Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Vintage Vinyl #1 - Me and Mark Mulcahy

Greetings all, this is the first entry in our series of vinyl reviews.  I’ll be pulling from my father’s records for the most part, doing profiles of a diverse selection of classic records, from 70s country-rockabilly to German prog rock to power pop gems, both obscure and well known.  Today we feature one of our own records, the debut EP from New Haven’s Miracle Legion, the fondly remembered (if less than famed) Mark Mulcahy fronted act.

Disclaimer We at Merry Picnic have an irrational, near fanboyish love of Miracle Legion, Polaris, and Mark Mulcahy himself.  Ciao, My Shining Star (the covers album produced in honor of his late wife, Melissa) was one of 2009’s best releases and the record release party at Toad’s in New Haven was one of 2009’s better shows.  Any concert featuring the lead singer of Polaris on stage with both Big Pete and Little Pete (Mike Maronna & Danny Tamberelli) is a dream come true for anyone who grew up on 90s Nickelodeon.  In fact, we would like make a formal request that Mark tour soon, so we can get the live experience that we’ve been deprived of these last two years.  Expect features on further albums and upcoming shows as they (hopefully) come up.

Connecticut’s premier jangle pop act of the 80s, Miracle Legion was largely based around the songs and stylings of frontman/guitarist Mark Mulcahy and lead guitarist Mr. Ray Neal.  This collaboration reached its peak on Miracle Legion’s 1989 LP, Me and Mr. Ray, showcasing the duo on a more acoustic album than their previous output.  However, it was 1984 that saw the debut of the pair as part of Miracle Legion with The Backyard EP.  Featuring the original line-up, with percussionist Jeff Wiederschall and bassist Joel Potocsky, The Backyard serves as an archetype for Miracle Legion’s sound: jangly guitars, lyrics evocative of youth and childhood, and Mulcahy’s trademarked vocals.

Prior to acquiring this 12” EP from a Danbury-based vendor at New London’s always-fantastic I Am Fest (I was too excited buying this to get the store’s name), I had only heard Dinosaur Jr.’s cover of the title track.  They added their characteristic vocals and distorted guitars to the song, while still remaining true to Miracle Legion’s style and sound.  The original track does not disappoint, with a quicker tempo and driving percussion making for a more upbeat tune.  The rest of the EP stays in that vein, with tracks like “Butterflies” evoking later tunes like “All for the Best” off their first full length release, Surprise Surprise Surprise.  The album ends on a slower, calmer note with the plaintive sounds of “Stephen, Are You There?”

The audio embedded below is a live performance of the EP’s title track for nostalgia’s sake, but ultimately, The Backyard isn’t so much about the individual songs, but the experience of hearing them together.  Any of Miracle Legion’s or Mulcahy’s output immediately puts you in your backyard on a late August afternoon, listening to rock music, maybe firing up the grill, but certainly glad that for once, in that moment, you can relax.  You’ve got less important things to do.

Until next time,


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