Indiana Album Review: Pete Calacci – “Other Side”

Peter-CalaccialbumAbout halfway into his album Other Side, the debut effort from Indiana singer/songwriter and guitarist Pete Calacci, there’s a song called “Headed for the Stars.”

The cut is a big, fat, radio-friendly and familiar-sounding original piece of rock and roll – – effectively channeling a Tom Sholz-like guitar and the sound of late ’70s-era Boston. Who would have guessed this sonic homage to a nearly 40-year-old self-recorded iconic rock album would come out of Indiana?

Other Side‘s soundscape is both a product of how Calacci – – a carpenter who works at the BP Refinery in Whiting during the day – – recorded the album and played a lengthy musical stint in an Indianapolis cover band. This solo work was created in his apartment, and he played all the instruments – – other than a couple background vocals and a keyboard – – and mixed it himself.

Far from a lo-fi, sounds-like-he-used-a-boombox effort, the record is clean and loud and full of hooks and riffs that surface by surprise.

I hear Paul McCartney and Wings, some Beach Boys and Beatles harmonies. The pop of Matthew Sweet and Marshall Crenshaw. I hear The Band. I like what I hear. And this record sounds good loud.

Calacci spent his early twenties living on the Southside of Indy, playing in a band called Stage One at clubs like The Backstage, Bentley’s and The Vogue, so he came by his ’70s and ’80s influences honestly.

The Other Side is an album whose music hits harder than the lyrics, and Calacci uses his guitar to give the heart of the record a loud, electric, amped-up sound that never really goes away.

The opening “Cold Hearted Woman” rocks like The Cars and Matthew Sweet – – a power pop confection that enters into Tom Petty‘s neighborhood. But the record never strays far from its essence – – a full-on, “let’s-rock” guitar album.

Pete+Calacci+inside+leftCalacci’s voice sits just atop the guitar on most songs, aching and arching just enough to allow genuine and welcome cracks as he both reaches during the rockers and guides the ballads. An acoustic guitar and his own harmony (and double-tracked) vocals give the punchy electric guitar a pairing to nicely enable a marriage of power chords with ragged vocal sweetness.

“Secret” has an underlying gentleness swathed in a pair of pop/rock dueling guitars.

“Fear” echoes a soaring “Behind Blue Eyes” – era The Who.

Calacci’s acoustic duo bandmate Kelly Skaggs sings on “Carpe Diem” and “Want Me Too.”

This is an album that demands its loudness. Think about driving down the road in an old Buick Skylark with the cassette player turned up as loud as the damn Sparkomatic would go. That’s the sound of this album, guided by Calacci’s electric guitar playing, and his ability to create one of the fullest, play-it-loud rock albums of the new year – – by himself.

Hear “Headed for the Stars”

VIDEO: John Lennon – three songs for his 70th

John Lennon would have turned 70 Saturday.  Standing apart from much of the “normal” tribute stuff, I want to post a video that is one of the most intimate of Lennon from YouTube.  John sings as he runs his distorted electric guitar through a small amp, for Leadbelly’s “Rock Island Line, and Buddy Holly’s “Maybe Baby” and  “Peggy Sue”.  Sure, Yoko is sitting with him, but it’s all good;  it’s a bit of footage that is more relaxed than professional, like much of their home movie material. But his playing is rock and roll beautiful – snarly, rough and reverential.

I was 14 when Lennon was shot.  It was before I understood the power and uniqueness of the Beatles, and of Lennon’s wit and solo music output.  I know now. I wonder what voice he would have carried forward, not just in music, but with human rights and the causes of those who need a voice. Maybe he was perceived as a radical, but he stood up for beliefs that were also important for many who needed him to speak, because they couldn’t be heard.

For me, that makes it more tragic than on that December night, when Howard Cosell announced to the world on Monday Night Football that John Lennon was dead.

MNF announcement

Hey, the Beatles really matter; plus Shea Stadium ’65 video

Let me give full disclosure: I went to see a thing called the Classical Mystery Tour last Friday night just outside of Indianapolis.  It is essentially a Beatles cover band and the orchestra playing Beatles music. The title is a play on the Beatles “Magical Mystery Tour” and features a Beatlemania-type band (in fact, this tour draws from alums of that stage tour) and normally they play with the symphony orchestra from whatever town the show is in.

The night I saw them, there was no orchestra.  It was at Conner Prairie, which is about an 8,000 seat natural bowl space.  It was filled up. If you’ve been, you know it is also about bringing the table, the lawn chair, some good food and some wine or beer.  Great vibe.

But it was one of the rare stops on this band’s 30 date (or so) schedule that didn’t have an orchestra joining them.  I didn’t figure that out until I got there and saw no orchestra.  Oops.  How good can fake Beatles be, just themselves, a huge bandshell, and a field full of people socializing and eating amidst  echoes of the the sound of the British Invasion.

Pretty damn good, is what they were.  They did two sets – an hour apiece –  dressed in Beatle suits for the first half, playing 1963-66 tunes.  After break, they came out dressed like they just jumped out of pictures you see from the Abbey Road  era, and played anything after Sgt. Pepper, including songs from that record. Continue reading “Hey, the Beatles really matter; plus Shea Stadium ’65 video”

The Roots of Rock History / April 25-May 1

Cheap Trick doing the Beatles, Elvis Costello covering Nazareth, Springsteen climbs a wall, and U2 bombs.

April 25
Just days after completing “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” in 1967, The Beatles lay down tracks for “Magical Mystery Tour” at Abbey Road studios in London.

Cheap Trick version of a classic tune from “Abbey Road” – just because we can…:

April 26
ABC’s telecast of “U2: A Year in POP” in 1997 becomes the lowest-rated prime-time program in the history of major network television.

Here’s what part of that broadcast looked like, with Dennis Hopper doing narration:

April 27
Ray Stevens
releases what would be his biggest hit, “The Streak”. The novelty tune would make it to the top of the US charts next month.

April 28
Blondie brings a touch of New Wave to the Hot 100 when “Heart Of Glass” reaches #1 in 1979.

April 29
Aretha Franklin releases “Respect” in 1969, her soon-to-be signature tune.

April 30
Elvis Presley records “Jailhouse Rock” in 1957. The song will go on to top the US Best Sellers list, the Hot 100, the R&B chart and even the Country and Western chart. It will also become the first single to enter the UK chart at #1.

In 1964,The Beatles receive $140,000 for the rights to having their pictures included in packages of bubble gum in the USA.

After playing Memphis during a southern tour in 1976, Bruce Springsteen climbs the fence at Graceland in an attempt to see Elvis Presley. Security guards stop him and he is escorted off the grounds.

Twiggs Lyndon, the road manager for the Allman Brothers Band, is arrested in 1970 for murder after he stabbed a club manager during an argument over a contract. At the ensuing trial, Lyndon’s lawyers will argue that he had been temporarily insane at the time of the incident and that touring with the Allman Brothers would drive anyone insane. Incredibly, Lyndon will be acquitted.

Then there’s the case of 51 year-old Darrell Sweet, drummer of Nazareth, best remembered for their 1976 hit “Love Hurts”. He suffered a fatal heart attack in 1999 before a show in New Albany, Ind., when he began feeling ill and within minutes went into cardiac arrest. He was rushed to the New Albany Hospital where he was pronounced dead.

Elvis Costello and Emmylou Harris performing “Love Hurts”:

May 1
In 1955, Leonard Chess signs Chuck Berry to a recording contract after he came highly recommended by Muddy Waters.


Pink Floyd’s, “Dark Side of the Moon” finally drops off the US albums chart in 1988, after a run of 725 weeks (almost 14 years).

VIDEO: Gaslight Anthem Take on “Come Together”

Excellent sound and video for this ghostly, rock and roll version of the legendary (though aren’t they all?) Beatles track. This band is the real deal – think the beginnings of a U2, Pearl Jam, or Springsteen-type career. Now, that’s an unfair comparison, right?