enjoyable to listen to – Vol. 3 plays more as a work of nostalgia than an expression of something new. That being said, the songs are well crafted, the instrumental pieces add a welcomed texture, and the album has a good overall flow and richness to its sound. To achieve what Smith has in actualizing the scope of this monumental project is quite an accomplishment. And for that alone, it deserves 4 stars.

100 Songs Vol. 3 Track/Band Listing:
Life Ain’t Clear – Danny Dusk & The Twilights
Minimum Wage – Bobby Hawkins
Half Boy Half Girl – The Wayward Youth
Fruitcakes – Zig Speck & The Specktones
Medication – Merriweather Bradley
A Steady Stream Of Love – Little Antoine & The Sparrows
Space Travel’s In My Blood – Earth Girl Helen Brown
Wolf Like Howls From The Bathhouse – S.E. Land Otter Champs
Year Of The Cock – Jackie Feathers
From Dud To Stud, From Zero To Hero – Hank Champion
Difficulties, Mistakes And Errors – Bobby Hawkins
If You Don’t Make A Change – Don Adora’e
Cosmorama – Fuckaroos
Some Women Artists All Around Town – Hazel Shep
Canyon Manor Rehab – Hazel Shep

Sonny Smith - 100 Records Vol. 3, reviewed by Brian Hillsberg on 2013-02-27T07:20:12-08:00 rating 4.0 out of 5

Comments are closed.