Thursday, July 22, 2010

Based On Happy Times

Tommy Keene's second Geffen album, Based On Happy Times, came out a few years after Songs From The Film, during which he'd fallen off my front page.

In the the pre-internet times of 1989, I'd almost forgotten about Tommy Keene when I found a used promo cassette of Happy Times at the local store. "He's still around? And he's got a new album too!". On my first few listens, I didn't hear any standout tracks, so I filed Happy Times and forgot about it. The album is kind of a "grower" though, because twenty years later, it's my favorite Tommy Keene record.

The title Based On Happy Times is kind of ironic, because the whole album is kind of a downer theme-wise, a bunch of sad songs only offset by a cover of the Beach Boys' "Our Car Club" with Peter Buck on guitar. Buck also plays mandolin on the final song "A Way Out", which sounds like something off of R.E.M.'s Green.

Based On Happy Times was recorded in the same studio as Green (Ardent in Memphis) at the same time, and sounds like all the slow songs from that album without the "Get Up" or "Stand" type songs. It deserved to be just as big a hit too, but it was more or less forgotten on release, and fell out of print almost immediately.

But its reputation has grown of the years (the Goo Goo Dolls covered "Nothing Can Change You" as a b-side, back when they were popular) and Happy Times becake one of Tommy Keene's most sought after albums, especially on CD. Back in the late 80s, major labels didn't press many CDs for second-tier acts like Tommy Keene. I had it on tape and vinyl, but was resigned to never have it on CD until I discovered a few months ago that it had been secretly reissued as a digital download at amazon and iTunes. Happy times indeed!

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