Singer-songwriter-guitarist Jon Klages, who helped create the Hoboken Sound as lead guitarist for the Individuals, returns with an eclectic mix of originals and instrumentals that provide a broad view of his artistry on Fabulous Twilight. While Klages belongs in the same conversation as the dB’s, Continental drifters, and The Bongos: you may also recall his work in the Richard Lloyd Band. Klages is also the grandson of famed bandleader and record producer Enoch Light. It appears that it’s been over a decade since we last heard from Klages who sounds both fresh and at the same time nostalgic in the sense that his songcraft and humor recall such artists as Harry Nilsson and Randy Newman. The genre-crossing album unfolds so unpredictably that no one song much resembles another, whether a soulful ballad, plaintive blues, surf guitar, R&B instrumental, or country-flavored tales.
Surely, he taps some of the best-supporting musicians, capable of handling such wide-ranging material. They the rhythm section from Elvis Costello’s Imposters – Rock & Roll Hall of Fame drummer Pete Thomas and renowned bassist Davey Faragher. On keyboards, boasting a resume that includes George Harrison, Leonard Cohen, and Rickie Lee Jones, is Neil Larsen. For vocal support, Arnold McCuller (James Taylor, Lyle Lovett, Bonnie Raitt) comes aboard to add harmonies for Klages and head up the Honey Whiskey Trio. Todd Solomon produced.
Klages’ lifelong friend, Richard Barone of the Bongos, does a great job in the liners, from which we are indebted to some insights on the songs. As good as all the songs are, two stand shoulders above the others, one that this writer can especially relate to, as having shared a similar experience. “God Bless the Columbia House Record Club” tells the tale of a young lad drawn to the art of record collecting during the golden age of long-playing albums. It’s country tinges and resemblances to Harry Nilsson’s style is purposeful and unmistakable. The other is “1133 Ave. of the Americas (For Enoch Light),” a tribute to Klages’ maternal grandfather, the legendary bandleader, producer, and founder of the Command and Project 3 record labels. Klages’ own lush soundscapes, reflected here, owe to Light and a memorable passage occurs near the end of the song where he nods to “Kites Are Fun,” The Free Design’s 1967 hit produced by Light.
The album opens with “Best That We Can,” introducing us to Klages’ tenor voice that can float into falsetto without effort or warning as well as his understated guitar playing. It suggests that a rich palette of sounds will follow which indeed happens with the rich, layered vocal harmonies of “Rosalie.” “The Fabulous Twilights,” for which the album is named, is from the early 1960’s doo-wop group led by 18-year-old Nathaniel Mayer, whose spirit Klages emulates. “Too Cool for Spy School” is one of two instrumentals, a showcase for his guitar playing and a nod to the compositions of John Barry, and Laurie Johnson and Edwin Astley who scored many of the secret-agent-themed British series of the ‘60s, thus the title.
”Long-tailed Cat” is a punchy mix of pop harmonies and jazzy piano-driven instrumental backdrop which seamlessly segues to the much sparser blues of “Red-Dirt Country” where Klages sings in alternating falsetto and tenor and the guitar-keyboard interplay is remarkable as Thomas drives the ‘in the pocket’ groove. That groove picks up steam with his guitar piercing through the syncopated, organ-driven, funky “Kazoos Are People Too.” “Remains” is a simmering, haunting blues while the closer, “Goin’ Home” has Klages on the piano in a rich, eminently sweet ballad.
Barone ends his notes with this superior liner passage– “…by anyone’s standard, this album is a miracle of pure and unbridled talent, poise, and artistic merit. It’s a place to enter whenever you need it, like a cool jazz club in your record collection, filled with ghosts and spirits of the past that rub shoulders with us here in the present moment. Put it on your turntable as the sun begins to set, in that magical time between daylight and darkness, and let it be the soundtrack to your own fabulous twilight.” Enough said.