Forgotten series: The Cryan’ Shames – Sugar and Spice (1992)

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Hailing from Hinsdale, Illinois, the Cryan’ Shames not only attained monumental local success, but were a mere hair away from making it on a national level. Citing the Beach Boys, the Beatles and the Byrds as core inspirations, the band was particularly praised for their sterling harmony skills. As an additional asset, lead guitarist Jim Fairs had a talent for writing songs so good they nearly matched the vibrancy and depth of his mentors.

Initially known as the Travelers, the Cryan’ Shames launched their recording career in 1966, and the next 3 years saw them release a trio of albums and 9 singles. A 17-track summary from Columbia-Legacy, Sugar & Spice (A Collection) contains the band’s peak hours as well as lengthy liner notes.

Self-composed efforts such as the warm and sunny “July” and “I Wanna Meet You,” which cleverly couples spunky surf-scented sounds with a ringing folk rock fragrance, finely demonstrates the band’s ability for wrapping their lungs and instruments around catchy tunes and turning them into extra shiny pieces of silver and gold.

Flush with detail and polish, “First Train To California” illuminates with pose, beauty and class, while songs like the brisk and buoyant “It Could Be We’re In Love” and the bone-chilling yearning of “We Could Be Happy” rehash the soul of Hawthorne, California’s heroes with petrifying perfection.

Generated by rashes of rugged rhythms and coves of chunky licks, “Mr. Unreliable” clocks in as a cool garage rock type nugget. Also not to be neglected is the utterly spellbinding “Ben Franklin’s Almanac,” a psychedelic informed confection devised of biting breaks, slaving tempos and abstract lyrics. Brimming with imagination, the cut is further enriched by servings of moody, lonely choruses and a wicked Yardbirds styled rave-up.

The Cryan’ Shames continued to exercise similar hard rocking techniques on the blues-torched “Dennis Dupree From Danville” and “Greenburg, Glickstein, Charles, David Smith & Jones,” which involved booming brass arrangements nailed to a wall of progressive melodies, blistering guitars and punishing vocal power. A country-and-western complexion emerges on the jaunty “Cobblestone Road (She’s Been Walkin’),” where a cover of “Sugar & Spice,” which was a big hit by the Searchers, jingles and jangles with ongoing joy. Gerry Goffin and Carole King’s “Up On The Roof” offers a different approach than the top-selling version from the Drifters, as it dazzles with sweetness and light, not to mention earthy mandolin pickings.

Padded tight with ear candy, Sugar & Spice (A Collection) asserts what a great band the Cryan’ Shames were. Hooky pop tunes were no doubt their priority, but every so often they would take a detour and shove some surprising ingredients into the stew. Sugar & Spice is a sensible introduction to the Cryan’ Shames, but I can’t stress enough how fantastic all their albums are. If you’re unable to find original copies in used record stores, pay a visit to the Sundazed label, where their catalog has been given a credible reissue treatment.

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Beverly Paterson

Beverly Paterson

Beverly Paterson was born the day Ben E. King hit No. 4 with "Stand By Me" -- which is actually one of her favorite songs, especially John Lennon's version. She's contributed to Lance Monthly and Amplifier, and served as Rock Beat International's associate editor. Paterson has also published Inside Out, and Twist & Shake. Contact Something Else! at reviews@somethingelsereviews.com.
Beverly Paterson
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