Monday, July 19, 2010
Songs From The Film
Shortly after the Back Again ep, Tommy Keene started recording a full length LP with T-Bone Burnett and Don Dixon. They cut a bunch of demos at Reflection studios(some are available here), but before they finished the album, Tommy signed a major label contract with Geffen. This gave him the means and direction to re-record his new songs in a big studio with a big name producer (Geoff Emerick of Beatles, Badfinger, Costello, etc. fame) to make a proper 80s album that could get played on rock radio and MTV.
The resulting album, Songs From The Film is probably the closest Tommy Keene has come to having a hit, but wasn't nearly as successful as he or Geffen had hoped. With all the label shuffles, it didn't come out until 1986 (two years after the Burnett/Dixon sessions) which put the brakes on some of the momentum that Tommy was building up after the acclaim for Places That Are Gone. It didn't help that the first single was a re-recording of "Places" leading many of his old fans to think it was a reissue of the 1984 ep, and it came out at a time (mid-80s) when independent music fans were skeptical of anything associated with a major label.
Songs From The Film was a classic "between the cracks" album (too glossy for the indie crowd but not really in line with the pop mainstream) but was still as close as Tommy Keene ever came to having a hit. "Places That Are Gone" and "Listen To Me" got in semi-regular MTV rotation, which piqued my curiosity enough to pick up the record (tape, actually), but it took awhile for the whole thing to click with me.
Even now, I like most of SFTF, but still think it's a few notches short of classic. For one thing, I've never understood the cover of Lou Reed's "Kill Your Sons", which doesn't really fit in with the rest of the album. "Underworld" is also longer than it should be (even though its lyrics have a new poignancy since TK "came out"), and the re-recorded version of "Places That Are Gone" is also unnecessary once you hear the ep version.
This album wasn't originally issued on CD, but Geffen reissued it in 1998 with eight bonus tracks (mostly from the Run Now ep), but committed the cardinal sin of putting some of them in the middle of the running order. That CD is now long OOP, but there are a bunch of SFTF songs on the new compilation (including an alternate T-Bone Burnett version of "Gold Town") and Tommy will be performing the album in order on his Fall tour. Here's another version of the only Tommy Keene song on youtube.