Spanky Lee

Live at Clifton's

Format: Cassette

By Leonard January

When a local, unsigned band decides that it is time to "put out" a 24-song cassette featuring, presumably, their best work, it usually means that they are laying all their cards on the table. This is what Spanky Lee apparently has done.

Brothers Max and Mark Maxwell have been on the local music scene for some time and have had several record companies express interest in them on several occasions.

As far as players go, these two could hold their own in any group in town, not to mention in the Midwest. The extraordinary drumming of Max Maxwell serves as testimony of how musical bloodlines can be passed from father to son. Max's dad, the lovable Marvin of Mom's Musician's General Store, was pounding on the skins between bottle feedings of the two.

As a vocalist and guitarist, Mark Maxwell has also developed into a fine interpreter of the group's original tunes. In most of the group's scoring of songs they manage to capture the essence of what the "big audio sound" of rock should represent. The viability of their songs in a commercial setting, however, is seriously hampered by a lack of sophisticated lyrics and, in many cases, by meandering, predictable melodies. If these are songs (on the cassette) that are merely to be given as tokens to their admiring fans, then I'm sure the recipients would do well by them.

But I feel this group has much more to offer in the line of good, solid commercial "hits," as evidenced in the song entitled "Second Chance." Here is a song that works beautifully and is vocally executed well.

From the start, it is tight, as far as where the idea is headed and the hooks are accentuated by great harmonies. All of the players contribute to the vocals, which is a strong plus for any group. "It's Your Heart" is another tune on Volume Two that offers a glimpse of the great potential lying within Spanky Lee.

The bass playing of Chip Adams, and the lead guitar work of Chuck Mingis reveal that when they hit on all pistons, the sky is the limit. I found the playing to be consistent throughout the album, but, again, was consistently let down by routine musical and lyrical situations. I would suspect that this is the dilemma in which A&R people have found themselves when reviewing this group for their label. They have a solid rhythm and blues foundation and in another catchy song entitled "Let Your Hair Down," Led Zeppelin creeps in.

Playing, writing and rewriting is the weight that any group which has potential must go through. Spanky Lee must be careful not to make the same mistake that some other groups have made by refusing to upgrade their material to commercial standards. They are creative enough to make the commerciality fit their style but they need to make their style commercial.

I'm sure they will.