The Trilogy - Two Sides Of The Trilogy [Maiden Wine, 2009]

The term "covers band" conjures forth Americana images of suburban destiny. The covers band plays in a fading Holiday Inn before ten sales representatives, slightly disheveled, who sit in the light of a silvery disco ball in a fading Holiday Inn, drinking tropical drinks festooned with tiny umbreallas. Families gather for the Independence Day picnic, while the covers band in the park gazebo belts out Motown songs as ducks swim by on pristine park ponds. The idea arose in pop music that one must write one's own music, or be deemed a lesser talent. Earlier eras recognized that not everybody writes songs like Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen, or even Neil Sedaka. Yet the era of the singer-songwriter brought to an end the time of the artist who primarily covered the works of other songwriters. Pop music gained a little and lost a little by the change. Whereas jazz, the blues, folk music, and big band music all assumed that the best music came from a canon of classics, the new pop attitude, fueled by the rise of rock music, was that covers were no longer “authentic”. This limited view of music and its purposes afflicted pop for decades.

Take the time machine to 1973, and one lands just at the end of the covers band era. A few vocalists, such as Linda Ronstadt and Three Dog Night, score massive hits doing covers by lesser-known but very talented songwriters. The hegemony of the artist-who-never-covers-anyone was well along, but far from complete in its brief time of conquest. In this era, one could find covers bands in college towns telling the audience that their found themselves deeply inspired by, say, the Eagles song “Tequila Sunrise”. The early 1970s were also a time in which the first foothills of the mountains of technical innovation that would improve studio recording technology were beginning to arise.

Enter The Trilogy. This three-person pop band from Florida USA was comprised of Lori Lee, Ike Reeves and Kurt (Walter) Uhlig. Their album, “Two Sides of the Trilogy”, presents eight pop songs which had been hits for other people in new , mostly deft cover versions. The band's gentle touch on each of these standards is a wonderful journey back through time.

My favorite songs were those sung by Lori Lee, whose voice has a casual sincerity which is entirely appealing. The band's instrumental backings are in the main light-touched rather than heavy-handed. Few of the affectations which made some music of this era annoying are present here. Still, this is very much a historical document rather than a current release, as the record evokes its place and time.

In “Guess Who I Saw Today”, a jazz standard Nancy Wilson among many others sang, Lori Lee's quiet reading over light jazz-inflected acoustic backing reminds one of both of its source in American jazz and the recent introspective guitar pop of the South American hemisphere. Henry Mancini's “Lujon”, presented here under its alternate title “Slow Hot Wind”, is performed with a gentle syncopation which is very winning indeed.

So many songs on this album work, both as nostalgia and as music, and every song is interesting. Some covers are far less successful than others. Emerson, Lake and Palmer's “Trilogy” gets a likable low-key piano-and-synth treatment, but the mix gives the song a muted four-track feel which fails to quite carry through. The oft-performed “The Candyman” gains little from Lori Lee's reading here. Yet the sheer joy of the band's quiet cover of Spanky and Our Gang's “Lazy Day” more than compensates for the uneven parts of this album.

Those who love modern Swedish twee pop might enjoy this forgotten album of pop standards done without affectation. Like the best twee pop, this music eschews the self-indulgent in search of fun. The Trilogy did not achieve commercial success. Lori Lee passed away some years ago, while her bandmates found success in other aspects of music. Yet The Trilogy made a fine album of covers—and there is something noble in that, in 1973—or 2010


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The Trilogy - Two Sides of The Trilogy

The Trilogy - Two Sides Of The Trilogy (vinyl)