Tin Pan Alley and the heyday of classy songwriting vanished into the mist of history long ago, but that doesn't mean that there aren't any writing teams today that possess the wit and wisdom to put together smart-and-catchy tunes. Many of these people are still out there, plugging away as they craft clever creation after clever creation, but they're marginalized by, and within, a business that prefers cheap confections to substance. Lyricist Cliff Goldmacher and songwriter Joel Evans, two successful veterans in the music world, are probably well aware of this issue, but they haven't let the allure of quick-buck consumerism tarnish their attention to quality. A single listen to The Lifelike Quartet's Pretending You're Here With Me makes it clear that the art of fine writing lives and breathes within these men.
This six-song EP looks back to a time when popular music had class and whimsy. Goldmacher and Evans bring back the idea of writers having a love affair with the theme of love in their work. "Pretending You're Here With Me" is a pondering on the possibility of love based around a single brief encounter, "Anyone But You" puts the mind and heart at slight odds with each other, and "Now And Again" is all about reviving the spark of romance that has vanished over time. They also address the simple beauty of a couple's time spent together ("Sunday Morning With You").
Goldmacher and Evans are the heart and mind of this project, but the mouthpiece of this music is vocalist Don Dixon, who takes a wonderfully casual and breezy approach with the material. Multi-reedist Jim Hoke is the other standout on this all-too-short project. He delivers succinct solos and mood-setting introductions, serves up clarinet obbligato when needed, brings buoyancy to "Anyone But You" with his flute, and turns up the heat with his saxophone work on "Don't Forget To Look."
This little gem of a recording won't turn the music world on its head, but it makes an argument for the importance of a holistic songwriting process that values lyrics, music and musicianship as equally important entities.
Pretending You're Here With Me; Anyone But You; Sunday Morning With You; Now And Again; Don't Forget To Look; If This Isn't Love.
Don Dixon: vocals; Jim Hoke: flute, clarinet, tenor saxophone, baritone saxophone; Larry Dunlap: piano; Dan Feiszli: bass; Alan Hall: drums (1-4, 6); David Rokeach: drums (5).