Tuesday, May 29, 2018

New Radicals: 20 Years Gone (UPDATED)





The first time I heard "You Get What You Give" by the New Radicals, was about two weeks before the record was released in 1998. My shop was riding high, CDs were all the rage, and I had promos of just about every record by every artist in every genre. A friend, who was also an industry hot shot, asked what I thought of this new release he had sent me, which he had a little something to do with. I was honest, for better or worse, and said I still hadn't listened because I wasn't into that "white boy phony funk shit."

"What the hell are you talking about? Listen to it!"

Obviously, you can't tell a book or a CD by its cover. "Maybe You've Been Brainwashed, Too" was not "phony white boy funk," despite what I thought of its cover. It was mostly one man, Gregg Alexander, with his then main squeeze, child actor turned pop star, Danielle Brisebois, playing and singing some of the most infectious and perfectly produced pop and soul, that could not have been more suited for moi. It was as if I was listening to the love child of Todd Rundgren and Prince.




20 years later, a superb vinyl release, finally, and I am in love with this record all over again. Many of the songs, including the hit, were co-written with guitarist Rusty Anderson, who has since made a name for himself as guitarist and right hand man of sorts, for Paul McCartney. The album has been spinning all weekend. It's also the only record the New Radicals have released. I don't know the whole story. Actually, I don't even know part of the story, other than, mastermind Gregg Alexander decided he preferred it better behind the scenes. He said that "the fatigue of traveling and getting three hours sleep in a different hotel every night to do boring 'hanging and schmoozing' with radio and retail people is definitely not for me."




In the last 20 years, Alexander has won a Grammy for writing "The Game Of Love," which was a hit for Santana and Michelle Branch, and was nominated for an Oscar for "Lost Stars," from the film "Begin Again."  He also has a few songs out there recorded by some unknowns that really have his mark all over them, but that's for another post.


The first single, "You Get What You Give" is a triumphant gem of a pop song. It's instant gratification, like a blast of oxygen. As a matter of fact, the four tracks posted here are some of the best pop songs I have ever heard. I know that's saying a lot, but I am completely entranced by the production, the swirling, dreamlike intro to "I Hope I Didn't Just Give Away The Ending," the almost desperate delivery of Alexander's vocals on every track, and the seemingly bottomless well of hooks.

Maybe, I've been brainwashed, too!



15 comments:

Chris Collins said...

I love this record. And I had the same initial reaction after seeing the over as you did. But it's brilliant.

I remember Patti Smith saying that "You Get What You Give" was her favorite song she had heard on the radio in forever. I agree.

Anonymous said...

Man, I cannot agree more with you on this record. I somehow missed it and didn't hear it until about a year ago and just got the vinyl version a few weeks ago - really properly listened to it for the first time on my stereo and it just blew me away. Your description of it cannot be overrated.

Randy

JAYESSEMM said...

Where can I get my "white boy phony funk shit" T shirt?

I learned about this record here -- yet another great Burning Wood addition to my library.


Gram Lynch said...

Loved this album from the get-go. The tracks "Someday We'll Know" and
"You Get What You Give" never fail to lift me up. And that's what good music is all about.

Mr. Baez said...

"You Get What You Give" is a great song. Hard to believe that it's twenty years old. I never picked up the album but now I sure will. Thanks Sal for another turn on.

Bill said...

My wife and I had just moved to London in the Fall of 98 and were discovering a lot of new sounds via surprisingly good radio (at least compared to NYC). You Get What You Give was part of the soundtrack to our first months there, and there couldn't have been a better song--great pop, so full of energy that made you feel great to be alive.

jackiewilsonsaid said...

So that's who it is. I remember hearing "You'll Get What you Give" on the radio and thinking that maybe Karl Wallinger had rejoined The Waterboys. I will now check out the album.

Thanks Sal for throwing a light on lots of great music - I don't like it all, but always worth a look and listen, even if I don't comment.

And re: songwriting in the Fashion comments - do you know Korby Lenker's work? Saw him almost by accident the other week, a long way from E.Nashville in Saltaire, Yorkshire, and can't stop singing his songs...

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CjrlsP6e4eU

fanman said...

What's interesting is how closely each of Katy Perry's hit singles resemble NR's songs

cjbennett said...

Had never heard this, but am blown away by the tracks you posted. Will definitely seek it out. Thanks!

JD Seid said...

Greg Alexander has a few solo releases that pre-date the New Radicals. Your Todd Rundgren/Prince comment is spot on.

David Handelman said...

As you know, I am in the front car of the Alexander train these days. It *is* terrible cover art for a work of art. Now do I have to buy a turntable just so I can hear it anew?

dogbreath said...

The single "You Get...." always seemed to be on the radio over here & made it to the top 5 singles in the UK chart. Loved it but have to admit I never knowingly heard anything else by them so thanks for the opportunity now. I do remember being drawn to the album cover with its psychedelic vibe & actually tried wearing the same sort of hat for a while. I thought I looked quite cool but got laughed at so much by friends & family I ended up donating it to a charity shop. Oh well.

Sal Nunziato said...

JD Seid,
those pre-Radicals solo albums suffer from production, but under the gloss, you can hear the Alexander magic beginning.

mauijim said...

Thanks Sal. I never have heard anything off the record except the single til today. After listening to the tracks provided i went to the Apple store to purchase. It was also offered to listen thru Apple Music which i share with my youngest daughter.Thank you for a new/old release.

A walk in the woods said...

Oh man, this makes me happy to see the comments by a bunch of other music fans (who else frequents your blog but those, Sal?) who haven't caught onto the train of this stunningly good LP.

I have about 1,500 or so albums, and much much more that's not on vinyl or LP, and yet this one never gets dislodged from my Top 10, maybe even Top 5. There's plenty of days when I think, if I had to have juuuuust one, it would be Rundgren's "Something/Anything?" usually... or maybe this one.

I have it on CD, and bought the CD singles off eBay, and then got that vinyl reissue recently. Usually I don't go that nuts, buying duplicate versions of things... but this one merits it.

Don't delay, get this one today, folks!

p.s. the "Begin Again" soundtrack has some amazing NR stylings on it, like Sal and others said, and is highly recommended, in the absence of a new GA or NR record. But yeah, that can be a whole other entry perhaps sometime...