What you are about to experience is a test. Not in the sense of someone commanding you pull out your #2 pencil; but rather, a test in the depths of your musical appreciation. For some this will be a difficult undertaking, for others it is something they only experience in dreams. Regardless of which side of the room you sit, I will be your guide.
In a legend meets legend moment that puts musical architecture on par with the Large Hadron Collider, the moment Shawn Lee and Tim “Love” Lee undertook the adventure of capturing and building upon, all while staying honest to the original vision, the works of Herbie Flowers (Lou Reed, Bowie and T. Rex) and Barry Morgan (Bowie, Elton John and The Walker Brothers) the outlook was one of uncertainty and possibly dangerous. And to be honest, I was skeptical.
Now don’t get me wrong, I consider myself a Shawn Lee fan, but the resulting twenty tracks (split between the Lee duo at eleven to Shawn and nine to Tim) felt different than most prior works and different than most work being released today.
To which I not only tip my hat, but ultimately find myself thoroughly entertained.
From whacky nuances, to the soul-lifting grooves, on down to funky little ditties, New York Trouble / Electric Progression is a haul of great musical appreciation and an eye opening ode to the men who have helped shape some of music’s greatest moments. The entire album reimagines (or I should say imagines the finished product of) the KPM 1000 series LPs Bass Guitar And Percussion Volumes 1 & 2 recorded decades ago by the legendary Flowers and Morgan. But when the bizarre personality the opening track “Barnyard Bam Bam” takes on hit me I was overwhelmed with a dreaded thought of getting into something horrible; but quite frankly, if that is the feeling you get as well, just hang on. Through the oddities there is much more than hope. The colorful experience built upon harmless recordings takes on life. And without excessive production or some profound lyrics it becomes a world of vibrant existence. This is immediately felt in “Heavy Stakeout” then continued through great tracks like “Light Stakeout,” “Cool, Not Cold,” “Zen Furious” and “Bionic Bossa.” By the end the strange architecture formed over this historical landmark becomes something you could easily just drive by each day without a second glance, but if you stop and admire the craftsmanship you’ll pick up on things you never saw before and be captivated by its construction.
When I think of 1970s session recordings, I never know what to expect but I don’t expect a lot. They’re simply ideas meant to be the blueprint for something bigger. New York Trouble / Electric Progression was never their intention but at the same time it wasn’t meant to not be done this way. What Shawn Lee and Tim Lee have accomplished with this release is nothing short of beautiful. Beautiful in their musical prowess and beautiful in the way they did legendary musicians right. This is not for the Top 40 fans but it is a pilgrimage fans of genuine music should take. The things you’ll find are worth the trip.
Greg is a regular contributor and co-founder at Nanobot. He enjoys digging through the bins at his local record shop and discovering new recordings.