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Together [Digipak] *
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  • Personnel: Michael Williamson (vocals, guitar, acoustic guitar, organ, upright bass); Paul Runyon (vocals, guitar, piano, Wurlitzer organ, synthesizer); Jason Brewer (vocals, guitar, synthesizer); Wyatt Funderburk (vocals); Brian King (vibraphone); Kyle Polk (drums, percussion); Dave Ellis, Nelson Bragg, Scott Bennett (percussion).
  • Audio Mixers: Erik Thompson; Mark Galup.
  • Recording information: Reel Recording, Nashville.
  • Arranger: The Explorers Club .
  • Debuting in 2008 with an album of original material whose songs and production meticulously modeled the early Beach Boys, the Explorers Club continue to shift slightly forward in time with their third LP, Together. It bridges the '60s SoCal and '70s AM pop of their sophomore album, Grand Hotel, and extends into the still slicker sounds of Steely Dan. Bandleader Jason Brewer's contributions to the project become increasingly apparent as the album fits pretty seamlessly into the band's discography with an otherwise entirely new lineup. (Original member Dave Ellis does assist with percussion on the recording.) The opening title track is the one that may surprise, as it captures the funky clarity and jazz-rock flavor of Steely Dan while also reintroducing the Explorers Club's familiar bright, multi-part harmonies in the chorus. The set list soon eases back into the more anticipated sunny '60s with "California's Callin' Ya" and the bubblegummy "Once in a While." The latter sports harmonies and falsetto flourishes so smooth that they hover near glee-club, cover-band territory. However, the quality of the songwriting, especially on less precise tracks, yields the experience of something original -- a fine line the band has often nudged but rarely crosses. Tracks like "No Strings Attached" feature arrangements directly inspired by the Beach Boys without impersonating or seeming to paraphrase any specific song. Still showcasing those tight backing harmonies, "Be Around" also evokes the Baroque pop of Burt Bacharach. Elsewhere, doo wop and rhythms of the '50s also peer through some selections ("California's Callin' Ya," "Perfect Day"). The Explorers Club have certainly found a niche with their retro artisanship, and Together will likely be a welcome addition to their catalog for fans. ~ Marcy Donelson
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