Singer/songwriter Seth Swirsky followed all the requisite cool bands as a youngster in the 1970s, from ageless Beatles tracks to the Doors.
“At the same time I loved Mott the Hoople and the Carpenters,” Swirsky tells Big Hollywood. “To me, music is not based on whether you call it ‘light’ or ‘Beatles’ or ‘heavy’ or ‘dark’ … it all revolves around melody and singability.”
It’s why Swirsky signed on to record Henry Gross’ Shannon for the new double CD “Drink a Toast to Innocence: A Tribute to Lite Rock.” The set features 28 lite rock favorites that may not have the cache of the ’70s’ biggest hits but deserve respect all the same.
The tracks include We Don’t Talk Anymore (Michael Carpenter), Wildfire (Paul Myers), Fooled Around and Fell in Love (Sunshine on Mars) and Believe It or Not (Mike Ruekberg), the theme song to The Greatest American Hero.
The songs aren’t politically charged, edgy or otherwise attention getting. They’ve simply endured over time, their spotless hooks remaining catnip to music fans wise enough to ignore snooty labels.
Swirsky says he was handed a list of lite rock songs from the era from which to choose, but he had something else in mind. He considered It Never Rains in Southern California before selecting Shannon, but the track’s falsetto presented a puzzle for Swirsky. He normally didn’t sing in such a high range, but he figured the track was a great way to challenge himself while paying tribute to a beloved song.
He couldn’t resist a few embellishments. Swirsky added some strings and cello to the song, and he was happy when Gross himself gave it his full blessing. The song, an ode to Beach Boys Carl Wilson’s late dog, otherwise sticks with the basics. Swirsky knew well enough not to muck up something sublime.
“The harmonies are so rich and great. A lot of the change comes from the quality of my voice,” says Swirsky, who ruled out recasting Shannon in a punk or overtly rock ‘n’ roll manner just for the sake of change.In fact, the album stays fairly faithful to the source material, with appropriate modifications to add an artistic burnish when applicable. It’s an audio mash note to an era often overlooked in the rush to mock disco and praise punk.
The project got a nice goose from Kickstarter.com, with album concept creator Andrew Curry reaching his fundraising goal of $10,000 as of March 9.
Swirsky, who is preparing a follow-up to his superb sophomore solo album Watercolor Days, says he’s taken his Lite experience with him into the studio. He describes a recent recording session for the new album, tentatively set to drop in 2014, as a falsetto-heavy track he compared to The Beatles’ She’s Leaving Home.