Tag Archives: Alan Wilkis

Detoured from Baker Street

By now you know Gerry Rafferty left us last week.

The significance of his passing already has been nicely documented by Dw. Dunphy at Popdose, by Larry at Iron Leg and by George and Denny at 30 Days Out. Check them out, please.

Arriving late at the wake, I also remember hearing Gerry Rafferty on the radio.

Digging through the R’s and the S’s on the shelves behind me, I find four Rafferty or Stealers Wheel records before unearthing “City To City,” his breakthrough solo LP from 1978. You know the one. Everyone had it once. It’s been reissued on 180-gram vinyl — if you want to pay $25 — but is a fairly common sight in the used vinyl bins for $1 or $2.

But some of my best memories of Gerry Rafferty are of some of the deep cuts from the albums from a time when the spotlight had passed him by. Then I start playing those records, something I’ve not done in probably 25 years. The memories come back in a rush. The songs, the harmonies, are timeless.

Here are some of those songs, from a couple of albums that followed “City To City.” They’ve endured, at least for me. A musician can’t ask for much more.

“Welcome to Hollywood” and “Syncopatin’ Sandy,” Gerry Rafferty, from “Snakes and Ladders,” 1980. It’s out of print.

“Welcome to Hollywood” shows Rafferty’s disdain for fame. He’s confident enough to draw on his time as a star, writing “stuck in the middle with the blues again.” The intro and outro are dead-on parodies of hangers-on. In “Syncopatin’ Sandy,” ostensibly about a whiskey-fueled music hall piano player, the often alcohol-fueled Rafferty wonders “how long, how long” he can keep going.

“Sleepwalking” and “The Right Moment,” Gerry Rafferty, from “Sleepwalking,” 1982. It’s out of print.

I’ve had the infectious drumbeats of “Sleepwalking” rattling around in my head since hearing it again for the first time in many years. “The Right Moment” is a gentle counter to it, all piano and synths, something that fits nicely next to …

“The Way It Always Starts,” Gerry Rafferty, from the “Local Hero” soundtrack, 1983. Accompanied by Mark Knopfler, Alan Clark, Neil Jason and Steve Jordan. “Local Hero” remains one of my favorite films.

This song, written by Knopfler, was one of the last things Rafferty did until resurfacing five years later with the “North and South” album.

And a charming tribute.

“Baker Street,” a laid-back acoustic cover by my friend Alan Wilkis, a solo musician from Brooklyn. Alan can’t remember exactly when he did this, but he thinks it was four or five years ago.



Filed under January 2011, Sounds

Still running late

To my own party, that is.

Sunday was my birthday. I turned 52 and thus remain older than dirt. So let’s celebrate. Better late than never.

One of my birthday presents came all the way from Brooklyn. My friend Alan Wilkis is just out with his new EP. As he’s done before, Alan has taken all kinds of musical influences, tossed them into the blender and come up with new sounds that nonetheless sound familiar.

“Pink and Purple,” made in 2009, is straight outta 1984. Alan explains:

“I consciously tried to be more focused stylistically on this record (than on last year’s “Babies Dream Big,” his debut). … I will inevitably jump through five different genres in any given song, but overall … (I) tried to be a bit more disciplined, set more stylistic rules, and as a result it’s definitely much more decidedly ’80s.”

It sounds that way to me. This is the record of my summer so far.


From “Pink and Purple,” Alan Wilkis, 2009:

This sounds like the single to me: “Dance With You.” On which Kool and the Gang — no, that’s Earth, Wind and Fire — meet Jeff Lynne and Harold Faltermeyer.

This one lives up to its name: “Time Machine.” As the years float past, so do echoes of Peter Gabriel, Queen and Prince.

I mention the influences only as a guide. Alan has reimagined them in remarkable fashion.


Filed under June 2009, Sounds

Going shopping?

As Thanksgiving draws near, I’m thankful for the handful of record and marketing companies who’ve seen fit to share tunes with AM, Then FM over the course of this year.

Their generosity and their willingness to work with music blogs make the following recommendations possible. These are things I’ve heard and liked, and things you might like.

AC-DC Levy 5-25B

AC/DC: “Black Ice,” the new record, and “No Bull: The Director’s Cut,” a live concert DVD.

Neither breaks any new ground, but if you like AC/DC, you’ll like these. I put “Black Ice” to the usual Car Test, spinning it several times as I was driving. None of the songs struck me as being great, and its 15 songs are at least five too many, but I enjoyed it nonetheless. The following cut most of all, I think.

“Spoilin’ For A Fight,” AC/DC. from “Black Ice,” 2008.

It really made me want to see them again. AC/DC is best experienced live. “No Bull” gives that a go, with a July 1996 show set against the spectacular backdrop of the Plaza De Toros De Las Ventas in Madrid. This DVD will give you a taste of what an AC/DC show is like, but you really have to be there. The venue is the best thing about this DVD. The production and sound quality leave a bit to be desired.


Sammy Hagar: “Cosmic Universal Fashion,” the new record.

As I wrote a year ago, Hagar is an acquired taste, but I’ve really come to dig his shows. After listening to this record, I’d really rather see him live. This records is like one of Hagar’s shows — not for everyone, but full of energy, full of attitude, with some new stuff, some old stuff and even a cover of the Beastie Boys’ “Fight For Your Right To Party.” Which, of course, is better heard live.

The following cut has a nice, laid-back vibe to it. The Wabos sing it as they warm up for shows. That’s his bassist, Mona, on the harmonies.

“When The Sun Don’t Shine,” Sammy Hagar, from “Cosmic Universal Fashion,” 2008.


Lindsey Buckingham: “Gift of Screws,” his latest record.

As I wrote last month, I wasn’t all that familiar with Buckingham as a solo artist, but this one passed the Car Test with flying colors.

“Love Runs Deeper,” Lindsey Buckingham, from “Gift of Screws,” 2008. Worth another listen. Buckingham wrote it with his wife, Kristen.


Steve Winwood: “Nine Lives,” his latest record.

I am a bit more familiar with Winwood as a solo artist. As I wrote earlier this year, this one also passed the Car Test with flying colors.

“We’re All Looking,” Steve Winwood, from “Nine Lives,” 2008. Lots of nice Hammond organ on this one.


Alan Wilkis: “Babies Dream Big,” his debut record.

AM, Then FM is mostly about rediscovering veteran artists rather than discovering new indie artists. However, we were part of the first wave of good buzz about this Brooklyn artist when we interviewed him earlier this year. Wilkis takes all kinds of ’60s, ’70s and ’80s influences, throws them in the blender and creates something new, yet it still sounds familiar. He plays almost everything himself and does all the vocals.

“I Love The Way,” Alan Wilkis, from “Babies Dream Big,” 2008. A little blue-eyed soul, anyone?

We exchanged e-mails earlier today, and Alan says he’s “working a lot these days, pluggin’ away on a new EP. Hopefully going to be six songs, hopefully ready in the next two months.” Looking forward to it.


The Boxing Lesson: “Wild Streaks & Windy Days,” its first full-length record.

If you wondered whether anyone still makes music to get stoned to, the answer is yes. This Austin, Texas-based band does the job quite nicely. Heavy, moody, dreamy.

“Muerta,” The Boxing Lesson, from “Wild Streaks & Windy Days,” 2008.

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Filed under November 2008, Sounds

Ladies and gents, Alan Wilkis

Every so often, another request drops into the e-mail: “Would you listen to our music and give us a mention on AM, Then FM?”

They come because AM, Then FM is listed with The Hype Machine, one of the big mp3 aggregators. All too often, though, the folks making the request see only that we’re a music blog and don’t see that we’re mostly about rediscovering older tunes.

In keeping with that mission — and departing from it entirely — I’d like to introduce you to someone new today.

Last week, I received an e-mail from one Alan Wilkis, who asked simply, “Can I send you my music?” He got my attention when he described his album — “Babies Dream Big” — as “a genre-hopper, but pretty heavily rooted in ’70s-’80s electronic, soft rock and soul music.”

I gave it a spin on his MySpace page. It’s good enough to share here.

Alan also was gracious enough to do an e-mail interview. Some highlights:

Alan is 26, living in a Brooklyn apartment that doubles as his recording studio. He’s a city kid, born and raised in New York.

“I grew up with a lot of Motown and Beatles in the house, and the soundtrack to the movie ‘Stand By Me’ was a family road trip staple.”

Alan started playing the guitar when he was 12.

“I remember hitting a point where I could play along to all the pop stuff I was listening to on the radio, and I asked my teacher what else was out there. He introduced me to Hendrix, Stevie Ray Vaughan, lots of classic rock guitar god stuff, and my mind was completely blown — I was humbled to say the least. It was a big lesson in: There’s a LOT COOLER music out there than what’s ‘cool’ right now.”

Alan went off to Harvard, where he played guitar in the Witness Protection Program, an eight-piece hip-hop group with live music backing.

After graduating in 2004, Alan moved back to New York, where he and WPP’s drummer, Pete Kennedy, formed A+P, a two-man rock band. (Follow the link. Check out “Rocker.”) After two years, A+P “came to an amicable end.”

Working in his home studio, Alan started coming up with a new sound.

“I revisited albums that I’d heard a million times in completely new ways — tried to absorb what I could on the studio end. Eventually, the experiments started vaguely resembling songs.”

Alan’s finished songs bring together lots of vintage or classic influences and reimagines and reapplies them. They sound familiar, but are fresh.

“(I’m) tipping my hat to all the things I have loved over the years while trying to (lovingly) turn them on their heads! Like in “Burnin,” I remember thinking what if Boston played the guitar solo in a Prince song, arena rock guitarmony with R&B synthesizers? It’s pretty hard for anyone to be original anymore … but I think there’s always room for reimagining. … The absolute core of the album is taking familiar sounds and textures and trying to present them in (hopefully) unexpected/surprising/refreshing new ways.”

Well, let’s get to it, shall we? Give it a try. Decide for yourself.


“Astronaut (Would You Be One?)” and “It’s Been Great,” Alan Wilkis, from “Babies Dream Big,” 2008.

“Astronaut” is the one that keeps sticking in my head. Imagine a direct line from David Bowie’s “Space Oddity” to Peter Schilling’s “Major Tom” to this. Yet “Astronaut” is brighter, more uplifting.

“It’s Been Great” is what we’ve been waiting for Stevie Wonder to deliver.

Hard to pick just two, though. Go to Alan’s MySpace page to listen to more.

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Filed under March 2008, Sounds