Venice, Spin Art
By Jon Steltenpohl
REVIEW: Venice, Spin Art (Vanguard)
Years ago, a little group called The Byrds emerged to change the world of music. No, they weren't The Beatles or The Stones, but they had a few classic hits that are heard even today in groups like The Wallflowers. More importantly, they were the first real "folk rock" band that merged the hyperness of the rock movement with the harmonies and softer touches of the coffee house circuit. Later, with Crosby, Stills, and Nash, the same sound was tailored to an expansion of incredible harmonies that few have duplicated.
Enter a California band called Venice. They've actually been around for 17 years, but their niche keeps them hidden from most of the world. In the modern radio world, a band like this appears on "triple-A" radio where "triple-A" stands for Acoustic Adult Alternative. Alternative, yes. But only because they're too old for regular alternative and too quiet for classic rock. Venice fits this bill exactly. Like their folk rock ancestors, Venice uses harmonicas, acoustic guitars, and beautifully integrated harmonies. David Crosby has even called them "the best vocal group in the country." But, gone are all of the trappings of the sixties and Woodstock that Crosby's name envokes. Venice is about as clean cut of a band as you can get. Still...
Yes, Venice is VH-1 music. The band is comprised of 4 members of the Lennon family. And, their musical family ties are deep. No, they aren't related to John Lennon. Instead, the proud proclamation is that they are "the younger brothers and cousins of the Lennon Sisters from the Lawrence Welk Show." Fortunately, "Spin Art" is completely free of any polkas or songs of the south. They, instead, are just very good vocalists. Their various studio credits include Jackson Browne, David Crosby, and Linda Ronstadt, as well as Phil Collins' latest, the soundtrack for Tarzan.
If you enjoy casual acoustic music with great harmonies that are easy on the ears, you'll really enjoy Venice's Spin Art. There's even a cover of "Landslide" by Fleetwood Mac, which is turning into one of the most prominently covered songs of the late 90's. The music isn't typical of alternative and independent music these days, and it really harkens back to an earlier era. Venice is tailored a bit towards the Docker's crowd, but it's still done very well and doesn't cross the line into being cheesy retro.