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June 28, 1995

Till The Night is Gone

Doc PomusTill the Night is Gone: A Tribute to Doc Pomus (Rhino Records 1995) - Legendary songwriter Doc Pomus, who died in 1991 after a battle with cancer, is treated to a generous and loving tribute on Till the Night is Gone. Featuring 14 cuts by friends and acquaintances of Doc Pomus, the album captures his heart and soul.

The artists on Till the Night is Gone perform some of Pomus' best-known works, including Los Lobos ("Lonely Avenue"), Lou Reed ("This Magic Moment"), and Aaron Neville ("Save the Last Dance for Me").

Other acts include John Hiatt ("A Mess of Blues"), long-time friend Dr. John ("I'm on a Roll"), and Brian Wilson (whose contribution, "Sweets for My Sweet," is too saccharine).

The son of an attorney, Doc Pomus was born in New York City in 1925 as "Jerome Solon Felder." At age 6, he was sent to summer camp in Connecticut to escape a city-wide polio epidemic. In a cruel twist of fate, he contracted polio at camp. Recalled Doc, "I woke up one morning, and I couldn't move. My family rushed me to Long Island Hospital, and I was placed in plaster casts from the neck down."

Although Pomus never regained the use of his legs, he became a blues shouter in New York at age 18, and continued in a Big Joe Turner role for the next ten years.

With Mort Shuman c.1961Thereafter, Pomus hooked up with a teenager named Mort Shuman, who became his songwriting partner for the most productive period of his life. During this time, Pomus and Shuman enjoyed the high life and churned out hits for such acts as The Drifters, The Coasters, Fabian, Dion & The Belmonts, and Elvis Presley.

In 1965, Pomus had a catastrophic fall, and spent two months in the hospital recuperating from torn ligaments in both knees. During this stay, both his marriage and his songwriter partnership ended.

After his release from the hospital, Pomus abruptly changed gears and began a gambling career. His stint as a professional gambler lasted until 1975, when the dangers of The Life eventually got to him. When Pomus finally returned to the music world, he found he still had many friends and allies. For the rest of his life, he worked with old and new friends, such as Ben E. King and Cindy Lauper.

The real treats on this album are Bob Dylan's honest reading of "Boogie Woogie Country Girl" (as His Bobness appears to be finally regaining his voice), and Rosanne Cash's searing vocal performance on "I Count the Tears."

With Joel Dorn c.1971However, the star of this album is Shawn Colvin's gripping, dead-pan reading of "Viva Las Vegas." While some critics have ripped Colvin's version, it has a plaintive element that captures a certain desperation in the lyrics.

Colvin's version is perfect; instead of glorifying Las Vegas, Colvin exploits a secondary (and non-celebratory) meaning, while making the tune her own. And that's how a great cover song should be recorded -- with spirit and individuality.

All told, Till the Night is Gone is a standard against which tribute albums should be measured. While a generation has passed since the height of Pomus' fame, these cuts are still winners. And that's the test of great songwriting.

Collective SoulCollective Soul, Collective Soul (Atlantic 1995) -- This is a band with a bright future. After lighting up the charts last year with Hints, Allegations & Things Left Unsaid (which was just a demo), Collective Soul has recorded their first regular studio album.

And what a disc it is. Featuring 12 songs that range from straight-ahead rock to alternative to ballads, Collective Soul has the range and talent to dominate the charts.

The Georgia-based quintet consists of Ed Roland on lead vocals and guitars, brother Dean Roland on rhythm guitar, Ross Childress on lead guitar, Shane Evans on drums, and Will Turpin on backing vocals and bass.

Last year was a heady time for the band, as their single "Shine" spent eight weeks atop the AOR charts, tying a record set 15 years earlier by Pink Floyd's "Another Brick in the Wall." Nine months of eye-opening touring were capped by a whirlwind week in mid-August in which the band received a Canadian platinum record, played at Woodstock '94, started a tour with Aerosmith, and was certified platinum in the United States.

As lead singer Ed Roland says, "It was like one big blur. I was jonesing hardcore. I woke up Thursday morning shaking and asked myself, 'What's going to happen today?'"

At the heart of Collective Soul is genuine musicianship and a love for classic rock riffs. The band is a curious hybrid, with 70s classic rock meeting 90s alternative. In any event, it's a smashing success.

While the band expresses a desire to shift into songs that tell stories, their basic forte is rock/pop. From cuts like the harder "Where the River Flows" to the radio-perfect alternative "Gel" to the edgier "She Gathers Rain," Collective Soul never settles into a rut.

Collective Soul embraces so many styles that it's hard to pin them down. One person even remarked that "Gel" sounds like The Escape Club. It's good to know that basic rock retains its vitality. Collective Soul is a fine summertime album, and one that should be a highlight of 1995.

-- Randy Krbechek

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