Sunday, June 22, 2014
Titan! It's All Pop! Boxset Numero Group 2011
The Numero Group is pretty awesome. They put out an amazing Kansas City soul comp documenting the Forte label, but it was not all encompassing. This Titan! boxset, though, it's everything and features additional tracks recorded for the label that were never released.
The Titan! story is fascinating. At the height of the power pop scene, this small Kansas City label put out a number of quality singles and a compilation that no one noticed despite some rave reviews in the right zines. And, when I say no one, that includes Kansas City. Groups like the Embarrassment were extremely obscure, but well regarded locals, but despite a radio-friendly sound, the Titan! artists couldn't even garner local attention, let alone national. Most these singles set collecting dust for years until a collectors market got turned on. It would take years for Titan! to trickle it's way into the pantheon of underground Power Pop circles. Even today, it's rumored that the label founders have stock left including a good amount of the It's All Pop compilation album.
Eventually, the label did find it's niche (or maybe the niche found Titan!). The Internet and constant trading of mix tapes put some of the label's singles on the map. Now-a-days, some enthusiasts are willing to table Titan! singles next to the likes of LA's Bomp! label. The 45s are scarce and command a fair amount world wide. But, even with the later day appreciation, it's still a small market. Very cool that the Numero Group decided to put this out (it's also reasonably priced, less than $50 for 4 LPS, box, and booklet).
Below is my half ass attempt at a breakdown of all that is here:
The Boys - This band is provided two full sides on the box set. Likely because they are one of the most sought after Titan bands. Further, probably the only band on the rooster able to fill a full two sides. They're from Nebraska, so not local. But, sugary power pop nonetheless, didn't ever get too rowdy. They have their moments.
Gary Charlson- Got a pretty big soft spot for Charlson. When I was in college I went through a huge power pop kick and was always on the hunt for Titan! 45s. Something I had come across was a bootleg compilation CD that featured Charlson's tunes. I had found the CD from Wascal's Wecords and Stuff when it was located inside the Olathe Gee Coffee on Sante Fe. Wascals no longer exists, but Greg (aka Wascal) explained to me that prior to me buying the CD, Charlson had just popped in. He was an Olathe guy, ran a heating and air conditioning business, just made some solid pop gems as a musician back in the day. Personally, of all the Titan! artists, I think Charlson deserves the most praise. He's not too AM and he's not over the top in a way that just screams, "We are overcompensating because we're from the Midwest." His stuff would fit in fine in the LA scene or New York, just sounds natural and soaked in skinny tie coolness. He's also still active today, occasionally even drops in on guitar with other locals like the Rainmakers.
The Gems - More KC power pop. The Gems were first JP McClain and the Intruders, but that band ceased to exist despite some of the early tracks found here on the boxset. They're on the British side of the fence with their power-pop, very much in line with Stiff Records and Elvis Costello.
The Secrets* - Seems to me that this band had the most commercial appeal locally. They landed a track on a local radio station compilation album and their sound is a bit more commercial ready. Bar band style, but not hung up on a specific coolness factor, just bashing out some pop tunes without a lot of muscle.
Arilis - Arlis is another Nebraska, dude the Titan! guys tracked down. He's decent, power pop for sure, got some teeth to it.
Millionaire at Midnight - This was a Lawrence, Kansas based band who had been taking their working class pop all over the Midwest prior to an attempted release with Titan (never came out). You hear a good bar band, tons of guitar solos, very workingman's Foreigner, had they been given the tools, they would have took it to the studio rock level in all likelihood.
JP McClain & the Intruders - This band barely existed, while it did it featured Gary Charlson on guitar. Highlight is the song featured here, "Just Another Pop Song," which would later be used and paraphrased, 'It's All Pop,' for the label sampler and mantra.
Scott McCarl - Decent, sugary, bubble gum pop. Nebraska dude, so he's regional.
Bobby Sky - Okay, this is the coolest discovery I made after purchasing the box set. Bobby Sky was a moniker for artist, Dean Klevatt, who was a local kid. He discovered Bowie in the 70's and ran off to England. Even cut an obscure 7" for Decca. The single failed, but in England, he met up with Kim Fowley and came back to the States. Fowley used him as a studio musician, in fact, his keyboard is heard on the first Runaways. Fowley also convinced him to take up the name Bobby Sky. When the Titan guys heard about him they got a hold of the three tracks featured on this set. The song, "The Water," was co-written by Kim Fowley. Sky's pop is filled with anglophile nods to the British Invasion with a healthy dose of AM pop. Especially enjoyed the track, "What's the Name of that Song." Having no single on the Titan! label, Sky left town again, finally finding a gig as the keyboardist for Lene Lovich of all people.
Charlson's cover of Dwight Twilley's Shark and a few others