This is no get rich quick infomercial, just the straight goods about some boys trying to make an honest living. With music. Today we showcase three Riches that have some fine singles and long players that will definitely pay dividends, if great hooks and solid melodies are your currency.
Attention to Rich McCulley on this blog has been a long time coming. Across seven LPs and a handful of stand-alone singles McCulley has carved out a distinct brand of Americana-infused poprock containing rock, country and indie flourishes. “All I Can Do” from his 2000 debut After the Moment has Past is a lovely lilting roots pop tune, with some striking slide guitar. Two years later he got a rocking backing band together for “Unwound,” a Costello-ish uptempo number from If Faith Doesn’t Matter (check out “Bend For No One” from the same album for a solid jangle entry). McCulley stayed in the poprock zone for his next few releases – you can hear it on the Odds-like “Forget It All Again” from 2007’s Cerro Gordo and the power pop “Falling Apart” from 2010’s Starting All Over Again. Things get a little bit country into Rich’s second decade of recording, as you can hear on 2013’s The Grand Design and 2017’s Out Along the Edges. I love the George Harrison-like lead guitar work on “The Most Beautiful Thing” and that killer organ. Or check out the rootsy acoustic guitar adorning the should-be hit single, “Hey Trouble,” a song reminds me a bit of Ron Sexsmith with its sophisticated hooks and unexpected melodic turns. Or just go for the more straight ahead country feel on the 2016 stand-alone single “Summer Storm.” McCulley’s most recent release, his 2020 single “Your Heart Said,” continues to meld country and rock and roll influences, combining sweet pedal steel guitar with just a touch of Tom Petty in the tune. And all this just skates across the surface of McCulley’s great catalogue. Seriously, drop the needle anywhere on his records and get ready to enjoy some high quality tuneage from a journeyman songwriter/performer.
Despite vibing just about every great artist from the mid-1960s to the early 1980s Rich Arithmetic’s Shifting Gears is undeniably a highly original piece of work. His ability to combine so many influences in interesting and unpredictable ways makes this album a constant source of surprise and delight. Album opener “In Our Time” alternates between touches of XTC and 1967 era Beatles, with a slightly baroque feel. “Do You Remember” has a bit of 10cc and the non-psychedelic Pink Floyd about it. “One Thing,” featuring Maura Kennedy on vocals, alternatively reminds me of Crowded House and the Go Go’s with its moody, atmospheric verses and punchy hooky choruses. There’s an effortless quality to the shifts between styles and influences, from the sultry pop jazz of “A Girl’s Reply” (featuring Diane Leigh’s alluring vocals) or the neo-1950s vamp “Haley” (again, so 10cc here), to the early Yardbirds feel of “She Moves Me” and the uptempo Alan Parsons Project sound on “Always.” And plenty more Beatles nods, like the Fab’s brand of pop psychedelia on “Waiting for the Isaac” or the Penny Lane-ish “He’s a Good Man” or that unmistakably Beatlesy descending chord progression in “Book of Lamentations.” And then there’s the quietly epic quality of “Before the First Slice (Wedding For The Disenchanted)” with its very Joe Jackson piano style. While Shifting Gears has a lot of moving parts, it still comes together as a coherent and highly entertaining musical statement. My recommendation – definitely add some Arithmetic to your current playlist.
Skylights is album number 5 for Rich Mattson and the North Stars and it carries on the band’s tradition of badlands rock and roll, a style that exudes authenticity with its gritty, sometimes edgy, stripped-down sound. “Death Valley” opens the album and sets the tone for what’s coming: the song has a striking, eerie aura, with a bit of menace in the vocals that are nicely offset by the restrained instrumental backing. Vocals are really one of the most distinctive elements on this record, with Rich Mattson and Germaine Gemberling trading lead duties and working up some amazing harmonies. Though the results vary, from the almost jazzy quality of “Against the Wall” to the alt country of “Short Lived.” Influences abound, from the John Prine feel on “Iowa” (and “Short Lived” frankly) to the Animals’ “House of the Rising Sun” electric guitar sound on “How Can It Be.” And there are a few poppy rock numbers like “Processing” and “In Flight.” I love the guitar shots driving the latter tune and its eerie harmony vocals. When Skylights end with “King by Now,” a lovely plaintive ballad, it’s like the curtain has come down on a great show and you can’t wait for the encore. In this case the record is over but you could just move on to check out the band’s solid back catalogue.
Money can’t buy you love. But if great music makes you happy, we’ve got you covered. Get Rich quick by clicking on the hyperlinks above and visiting these artists’ musical e-venues.