The Windbreakers were a Mississippi-based band, comprised primarily of Bobby Sutliff and Tim Lee, that released a half-dozen records in the 80s and 90s in the kind of Byrds/Big Star jangle pop/psychedelic amalgam that R.E.M. rode to great success. Although similar success eluded The Windbreakers, Sutliff and Lee are gifted composers and superb guitar players. One of the best examples of their craft is the simply gorgeous, then-new song they recorded as the title track to the band’s 2002 compilation, Time Machine:
Outside of The Windbreakers, Sutliff and Lee have both done about a half-dozen other records each, and have appeared on various compilations and tribute records as performers, songwriters and producers. In June 2012, however, Sutliff was involved in a serious automobile accident near his home in Powell, Ohio. Lee wrote:
At the time, the prognosis was guarded, albeit not particularly promising. But Bobby survived his multiple injuries, and after a month or so of sedation, he slowly began making progress. Eventually, the pace picked up, and his condition continued to improve at an amazing speed. Before long, he was back home and closing in on 100 percent recovery.
But Sutliff’s un-paid medical bills were enormous. Lee thus organized ab bunch of friends to make a tribute record of Sutliff’s songs, an perform a concert in Atlanta, to raise money to defray the expenses. The resulting record, Skrang — a term coined by Sutliff to describe “the sound of an open chord on an electric guitar” — is likely one of the best things you will hear this year. It features performances by long-time purveyors of melodic rock and Power Pop, and not a single bum performance over 18 tracks.
Velvet Crush and Matthew Sweet get the set off to a rollicking start with the ringing “Second Choice.” John Stirrat, best known for his work as Wilco’s bass player, gives “Girl From Washington” a particularly tender feel in front of Lee’s stellar 6 & 12 sting guitar work. Matt Piucci, an original member of Rain Parade who later recorded with Lee in Gone Fishin’, enlists some of his old bandmates for a fuzzy, psychedelic take on “That Stupid Idea.” The Anderson Council play down their more typical Syd Barretisms on “Griffin Bay,” and turn out one of the best, most rocking tracks on the set. Its much more Grip Weeds than “See Emily Play.” Bill Lloyd goes it alone and gives “Same Way Tomorrow,” a slightly updated, smoother take on the Sutliff solo track from 1987. Michael Carpenter, one of my current favorites, lends his typically terrific vocals to “Long Red Bottle Of Wine,” widens the sound and manages to improve on the original:
I could probably write something effusive about each of the 18 tracks on this set. Its just that good. The first-rate quality of Sutliff’s compositions shine through on each of the tracks. Even though some of the performances purposefully veer into territory that is somewhat different than the original version of the songs, the collection has an overall cohesive quality to it that makes listening from start-to-finish a joy. It’s available for $12 from Paisley Pop, and well worth every dime. All proceeds, of course, benefit Sutliff.