Cosmic Rough Riders


Band members                             Related acts

  line up 1 (1998-2002)

- Mark Brown -- drums, percussion, backing vocals

- James Clifford -- bass, backing vocals

- Gary Cuthbert -- guitar

- Stephen Fleming -- vocals, guitar

- Daniel Wylie -- vocals

 

  supporting musicians: (1998-2001)

- George Dunnachie -- bass

- Harriet Glover -- violin

- Andrew Philips - keyboards, bells

- Jimmy Stirling -- mandolin

- Tom McGarrigle -- synthesizers

- Stephen Tyler -- acoustic guitar, mandolin

 

 

 

- The Thieves (Daniel Wylie)

- Daniel Wylie (solo efforts)

 


 

Genre: pop

Rating: 4 stars ****

Title:  Enjoy the Melodic Sunshine

Company: Poptones

Catalog: MC5015LP
Year:
 2001

Country/State: Castlemilk, Glasgow, Scotland

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: includes lyric insert

Available: 1

Catalog ID: 32109

Price: $70.00

 

I have to admit I came to the party a little bit late - twenty years after the fact.  The only good thing about my late discovery of Glasgow's Cosmic Rough Riders is that rather than having spent uncounted hours listening to The Cosmic Rough Riders' musical catalog, I hopefully accomplished more useful things with that time.  Maybe not.  

 

There's plenty of Cosmic Rough Riders biographical material available online, but here's the executive summary.  Under the Cosmic Rough  Riders nameplate singer Daniel Wylie recorded a 1999 private press album "Deliverance" (Raft catalog number RAFT 001).  The project was funded through crowd sourcing revenue.  With no resources for promotional efforts, the CD did little, but that didn't stop Wylie from recording a follow-on effort.  Singer/guitarist Stephen Fleming was brought in to engineer  2000's "Panorama" (Raft catalog number RAFT 002) at which point he was offered a chance to become a full time member of the band with a commitment to sharing half of any future profits.  Fleming accepted the offer.   The second CD didn't do any better commercially, but the hand of fate intervened.  After receiving a copy of the debut CD  from a friend, Poptones owner Alan McGee expressed an interest in seeing the band.  The problem was there was no band, so Wylie and Fleming quickly recruited drummer Mark Brown and bassist James Clifford and started rehearsing.  They must have worked their asses off as McGee was impressed and signed the group to his Poptones label.   

 

While the marketing logic was lost on me, 2001's "Enjoy the Melodic Sunshine" was a 15 track compilation pulling together material drawn from the two earlier releases.  Two tracks were pulled from "Panorama".  Ten tracks were lifted from 1999's "Deliverance" and the collection was rounded out with three new compositions ('Baby, You're So Safe', 'Sometime' and 'Morning Sun').  So, I'll go out on a limb and tell you this is one of the best albums I've heard in the last five years.  There simply wasn't a bad performance on the album.  Admittedly 'Brothers Gather Round' and 'Morning Song' were more like song fragments than full compositions and the longest song on the album ('Baby, You're So Free') only clocked in at a radio-friendly 3:45.  Big deal - The Ramones made a career out of short songs.   As lead singer Wylie had a fantastic voice that was very commercial, but he was also capable of handling tougher material like 'Revolution (In the Summertime)'.  Given the band had not been playing together all that long, they reflected a surprisingly tight sound.  Exemplified by songs like 'Sometime' and 'Glastonbury Revisited' their harmony vocals were simply gorgeous.  Unlike so many of their contemporaries they also sounded like they were enjoying themselves - as far as I could tell there was nothing overly contrived or calculated here.  They were also willing to experiment with different genres; tracks like 'Baby, You're So Free' readily mixing in Indian influences.   Maybe I'm making this up, but my ears heard lots of '60s, '70s and even '80s influences.  The band's affection for jangle rock, psychedelic and power pop was scattered throughout the collection with various songs recalling the likes of The Beach Boys, The Beatles, The Byrds, Tom Petty even Michael Stipe and REM.  Because there were so many good songs, it was simply hard to know where to start.  Certainly the five singles were all impressive - The Brian Wilson influenced 'The Loser', 'Melanie' (glistening power-pop), 'Baby, You're So Free' (with its Indian raga influences), the Byrds-styled jangle rocker 'Revolution (In the Summertime)' and 'The Pain Inside'.  Personal favorites - the lysergic 'Value of Life' and two of their more pop-tinged efforts; 'Have You Heard the News Today?' and 'Sometime'.   Hard to find flaws in the set other than there was an overwhelming wealth of treasure here.  There were simply too many great songs.   It's one of the few albums I own that I can effortless listen to from start to finish.  No need to lift the tone arm to skip one or two sub-par performances.

 

And like all good things, it had to come to an end.  Four of the five singles charted in the UK with the band starting to get considerable publicity.  That led to a world tour.  And then, taking a page from the rock and roll self-destruction manual, personalities and creative differences started to take their toll and during recording sessions for what was to be their follow-up album "Too Close To See Far", Wylie quit, striking out in pursuit of a solo career.

 

"Enjoy the Melodic Sunshine" track listing:
(side 1)

1.) Brothers Gather Round   (Daniel Wylie - Stephen Fleming - Gary Cuthbert) - 1:12   rating: **** stars

Geez, I don't think I could have ever imagined a strange mash-up like this one ...  'Brothers Gather Round offered up a hybrid of glistening English folk  with Indian percussion .. Stunning and you were left to wonder why it was such a short song snippet.

2.) The Gun Isn't Loaded   (Daniel Wylie - Stephen Fleming) - 2:51   rating: **** stars

'The Gun Isn't Loaded' featured a mesmerizing, slightly stoned vibe and the band's lovely vocals ...  the strumming guitar and violin powered riff made the track all the more impressive.

3.) Glastonbury Revisited   (Daniel Wylie - Stephen Fleming - Gary Cuthbert) - 2:46   rating: **** stars

'Glastonbury Revisited' was one of two songs lifted from their debut collection "Deliverance".  Opening up with twelve strings seemingly tuned to evoke sitars, 'Glastonbury Revisited' was one of the most stunning country-rock tunes ever wial. en.  Brian Wilson?  No.  Late inning The Byrds?   Maybe.   Not sure the lyrics are going to encourage parents to let their kids attend outdoor music festivals ...   I would have given it a fifth star, but I'm one of those parents with young kids.

4.) Baby, You're So Free   (Daniel Wylie) - 3:45   rating: **** stars

'Baby, You're So Free' was one of three new songs, though technically it was an update of the previously released 'Baby'.   If you're one of those folks who looks for musical comparisons (I am), then I'd suggest The Byrds hanging around with George Harrison after the Fab Four visited India.  Plenty of Indian touches wrapped around lots of sparkling twelve string guitar and a killer top-40 jangle rock melody.  Released as a single it's hard to believe it wasn't a major hit.  

 

 

- 2001 's Baby, You're Free' b/w 'Nothing To Lose' (Poptones catalog number MC5042S)

 

The band also recorded a promotion video for the song - don't expect to see a big budget production, though it made me smile:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fkHbCK2EPgc

 

 

 

 

 

5. Value of Life   (Daniel Wylie - Stephen Fleming) - 2:38   rating: ***** stars

Okay, I broke down and gave one of these tunes five stars ...  'Value of Life' would not have sounded out of place on "Revolver".   It had the same mesmerizing lysergic vibe that a classic like 'Tomorrow Never Knows' had, but with a bouncy melody that was even better.   Gawd these guys new how to layer on harmony vocals.  You should listen to this one with a good pair of headphones.

6.) Revolution (In the Summertime)   (Daniel Wylie - Stephen Fleming) - 3:20   rating: **** stars

'Revolution (In the Summertime)' toughened up the sound, mixing  jangle rock with a bit of Neil Young styled grunge and a touch of social commentary (which would have made Roger McGuinn and company happy).  The song even included references to Darwin and evolution.   It was a tune where I could clearly hear the McGuinn and the Byrds analogy.

 

The track was tapped as the album's third single and was accompanied by another promotional video (they spent more money on this one).  The introduction with the guy talking about riding his bike with the Cosmetic Road Runners was classic, though I hope it was a gag and not a real life clip.  Guess they didn't trust Wylie and company to ride solo:   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gpS9gySAqpk

 

- 2001's 'Revolution (In the Summertime)' b/w 'The Charm' (live) (Poptones catalog number MC5074S)

 

If anyone thought these guys were just a studio creature, YouTube has a clip of them performing the song on The Top of the Pops.  Awesome and love the fact they dedicated it to their neighborhood "This one's for Castlemilk" !!!   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kqaweETkgg4

7.) Have You Heard the News Today?   (Daniel Wylie - Stephen Fleming) - 2:51   rating: ***** stars

I saw someone describe this as "twelve string heaven" and that's a near perfect description for 'Have You Heard the News Today?'  Cloaked in an easy-going melody and to-die-for harmonies, this was the band at their most pop and commercial ...  How was it Poptones didn't tap it as a single?

 

(side 2)
1.) Sometime
   (Daniel Wylie - Stephen Fleming - Gary Cuthbert) - 3:31   rating: **** star

'Sometime' was one of the three new tunes and another tune that underscored the band's amazing commercial potential.  Silky smooth power-pop tune that was perfect for a sunny summer beach day.  The ba-ba-ba-ba refrain has always reminded me of something an older version of The Cowsills might have recorded.  That was meant as a compliment.  Darn, now I can't get the ultimate kiss-off lyrics out of my head - "let's not buy the rings just yet ... let's live for today."

2.) Melanie   (Daniel Wylie - Stephen Fleming - Gary Cuthbert) - 3:23   rating: **** star

The second single released off the album, 'Melanie' was another slice of near perfect power pop ...  With those chiming jangle rock guitars and crystal harmonies, it's always reminded me of a strong Fountains of Wayne performance.  Always wondered if JFK customs agents actually refused Wylie admittance to the States.  You had to scratch your head and wonder how it did go higher on the British charts (it didn't even make the top-100).  

 

 

- 2001's 'Melanie' b/w 'Universal Thing' (Poptones catalog number MC 5033S)

 

And yes, there was a promotional video for the song: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ag-wc1xfNNY

 

 

 

 

 

3.) The Pain Inside    (Daniel Wylie - Stephen Fleming) - 3:22   rating: *** stars

The final and highest charting single, 'The Pain Inside' started out a little folky for my tastes, but then the strumming guitars and blended vocals kicked in things improved.   Awesome Gary Cuthbert solo.  The single featured a different and inferior mix from the album cut.

 

 

 

- 2001's 'The Pain Inside' b/w 'The Pain Inside' (live) (Poptones catalog number MC 5052S)

 

And of course there was a video (the quality continued to improve with each single): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=esJCZbMJ434

 

 

 

 

 

4.) The Charm   (Daniel Wylie - Stephen Fleming) - 2:03

5.) The Loser   (Daniel Wylie - Stephen Fleming) - 2:24   rating: **** star

Twelve songs into the album the bouncy 'The Loser' finally displayed a Beach Boys vibe - particularly on the harmonies.  Another personal favorite off the album. The 45 was released as a numbered pressing in a diecut sleeve.

 

 

 

 

- 2000's 'The Loser' b/w 'The Pain Inside' (Poptones catalog number MC5015S7)

 

 

 

 

 

6.) You've Got Me   (Daniel Wylie - Stephen Fleming) - 3:10   rating: **** star

Another rarity in that I wasn't sold on 'You've Got Me' until the refrain kicked in and drove itself into my head.  Almost criminal how many hooks Wylie and Fleming slapped on this album.

7.) Emily Darling   (Daniel Wylie) - 2:47   rating: *** stars

Easily the album's strangest song, 'Emily Darling' opened with what sounded like bossa nova influences.  Damn it, then the Beach Boys harmonies kicked in, followed by more another round of the jazzy/bossa nova moves; some scatting and a weird electronic finish.  Fascinating.   Minus one star for the scatting.

8.) Morning Sun   (Daniel Wylie - Stephen Fleming) - 0:56

 

 

 

 

 

 

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