Listening to Relentlessly Yours the latest album from Spencer Albee, I hit a moment here and there when I was thrown back to a prior memory of one of his other projects. I have to think it’s impossible for someone who’s been along for the ride as a fan not to think about his previous doings at some point of enjoying the new record. This guy has been busy alongside us for over two decades.
As I traveled through clever new songs laced with all kinds of keyboard and organ sounds, playful timing, sweet background vocals and always in season sleigh bells, I was thrown back to all the great work this guy has done. The Rustic Overtones stuff alone is enough to hang your hat on. That wasn’t going to happen though. If anything, that was the launch pad for Spencer to truly fly his way.
His own way has come in various ways. The first was the fun, all over the place project, “The Popsicko”, which allowed him to shake a bunch of styles at people. That lead to the pop rock, suit & tie offerings of Rocktopus, which a couple of years later molded into As Fast As and scored Spencer another record deal and another chance at the big time. Of course, we all know around that time, in 2003-2004 the music industry was becoming... well, something else. I’ll refrain from my accurate and passionate description of what the industry became and just say that due to a changing world of music and the state of the world at his record label, Spencer and As Fast As wouldn’t get the full shot they deserved. They would shift to operate out of home base here in Portland and continue to put out records maintaining the fanbase they worked hard for and earned from around the country.
AFA eventually called it a day, but Spencer was just getting warmed up. Adventurously, he would pull together ten wonderful musicians and friends to form Spencer and the School Spirit Mafia, a fine blend of influences from the Beatles, middle-era Kinks, Johnny Cash, and your high school marching band after a few drinks.
After a year plus with the Mafia came Space Vs. Speed, a slightly newer alternative rock approach for Spencer. SvS included other local music legends Walt Craven (6Gig, Lost on Liftoff) and Neil Collins (Twisted Roots, Murcielago), but that wasn’t meant to be either unfortunately. What would follow that band would be a string of solo releases as Spencer and Spencer Albee, which is where we’re at now with this popular, new release. Spencer Albee, Relentlessly Yours.
I’m not sure there’s a more appropriately titled local album in history that this one. The guy has never stopped working at his craft or eased up on his production of albums for us to have.
Spencer has once again compiled a great mix of talented folk to help bring his music alive: Renee Coolbrith, McCrae Hathaway, Scott Mohler, Blythe Armitage and his former As Fast As drummer Andrew Hodgkins are all on board for the latest journey with Spencer. It's a journey I hope will stay the course for a little while as he once again has an amazing set of musicians on his side and a terrific record to support. Better judgment tells me though that he probably already has his next album started and well underway. If so, we won’t be surprised. With a now remarkable 20 studio releases under his belt, the one thing Spencer Albee will never be is idle. That relentlessness has aways been there, lucky for us.
In my ongoing, STILL un-named series (I Once Caught a Fish This Big or Have I Got a Story For You), Spencer took a break from rehearsing with his band for next week's album release show to share a memory of recording in a busy place with As Fast As a few years back.
In 2004, As Fast As had the pleasure of working with producer Matt Wallace (Faith No More, Replacements, Maroon 5) at the legendary and recently cinematically memorialized Sound City studios in Van Nuys, CA. Throughout the two-plus months of recording there and Matt's studio which shared a courtyard with Sound City, we were treated to an audience with a cavalcade of influential luminaries.
Jermaine Jackson took an interest in us and even brought his family over for a listen to what we were up to one day. I crushed a week's worth of coffee and cigarettes in 2 or 3 days with Chad Smith. Hell, Zach Jones was even mistaken for Tom Morello by his guitar tech and was nearly handed Tom's iconic guitar.
My most fond memory was sharing a lobby/kitchenette with Josh Homme, who was in Studio B cutting an Eagles of Death Metal record while we were recording basic tracks in Studio A. We chummed around a lot and were even invited (through sheer necessity of hands) to provide some claps for one of their songs.
We hoped that Josh would play some guitar on one of our songs, but that never came to fruition on account of who the fuck were we? AND they were in the middle of making a record. I still wonder what that would have sounded like, though. He's the one that got away.
Check out Spencer’s album release show June 2 at Port City Music Hall and visit him online at spenceralbee.com or on Facebook at Spence Albee Official.