It’s The End Of The World As We Know It And I Feel Live may be the ultimate “do it yourself” recording. Simmons is a member of Sparkle*Jets U.K., a Southern California band, whose sound is described as “a distinctive marriage of ’60s and ’70s rock and whimsical guitar pop.” That’s close enough. It certainly sounds something like that.
It’s The End Of The World is a collection of covers — some acoustic, some not– that Simmons performed “live” entirely by himself. How does one person play “live,’ particularly on the several multi-part tracks that comprise the collection? Here’s what Simmons says:
My tracks are usually still ‘live’ with all the normal mistakes you’d expect, but I play all the instruments. It’s what it would be like if I could clone myself and got together to jam on songs I don’t really know. Most of these songs were first attempts of songs I don’t know how to play.
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Recording was typically done on multi-track equipment, but each take was done ‘live’ in one go, with a camera running. Some songs (mostly the 2nd half of the album) were recorded live with a webcam or iPhone, which is why they don’t sound as good.
Okay, I know what you’re saying. This guy recorded a bunch of songs that he doesn’t really know how to play. He admits that his record contains a number of “mistakes.” He acknowledges that some of the songs sound crappy. Why on earth should you spend your time listening to this “recording”?
Well, you should. Its darned good, and chock full of excellent interpretations of classic pop rock gems.
The first track, Squeeze’s “(This Could Be) The Last Time,” sets the tone for the entire loosely constructed and playful set. Simmons starts with a riff from the original that sounds like the opening riff from “Is That Love,” also by Squeeze, before getting down to business in the song at hand. “Spooky,” done originally by Classics IV and then by The Atlanta Rhythm Section, breezes along quite jazzily before Simmons outdoes himself by singing all of the parts of the Brothers Gibb, and harmonizing with himself to great effect, on “How Can You Mend A Broken Heart?” Simmons’ self-harmonies by virtual cloning are also quite tasty on his superb version of ELO’s “Bluebird Is Dead”:
Two tracks later, Simmons gives “She Said, She Said” a slightly heavier, bassier treatment than The Beatles’ original version. It works quite well:
The acoustic iPhone recordings kick in soon thereafter. “The Most Beautiful Girl In The World,” made famous by Charlie Rich back in 1973, gets a dramatic, stripped down and soulful reading by Simmons devoid of the schmaltz of the original hit. Perhaps even better, however, is Simmons’ version of the Elvis Costello/Burt Bacharach-penned “Toledo.” Simmons notes at the outset that “I don’t have a flugelhorn,” thus requiring him to hum a couple of the brass parts amid his gorgeous vocals:
It all comes to a close four songs later with 25 seconds worth of The Beatles’ “Hello Goodbye,” a perfect ending to a set that does not even come close to taking itself too seriously. It’s just “good, clean fun,” and Simmons’ obvious love of the songs he covers is readily apparent. What more can you want in the middle of winter?