Phil Angotti and the Lazy Apple Orchestra – People and Places (2011)

I was initially introduced to the music of Phil Angotti back in the early 1990s through the irresistibly hooky little tunes he was cutting as the Idea. The Chicago, Illinois-based artist’s light and airy pop rock struck an immediate chord with me, making me an instant fan.

Since then, Phil has released a steady stream of great discs, leading him to be a well known and highly respected figure on the scene. Here’s a guy you can always rely on to deliver the goods, and his latest venture, People and Places (Our House Records), is no exception. From the raucous Creedence Clearwater Revival-styled bar-band rock of “National ‘36,” to the soft and gentle strummings of “Sorry About the Accordion, Jill,” the album offers something for everyone.

A variety of time changes and forays into different genres may grace People and Places, but Phil Angotti and the Lazy Apple Orchestra remain consistently grounded. Digging pop melodies rule the turf, while the songwriting is uniformly strong and the arrangements are gripping and enterprising. Phil’s vocals, which are bright, boyish and intimate, beam with life, and the playing is tight and exciting.

Feelings and confessions of nostalgia are dispatched on the peppy “My Old Records” and the haunting “Whatever Happened To …,” and then there’s the country-and-western tinged “Railroad Angel” that twangs and crackles with a hungry restlessness.

A neat and tidy balance of acoustic and electric guitars adorn People and Places, resulting in a stirring pitch falling somewhere between folk rock and power pop. Traces of acts like the Byrds, Emitt Rhodes, Badfinger and Raspberries cast shadows on the material, supported by the band‘s own originality and creativity. The lonely cry of violins, aided by the brassy blare of a trumpet and glistening piano fills additionally crop up on the record.

Organic and easy to listen to, People and Places is real music performed by real human beings. And that in itself is very refreshing. Lots of love and thought went into this fine album, and it certainly shows.

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Beverly Paterson

Beverly Paterson was born the day Ben E. King's "Stand By Me" hit No. 4 on the national charts, which is ironically, one of her favorite songs - especially the version by John Lennon. She has contributed to Lance Monthly and Amplifier, and served as associate editor of Rock Beat International. Her own publications have included Inside Out, and Twist And Shake. Contact Something Else! at reviews@somethingelsereviews.com.