Toll Free Rock!

Are there any Crimson Sweet records in your vinyl swag? If there are, you might be the owner of a bona fide collector’s item as the band broke-up nearly three years ago, leaving their devout cult of fans teary-eyed. Over a decade ago, I personally bonded with the band over a complimentary continental breakfast in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. I was constantly impressed at their ability to tour Europe and the States in glorious rock ‘n roll style. Even though they were always extremely busy, whenever I saw them, their hair was consistently awesome.

Where did they go from there? It was only a glorious, rocketing upward trajectory for the group, right? Well, no. After a few more years of performing and recording, they called it quits. However, a short time ago, the group morphed into something new: 1-800-Band.

That’s right, Al Huckabee, previously Crimson Sweet’s drummer, has traded in his sticks for a Gibson Les Paul, stepped up to the mic, and wholly embraced his new front man role with aplomb. Polly Watson, Crimson Sweet’s lead singer, now deftly handles keyboard and vocals. Robbie Kongress still maintains the low end and the group has seized upon the expert drumming talents of Aaron Carroll. As Al famously says, “A good band with a bad drummer is a bad band.”

The band’s first eponymous album on Slow Gold Zebra Records, features thoughtful production that keenly matches the band’s consistently aggressive, glam and new wave-tinged, power-pop writing. Their first video / single from the album explains it all. Have a look and listen to the joyous shouting on “Would You Believe It?”

Not only does the band sound great, but they have a wonderfully relaxed sense of humor: they create great music, yet sincerely appear to be enjoying themselves; one of the oldest – and most rapidly disappearing – showbiz achievements. They look as though they are actually having fun. It’s a party. Who doesn’t like a party?

Other album standouts, “Donna” and “Just a Pretender” showcase a timeless sound and production that could have been recorded at many points during rock n’ roll’s history: is it 1957, 1965, 1977, or 1982? That’s not to say that the band is a throwback act of any kind, their songs just evoke a sound, a quality, which lives in the ether rather then constrained by current trends.

The band’s latest album enjoys a proper vinyl release. Here’s what Polly and Al had to say about that decision and the role of records in their lives:

Why did you decide to release your new album on vinyl?

Al: Because vinyl rocks! It’s a more tactile experience, it looks better, it sounds better but most importantly it feels better.

Polly: We did both. Vinyl has the best sound; you just can’t beat it. Even the sound of its sound is great: the fuzz on the needle, everything. Also, I mean, our album cover features a Frisbee, not a golf ball, know what I’m saying? 1.5 inches at 72 dpi simply won’t do it justice!

Do you have a vinyl collection?

Polly: Yes, we all do! Robbie Kongress has by far the most, as he DJs a lot. He doesn’t want to think about the fuzz on the needle.

Al: Yes! My vinyl collection is a little more pared down than it once was, but that’s not always a bad thing. Sort of like good forestry management policies, if you burn the underbrush more often, the forest stays strong!

What are some of your favorite discs; are there any good stories behind them?

Polly: There’s not a member of this band who can’t identify with the girl on the cover of Silverhead’s 16 and Savaged.

Al: That’s easy: my autographed Chuck Berry album. As a schoolboy I went on a pilgrimage to his home in Wentzville, Missouri in a quixotic attempt to meet him and I did! James Brown’s, It’s a Mother has the best cover ever! Other favorites are Exile on Main Street, Los Angeles by X and Aerosmith’s Rocks.

Check them out when they perform this Thursday at 11:00pm at The Parkside Lounge at 317 East Houston St. (between Attorney St. & Avenue B) in New York City. I’m sure they’ll have plenty of fairly priced original vinyl for your purchasing needs. More info about the band can be found at 1-800-Band.com.

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