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PAVLOV'S DOG discography

Thanks to
Live And Unleashed
Echo & Boo
David Surkamp - Dancing On The Edge Of A Teacup
Lost In America
Has Anyone Here Seen Sigfried
At The Sound Of The Bell
Pampered Menial


PAVLOV'S DOG -
Live And Unleashed
Rockville 2011

First-ever concert album from the St. Louis' finest canine pack is surprisingly good. But what, no thatsong?

While the tapes of the original PAVLOV'S DOG performances wait in the vault to be teasing as bonus tracks on their first two records' reissues, in comes this souvenir from the current incarnation's European tour of 2009. Which means it was recorded before "Echo & Boo", so the punters had the chance to hear its opening lyrical pair of "Angeline" and "Angelís Twilight Jump", the farewell here, and a couple more fresh songs before the CD listeners, yet the fans hardly flocked to listen to the new tracks that hang well alongside classics, the real magnet. Sure, "Golden Nuggets" and "Of One And Future Kings" can't disappoint - David Surkamp's voice, while showing some age wear, still cuts it - the problem is sometimes it sounds like a singer with accompanists, the founder drummer Mike Safron included, rather than an ensemble.

It may work fine for the numbers from Surkamp's solo album, such as the charged "Looking For My Shadow", or a rarity which is the deliciously funky "Heart Of Mine" by the short-lived HI-FI, a band the DOG's howler formed with Iain Matthews, but not so when it comes to "Theme From Subway Sue" where one would want to have as tight a delivery as on the sharp "Breaking Ice" off "Lost In America", the previous attempt to revitalize the group. Yet the anthemic "Episode" and "Late November" retains all their melancholy magic, and there's the other star to shine on-stage this time: Abbie Hainz who plays the violin with all the grace of the late Sigfried Carver - thanks to him, the opener, "Prelude", sets the spirits high, and the band don't let down even in the weakest places.

"Standing Here With You" isn't one of those, it's arguably the best composition to proudly wear new clothes, so while - a shock! - "Julia" didn't make it here, "Live And Unleashed" feels great. Now, on to those vaulted gems.

****
PAVLOV'S DOG -
Echo & Boo
Rockville 2010

New tricks from the old barker - a concept album for a sunset perspective.

We've been there before, on a record that starts with a song in a lady's name, but "Angeline" is no "Julia", and it signals a full circle for the ensemble which came to be 35 years before for a short, if impressive, run and delivered their last recorded sound in 1990. Here's an echo down the years and a boo from those who never liked the distinctive voice of David Surkamp who, together with original drummer Mike Safron, masterminded this comeback. Don't expect the result to be remindful of the days of yore: the nocturnal mood is different to the young and the midde-aged, so "Echo & Boo" dwells in twilight - it's a quiet observation rather than night on the town.

While the opener addresses the legend surrounding the band, and packs the familiar elements - those vocals, acoustic guitar, viloin wail - into the tremulous balladry to set the tone for the whole album, where isn't a single fast-paced track, the four parts of "The Death Of North American Industry Suite" puts the sepia tint in a different, antemic but gloomy, light. Still, for the most part the songs look into a psyche of a mature man, where even the playful country piano of "I Love You Still" and the exquisite Spanish guitar in the heartbreaking "We All Die Alone" sound sad, so even the story of titular characters flutters along in whispers, not screams, yet can give Cat Stevens' heroes a run for their fairy tale money. It feels like the end, with "I Don't Need Magic Anymore" for a prog rock closer, yet if it really would be the last ever entry in the DOG canon, it's a loud and glorious one.

****
DAVID SURKAMP -
Dancing On The Edge Of A Teacup
Saylor Songs 2006
Rockville 2007

Subtitled "The Pavlov's Dog Trinity Sessions", the fully fledged solo flight of the defunct ensemble's voice .

With no fruit born out of the original DOG's 2004 reunion but with interest in the band piched high, it was quite a time for David Surkamp to shake some action. Working under his own banner and touring under the old group's moniker, there's some undecidedness on this album's cover featuring both the singer's and the collective's names, yet this time's the music's gets close to the erstwhile magic. It's there, in the uplifting and infectious "Life In Imperfect Times" and in "Looking For My Shadow", that, in the rocks steady groove and acid ringing of Surkamp's guitars, enters Wonderland.

The slo-mo fall of "Losing My Piano" might suggest a bit adorned demo, but the song unfurls in a mesmerizing way, with a tran(ce)quility pierced with another searing solo. The serenity hits its zenith in the Lennon-meets-Sting "Wrong", strange yet life-affirming piece of soul-pouring. But the vocals are less cosmic now: David operates the pipes slightly different anyway, which widens his color palette and allows him shape "Hard Again" as a Roy Orbison honeyed ballad with the requisite "la-la's" for the backing, but the same lyrical approach spreads the dulcimer-sprinkled "Highlife Bunting" too thin on the ground. Even more ethereal and elusive feels "Ghost Barres", the seven-minute-plus throb of lysergic dream-chasing, but the closing country dance of "One Of These Days" is a perfect continuation of the DOG's legacy and an indication of the greater things to come.

***1/3
PAVLOV'S DOG -
Lost In America
Telectro Records 1990
Rockville 2007

The revitalized St. Louis collective throw in their lot with the new era - and with mixed results.

Long before reunions became fashionable, singer David Surkamp and keyboard player Doug Rayburn, who seemed to have never lost their old-days telepathy, decided to give their by then already legendary band a new lease of life and came up with these 10 songs that barely resemble the DOG's '70s work. And it's not the vocals - still high, still distinctive - that hold the diference, it's the music, all '80s in its production: a lot of echo and a bit of synthetic aloofness mar even the best of tunes. That's what makes the romantic "Pantomime" rather banal, what with its over-the-top sax, and shoots down the otherwise majestic title track which anthemically eases in on the original guitarist Steve Scorfina's acoustic lace to end up in the choir-lifted gospel but never gets adventurous. Now it's as modern and American as it gets, so there's a stadium-sized "Breaking Ice" that Springsteen would have been proud to cover but it fails to touch the heart.

Still, "You & I" is one of the best not-slow ballads out there; it feels even more vital in a live version in the bonus section, alongside other new album's material, some in unplugged mode, unreleased tracks and classics such as "Subway Sue". Elsewhere, "All Night" is a swaggering slice of hard rock, and there's a catchy rock 'n' roll riff in "Not By My Side" yet its punky spikes are well-hidden under the plastic sheen. But while the predatory-paced "A Hardly Innocent Mind" buzzes like an African breeze with a swelling chorus that sounds not unlike EURHYTHMICS, and "Brown Eyes" comes poised elegantly between its organ base and soaring guitars, "As Lovers Do" and "Don't Rain On Me" are rather grey and purely of their period. If you're into it, the record is diffiicult not to love, but for those into the old DOG, it's a promise never fulfilled... and pleasant to the bone.

***
PAVLOV'S DOG -
Has Anyone Here Seen Sigfried
Rockville 2007

Much bootlegged "lost" third album sees the long-overdue official release. The old crime of shelving the record looks even more unforgivable.

With the erstwhile idiosyncrasy tamed, "At The Sound Of The Bell" brought forth no hit, so for the label the next album was to make it or break it. The band were doomed for the latter option, as their only concession to the demands was the pale cover of JEFFERSON AIRPLANE's "Today"; the rest of the material rested on surrealistic pillow on their own making, much closer to "Pampered Menial" than to its follow-up.

Thus, the soulful opener "Only You" flies along the "Julia" trajectory, although this time the piano and strings are offset with a heavy guitar riffage from Steve Scorfina who, while being the perfect foil for David Surkamp's voice, steps back for Elliott Randall to deliver a liquid solo on the honeyed neurons of "Falling In Love" and another STEELY DAN six-string alumnus, Jeff Baxter, to squeeze his bluesy lemon on a music-hall dance of "Painted Ladies" in between its infectious choruses. On the other end of memorability spectrum lie the Scorfina-sung Lennon-like ballad "It's All For You", which is given a strangely prog rock coda, and the jerky funk of "Trafalgar" that sacrifices its melody to the catchy arrangement. Elsewhere, the bass-heavy "Suicide" takes it all to a real disintegration, where the mellotron stands in for the vanished original member Sigfried Carver's violin, yet "Jenny" swirls in a sweet waltz, wrapped in a lulling vocal harmony, "I Love You Steel" with its interplay between electric and acoustic guitars feels as summery as it gets, and the closing instrumental "While You Were Out" is painfully beautiful.

This decent work is marred with a few mastering glitches but they're made up for with no less than ten bonus cuts including live takes on faves like "Song Dance" and "She Came Shining" from the '70s and some previously unreleased songs, for the most part inferior to those that made it onto the the albums. A wonderful postscript to the first span of the DOG's career.

****
PAVLOV'S DOG -
At The Sound Of The Bell
Columbia 1975
Rockville 2010

The bite's softened and the bark's more mellifluous, the DOG's second outing doesn't fail to excite still.

After the band's first album failed to dent the charts, and with progressive rock on the decline, there was no other logical option but to level the quirks hoping a hit would come. The musicians thought differently, though, and while sweetening the overall sound, brought on board the jazzy-minded Bill Bruford on drums and Michael Brecker and Andy MacKay on saxes. This time, a pure, captivating - and, with its cheesy strings, MOR radio-friendly - ballad, "Standing Here With You", finds its piano-paved way into the mix, to be followed by another one, "Mersey", which bears a warm vocal harmony, the clarinet solo and a Gypsy-dance guitar line courtesy of Steve Scorfina. So much for the pop approach, then.

The delicate, chamber folk flow of the opening "She Came Shining" with its acoustic, country-colored strum and solemn organ ascends to the nervy height on the chorus, and the Celtic-tinged "Valkerie" is buzzing with anxiety that drawns an ear to its vertiginous nucleus where the boys choir sways the nostalgia under David Surkamp's soaring voice. Such a serious material is contrasted with the vaudevillian rockabilly jive of the brass-splashed "She Breaks Like Morning Sky" and "Try To Hang On" that almost give QUEEN a run for their panto money; for the latter it's even more sharp in 1976 live version added on the re-issue as a bonus alongside 2007's concert take on "Gold Nuggets", a tremulous slow-burner on the harmonium background and one of the most majestic moments of "The Bell" featuring harmony guitar solo and a brooding mandolin.

There's a different kind of theatricality in "Early Morning On", fading out but not really resolving, which can't be said of "Did You See Him Cry" that conceptually links the end of the album to its very beginning and serves a perfect example of the prog and pop marriage where all the elements of the DOG's armory come together to leave the listener almost breathless. This the resounding toll is impossible not to love.

****1/2
PAVLOV'S DOG -
Pampered Menial
ABC / Columbia 1974
Rockville 2010

A sybaritic gem radiating a light that etches an indelible image on the retina of one's mind and soul.

A piano passage serene but pregnant with expectation... And then, on a gentle acoustic guitar surge, this voice comes on which you either love or hate yet can't help but adore: an otherworldly weapon of such distinction that it's easy to suspect some studio trickery or helium involved there. The unbelievers are advised to check out the live bonus tracks on the remastered re-issue of PAVLOV'S DOG's impressive first album to see the naturalness of David Surkamp's pipes' output; the rest must hang in the almost Gothic beauty of "Julia", it's orchestra-awashed, the Hubert Laws flute-weaving opening cut. The high-strung vocals have only one downside - they might distract from the high-grade songwriting that makes "Pampered Menial" such a classic treasure.

It's quite simple to overlook the fact of "Natchez Trace" having a rock 'n' roll heart behind the progressive veneer. It was scintillating enough for ABC Records to sign the unknown band from St. Louis for the record-breaking $650,000 only to let them switch to Columbia a fortnight later for another $600,000, so two versions of the album hit the shelves at the same time. Time proved it was worth such princely sums, with "Late November" combining bucolic romanticism with the patina-tinctured urgency carried by Steve Scorfina's guitar solo and his sharp riff propelling the pure prog rock of "Song Dance" to which Sigfried Carver's violin introduces a folky interlude and David Hamilton's piano boogie brings it all home with a sweta-soaked resolution. And here's another unbelievable thing: the album's was produced by Sandy Pearlman and Murray Krugman, the BLUE OYSTER CULT pilots who managed to align the DOG with their only American rivals, KANSAS. While "Theme From Subway Sue" and the Beatlesque "Episode" are lyrically widescreen, "Fast Gun" is essentially a pop song, sleek but punctured with Rick Stockton's bass, given an additional depth by the organ and featuring Mike Safron's exquisite drum work on the infectious choruses.

There's also the quirky yet riveting Carver instrumental piece, "Preludin", that reveals all of its baroque power in a 10-minute concert version in the bonus section of the re-issue where the live take on "Subway Sue" follows the original closer, the theatrical, and even vaudevillian, "Of Once And Future Kings", and where the previously unreleased psychedelic "I Wish It Would Rain" makes its official debut. With "Rainbow", from 1969, by TOUCH, Surkamp's earlier band, tagged on as well, the irressistibility of "Pampered Menial" grows immensely. It really comes shining.

*****
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