Friday, October 05, 2012

FDF Volume 3 Issue 281 - Paul Pena - New Train

Album – New Train
Artist – Paul Pena
Key Players – Paul Pena – guitar, vocals and piano. Ben Sidran – Piano and Organ. Harvey Brooks – bass. Gary Malabar – drums and percussion

Produced By – Ben Sidran

Release Date - September 26, 2000

What caused me to blow off the dust? - Scannng the cd rack I stumbled upon this. When I was working in Boston radio we played a few cuts from it, and I found it rather interesting. Its been a long, long time since I went front to back on this.

Overview – There is just an amazing story behind Paul and this album. He was born in Massachusetts and his father and grandfather were well known musicans. Born with congenital glaucoma he'd be blind by the time he was 20. He'd hone his craft and eventually open for the likes of Frank Zappa and the Grateful Dead. He'd record this, his second album, but it would not see the light of day for 27 years. While in a dispute with his manager Steve Miller made “Jet Airliner” a huge hit. Seriously, you couldn't make this stuff up. Hollywood are you listening? Read his story on Wiki and be amazed, really.

FDF Comments (aka the songs) – The ten track album opens with “Gonna Move”. Brooks sets the tone on the bass right away and Sidran is happy to help with long organ notes. When the chorus starts you are struck with a wall of voices. The Persuasions are Pena's backing vocalists. Pena sings in a vibrant manner and has a deep soulful voice. A short electirc solo keeps things rocking before everyone gets back for the handclaps. Malabar does not rush things, but it is very hard to miss the Brooks bass line. The title track follows and Pena pulls in Jerry Garica on pedal steel and Merle Saunders on keyboards. Pena had opened some shows and they became friendly. The track is far more laid back than the opening track. Garcia keeps busy, but doesn't overpower the soulful ballad. “Jet Airliner” follows. The song was made popular by Steve Miller so it is interesting to hear a different take than you are used to hearing. It has the same groove, but it just feels a bit cleaner. I encourage you to check out the links and hear the song again for the “first time”. Plus, its great trivia at a party when the Miller Band comes up on classic rock radio. Plus, the guitar work is great. Pena continues with this tenacity on the electric guitar as the funky “Wait On What You Want” starts. The full band has a very stuttered progression. Malabar seems to be pushing everyone with the frantic odd time signature but Malabar and Sidran are right along with him and this song just cooks. Pena is a great guitar player and seems like to show what he can do. I found myself going back to listen to this track again while writing this post. Garica and Saunders return on “Venutian Lady”. The acoustic guitars are bright on this and it has a fun Grateful Dead type bounce to the track. Of course with the pedal steel you get that feel even more but the track has great summery vibe to it. Garcia shows off his chops on this more than the other track. A real hidden gem. “Cosmic Mirror” is a trippy, spaced out track. Think Pfunk meets the guitar of Jimi Hendrix and the same type of compressed vocals that Lenny Kravitz used when he covered “American Woman” and you sort of get the idea. Heck, even Miles Davis era Bitches Brew leaks out here. Dave Woodford guests on this track playing saxophone. Things level out with “Let's Move and Groove Together”. This track feels less chaotic than the last few. Chaotic is a bad term, I guess this track just is more in that “singer/songwriter” area. Pena has Charles Green help on backing vocals. There is also strings, which is a first on the album. A nice guitar solo that is played clean over the Malabar drums is a great touch. Continuing with the acoustic approach “Indian Boy” gets underway and has the layers of strings and strong support from Brooks again. Hearing Pena's influneces on todays “soul” crooners is more obvious after hearing this track. Many might not even realize it, but when you hear this track you'll understand. Sidran gets things going as “A Bit Of All Right” gets underway. This track has a little reggae feel to it with the choppy guitar and crisp bright drums. The tempo of the track is fun and it transitions some, but is still a bright and fun song. The album concludes with “Taking Your Love Down” a short, mostly acoustic track.

Where are they now? - Paul passed away on October 1, 2005. He was in a coma after a house fire in 1997 for four days. He'd retire a bit from music to tend to his ailing wife, return to music, but continue to battle diabetes, pancreatic illness, but these would claim his life.

FDF Personal Comments (aka the Live experience) – I never saw Paul Pena live.

FDF Overall Take – For me this is one of those “who would have thunk it” type collections. Not sure how many people have even heard of Pena, and unless you heard clips you might not even be curious. The music here is solid. Something for everyone that you could put on at a BBQ and have more people than not ask you “who is this..its really pretty good!”


Curious? Check out some MUSIC!

Finally a short clip on his Throat Singing

Disclaimer – I am just a music fan. Feel free to comment about something that may be written incorrectly about the band/members etc. I strive to have a fun and enjoyable site. This site used to post mp3s but ran in to many issues. The audio clips provided are usually from YouTube. No copy write infringement is intended. Please alert me if something should be pulled. Finally, support the artist featured, or your favorite artist by purchasing their music, seeing their shows if possible and saying hi. They need your support.


At 11:08 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I first saw Paul Pena in this documentary. Now i am learning more about his life and music.


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