Friday, March 29, 2019

The Tradewinds ‎– Excursions (1967)

In 1965 a striking single called "New York's a Lonely Town" by a group called the Tradewinds flitted briefly across pop radio. Telling the story of a California surfer stuck in New York for the winter, the song was beautifully produced, echoing some of the studio techniques then favored by Brian Wilson, and although the song's premise seems even more ridiculous now than it did then, "New York's a Lonely Town" has such a memorable, lilting melody and projects such willful yearning and innocence that it is somewhat of a lost pop treasure.

The Tradewinds were actually Peter Andreoli (he is also known professionally as Peter Anders) and Vincent Poncia Jr., a pair of Rhode Island songwriters who had a minor doo wop-inflected hit with "Mr. Lonely" in 1960 while calling themselves the Videls, and who had written "(The Best Part Of) Breakin' Up" for producer Phil Spector and the Ronettes. The Tradewinds put out a few additional singles (including "Mind Excursion" and the pretty "I Believe in Her") and an album before morphing into the Innocence and issuing a single under that name ("There's Got to Be a Word") late in 1966.

An album credited to the Innocence followed, and then the duo began recording a project under their own names. Andreoli and Poncia parted ways shortly after The Anders & Poncia Album was issued by Warner Bros. as the 1960s drew to a close. Poncia resurfaced a few years later as a producer for Ringo Starr, Kiss, and other acts, while Andreoli kept a lower profile. "New York's a Lonely Town" remains their high watermark, one of the great lost singles of the surf era.

The Tradewinds' "New York's a Lonely Town," a 1965 Top 40 single, was the best Beach Boys imitation bar none. It's perhaps inevitable that their sole LP, though it does of course feature "New York's a Lonely Town," is a letdown in comparison, as groups whose signature tune is a soundalike rarely match it with anything else in their repertoire. While nothing else on the record is as blatantly derivative of the mid-'60s Beach Boys, there is a light Beach Boys influence on much of the LP in the presence of high, airy harmonies. The other tracks, however, aren't as firmly in Beach Boys territory, instead sounding a little like an East Coast variation of sunshine pop, or perhaps sunshine pop-Beach Boys-lite with a little Lovin' Spoonful influence. Their sole other (and minor) hit single, "Mind Excursion," is here too, and while there's a slight psychedelic lilt to the lyrics, it's more akin to Lovin' Spoonful efforts like "She Is Still a Mystery to Me" (which it resembles quite a bit) than all-out psychedelia. None of the other songs are too memorable, though the harmonies and careful arrangements will be appreciated by hardcore fans of '60s harmony pop/rock. The 2008 Japanese CD reissue adds a couple bonus tracks, "That's When Your Heartache Begins" and "Hard Life."

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