Not a “best of,” but definitely a collection of the best, Les Fradkin – a veritable legend in the realm of ‘60s-inspired grand and orchestral rock – presents the Artist Kit Sampler. Why such a simple but prestigious name? Because one assembles and receives such a momentous collection – a time-spanning introduction to an artist’s work – after being inducted into the Akademia Music Hall of Fame (an organization that recently celebrated Fradkin’s induction a few short weeks ago [August 10th]). Congratulations, Mr. Fradkin! Now, let’s take a deeper look at the sampler’s offerings, and once again highlight Les Fradkin’s consistent output of incomparable, well-crafted work:
Opening track “Jangleholic” was recorded in 2006. Noted by Fradkin as “biographical,” “Jangleholic” is the Les Fradkin sound you love to wrap yourself in – the Byrds-inspired arpeggios, layers of luscious guitars, layered harmonies, and even a bit of rumbling analog synth. A spirited introduction, to say the least.
“God Bless California (Oooh L.A.),” recorded in 1996, is a more subdued offering, but still sizable in sound/instrumentation. It has a Chubby Checker, doo-wop feel with a piping, glassy organ and slightly growling sax. Great stuff, and a suitable celebration of the sunshine state.
Track #3, “Magic Attic,” hooks me immediately with introductory a cappella harmonies. Recorded in 2003, Fradkin describes “Magic Attic” as “a dose of nostalgia for one’s past.” And I can hear that in the lyrics, and in the dreamy, orchestral arrangement layered with gentle, sometimes falsetto harmonizations. And with a chorus that fades softly into the sun’s rippling blur, “Magic Attic” is absolutely one of my favorites.
“Everything Is Wrong (Radio Edit),” recorded in 2003 and uncannily prophetic, tells the story of our (kind of actual) future. This is a punchy track laying down the absurdities, mostly fueled by greed, afflicting modern society. Corporations out of control? Check. People complacent and blissfully unaware, but somehow easily annoyed? Check. With driving strings and bass, this is a musical warning for what already befell us.
“System Crash (Radio Edit),” another eerily prophetic track recorded in 2003, may be, in Fradkin’s words, “the best thing I have ever written.” And, I absolutely concur. With those spacey but tape-natural Mellotron strings, some glorious and wavering analog synth, the driving undercurrent of staccato strings and a bit of Mellotron chorus, this is an EPIC track that incorporates every ounce of Fradkin’s high-minded and palpably dense orchestration.
The collection ends with “Under the Covers,” a more hopeful affair with that big, ringing guitar, and a consistent snare strike that keeps this biographical track persistently propulsive. Seriously, I’m tapping both feet as I type this (which doesn’t aid with proper spelling). With layered harmonies, organ and subtle strings, “Under the Covers” is the perfect vulnerable finale.
But is it good?
C’mon, really? Of course it’s good – it’s Les Fradkin! This is how music is supposed to sound! This is a monumental collection reflective of a monumental career, and it’s absolutely deserving of every accolade ever.
BELOW: Listen to the Artist Kit Sampler (which you can purchase here), and check out Les Fradkin on Bandcamp, SoundCloud, Twitter (now “X”), and Facebook. Please support Les Fradkin by visiting his website and playing, downloading, and/or purchasing his music. And, as always, thank you for supporting real music.
(Want to have your music reviewed on The Ark of Music? Click HERE.)