Four or five years ago, I went to The State Theatre in Falls Church, Virginia - USA- to see THE SMITHEREENS.
One of the great things about The Smithereens is….you know them all by name. Even "THE THRILLA"! He's a Smithereen having taken the place of Mike Mesaros on a regular basis. And, although located in the back, Dennis Diken is NOT a background member of The Smithereens. His drumming and backing vocals keep him in the foreground….you always know he's there.
At this particular show, Smithereens Front-Man Pat Dinizio broke a string on his Fender Strat and, seemingly unable to replace the string and get it in tune, he walks over to Jimmy Babjak for some help.
At that point, THRILLA and Diken kinda started slowly and then launched into a cover by The Doors - Break On Through - with Diken leading the way with powerful drumming and equally powerful vocals.
Just a bass guitar….Diken's Drumming and Diken's vocals.
"THIS CAT CAN SING!" I thought to myself. And yes - I did use those exact words. I even thought - Why doesn’t this guy do his own record….what's stopping him?
Flash forward to 2007-2009 and The Smithereens are releasing some discs with Diken and Babjak singing lead on some songs - celebrating The Beatles, Christmas and The Who - just so we can sniff a little more of the great voice that Diken has.
Now, here comes September of 2009 and Dennis Diken has released his first effort as the front man in the incarnation: Dennis Diken With Bell Sound with the disc titled "Late Music." This disc is a love's labor for all those involved - started in the early 1990s and finally hatched for us all here in 2009.
The highlights for me on Late Music are:
The Vocals - Hands down, for me, this carries the record. This recording has beautiful vocals - both lead and backing - and haunting harmonies It's obvious the vocals were given great care and offer listeners a sound of innocence like on Fall Into Your Arms and some psychedelia like on Temptation Cake.
The Guitars - I love a great record with great guitar work that doesn’t run all over the vocals…and doesn’t 'shred' just for the sake of 'shredding.' Talk about capturing a sound of the 60s and 70s…..these guys did it and it sounds great. There's no "tinny" or "tin-like" sound about the guitars….they're full, sometimes loud, other times soft.
Percussion - Dennis is Dennis. He knows how to feel a song and express himself through the drums. Do you know other drummers who can feel out a song like Dennis? The good news here is that we also get to experience his vocal perfornance, Front and Center.
Use of Non Traditional Instruments - The Glockenspiel….. I know what you're thinking. THE GLOCKENSPIEL?????? This instrument is only on 2 songs. But, on Track 5, I've Been Away, it takes a really really good song and makes it an INCREDIBLE SONG! Not everyone will understand this line, but a music lover will.
Variety - A song can start up at the chorus and go into verse….A song can have a biting guitar riff or swing over to a horn section or have a Wurlitzer or Hammond Organ or the vocals just jump in to haunt you. Or, you can get a jazz-like number.
My favorite track on the disc - "I've Been Away." This song does something for me because:
- The backing vocals are so damn hauntingly beautiful
- Dennis starts right into the Chorus and I get the visual of him in the US Version of the TV Series "Life On Mars," (Canceled Spring, 2009) walking out of the Police Squad room wearing a light brown leather coat with the long collar cut to a stage where he sees himself playing drums…..both Dennis's give a nod to eachother and Dennis stands in front of the microphone and belts out the rest of his song - of course we'd add in some beautifully haunting backup singers to cut to from time to time while playing with the band
- This song, upon my first 20 times hearing it, I could not do anything else. Time stopped for me and I had to listen to this song. I had to hear every possible nuance I could hear in the song
- The Glockenspiel. YES THE GLOCKESPIEL. It just adds to the haunting mystery that is I've Been Away
- The Guitar solo - not too long….no shredding….backing vocals fading in and out during the solo….Excellent!
- The ending…..continues the mystery and spell cast upon me when the song got started
- This song is a reinvention of a tune written by Pete DiBella - Pete's original song was "Wanna Touch Someone Tonight" and it was reconfigured with a new melody, new bridge and new lyrics to make this masterpiece
Track by Track
The Sun's gonna Shine In The Morning - Reminds me of The Who with the first strike of the guitar…..and then goes into a sound found in I'm not your steppin stone by The Monkees
Standing In That Line - Pete DiBella takes the lead vocals on this tune that stands out on this record. I cant believe this was recorded on a 4-Track CASSETTE! Recorder. It's also cool to note that this song was one of the songs put on a compilation that Brian Wilson (yes the same one you're thinking of right now) would listen to prior to performing live
Long Lonely Ride - Paul Revere and the Raiders would be very proud of their young padawahns Dennis, Pete and Dave
No One's Listening - The beginning reminds me a little of Lovely Rita, Metermaid
I've Been Away - You already read what I had to say about this tune :)
So Hard To Say Goodbye - Instantly caught me with the start of the song and Dennis's change in voice inflection on …Waiting for time to….What a way to make sure that we, the listeners, are still there - like when a teacher calls out "Mister Diken" and there's an instant of I'm paying COMPLETE ATTENTION now
Fall Into Your Arms - If ever there were a song that blatantly goes after a beach boys sound….THIS IS IT. And, IT'S GREAT!
Lost Bird - A quick jazz-like number…..Someone needs to contact the producers of the James Bond Films (Or Austin Powers) and get this song into a scene where the suave Bond is in a Tux and putting the moves on yet another leading lady
Let Your Loved One Sleep - Think Dave Clark 5, The Turtles, and The Lovin Spoonful
The Bad Merry-Go-Round - The title speaks for itself and brings back another song to my mind that included a carousel sound - broken arrow Neil Young/Buffalo Springfield
Don't Let Me Sleep Too Long - Open up the Garage Door and leave nothing behind approach to this song.
Temptation Cake - WHOA - psychedelia and odd and wicked cool, all at the same time and another great song sung by Pete DiBella
Tell All The Fools - A great tune that works great to close out this record….Thanks go to The Honeys for joining in to sing on this song
Folks - we all have our filters that say, this kinda reminds me of……OR…..this sounds like…..So, here's my list that's easily added to or subtracted from by you….so.....don’t let my list restrict you - go make your own list and post it on your blog.
Paul Revere and the Raiders
The Stone Roses/The Tubes/The Wedding Present on I've Been Away
Dave Clark 5
The Lovin Spoonful
The Shocking Blue
Oh yeh - I almost forgot….The Beatles
What Independent Record is made without acknowledgements. Dennis is quick to mention that although this release is listed as Dennis Diken with Bell Sound, it wouldn’t have been a possibility without the collaborations of Pete DiBella and Dave Amels - not-to-mention everyone else who played and sang on, supported in one way or another the release of this record.
Support Your Independent Musician
Please take a moment and buy Dennis's collaborative release - LATE MUSIC by Dennis Diken with Bell Sound - and support the work of Independent Musicians. Dennis and his music mates don’t get paid for sick days or days they don't work. They get paid to play or if they sell their music to folks like us. Kindly consider supporting this endeavor and we can hope that Dennis, Pete and Dave will work together with their collaborators to get more songs together for a 2nd album. If so, they have a LOT to live up to. And, I'm excited to hear what they come up with. Until then, I'm going to sit back, relax and keep enjoying their efforts on Late Music.
Dennis provided an incredible interview on our show on Monday September 21, 2009. To hear it in its "cut" version, find your way to: www.myspace.com/IndependentsUncovered
It will be posted there on Friday, Oct 2, 2009 until the podcast version is posted on the WGMU website and iTUNES.
For an ordering link to AMAZON and more details, go to (NOTE: Please support Cryptovision and Dennis Diken With Bell Sound by coming to this link first and then clicking on the Amazon link to purchase the record):
Check out the reviews for LATE MUSIC:
For a terrific in-depth interview with Dennis by Gary Pig Gold: http://www.cryptovisionrecords.com/GPGinterview.html
For the original LATE MUSIC press release: http://www.cryptovisionrecords.com/press/DennisDikenLateMusicPR.html
For Dennis Diken With Bell Sound on MySpace:
For photos from the making of LATE MUSIC: