Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Review: The Baseball Project "3rd"

L-R: Linda Pitmon, Mike Mills, Steve Wynn, Scott McCaughey (missing - Peter Buck)

Baseball and rock'n'roll have quite a bit in common - distinctly American creations exported and beloved throughout the world, seen as being in decline in the US and falling behind rival activities (the NFL / hip hop and new country), full of characters and big personalities, supported by a Hall of Fame the entry into which is a mysterious and often arbitrary process, frequent scandals of drug abuse, both are simple on the surface but extremely difficult to play consistently well, and both have very devoted fans who are reverential about the history of the activity and the players who excelled in prior generations. And perhaps most importantly, when you go to watch either, they serve beer and you can hang out and visit with your pals while you watch the live action on the field or stage!

So The Baseball Project was perhaps inevitable. The title 3rd is in itself the perfect marriage of baseball and rock, referencing both the classic Big Star record that is such a huge musical influence on this band plus various major things in baseball - 3 strikes you're out, 3 bases, Babe Ruth, etc.

3rd picks up where the prior two outstanding Baseball Project records left off. The big change is the addition of Mike Mills who joins his former R.E.M. bandmate Peter Buck. Mills brings his always tuneful and tasteful bass playing and harmony vocals to the festivities. And the catchiest song here is "To The Veterans Committee", Mills' tribute to Dale Murphy, making a compelling case for Murphy's induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame.  Live version here:

While the Baseball Project is certainly a supergroup, with two members inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, plus the highly respected Steve Wynn (Dream Syndicate, Miracle 3), steady and versatile Scott McCaughey (Young Fresh Fellows, Minus 5, and longtime "5th" member of R.E.M.), and a truly outstanding drummer Linda Pitmon (Zuzu's Petals, Miracle 3). But unlike most rock supergroups or baseball teams loaded with big name free agents, the Baseball Project are a tight band, ego free, all of them having played together with some or everyone here at some point in their long and distinguished careers.

Okay kids, enough background, let's hear one from the record - "Monument Park", Wynn praising Bernie Williams' elite play for the Yankees for so many years but destined to be overshadowed by Mantle and DiMaggio as he roamed center field amidst their monuments.

There are a lot of highlights here, but here's a few - "Hola America" (Wynn's tribute to Luis Tiant and the early players to escape Cuba),  "13" a perfect expression of a Yankee fan's 2013 frustration with A-Rod, and "They Are the Oakland A's" McCaughey's tribute to his over-achieving favorite team:

But if you are saying, "Sure JD, baseball is fine and all, but if there's a record with Peter Buck, Steve Wynn and Mike Mills playing on it what I want to hear is the jangle rock," well then you are in luck with "Pascual on the Perimeter", with Pitmon taking the lead vocal to recall the night Atlanta Braves pitcher Pascual Perez missed a start when he got lost on the way to Fulton County Stadium, his home park:

The record starts with a short song called "Stats", referencing various numbers of importance in baseball. Yep Roc is giving away a trip to the Triple A All Star game in Durham to one lucky winner who can identify the numbers in the song (link to contest here).  

All in all, 3rd is what we've come to expect from the Baseball Project - great music, spirited performances, clever writing, well conceived rock and roll, super fun, as good as an ideal night at your favorite ballpark. Highly recommended.

Facebook - The Baseball Project

No comments: