Ken Sharp – I’ll Remember the Laughter (Jet Fighter)
Back in the day, when an artist could not fit all the goodies they had stored up on a single slab of vinyl, they would release a two-record set. The latest collection by pop/rock anthropologist Ken Sharp is an embarrassment of riches. It wouldn’t even fit in a two-record set, at 50 tunes it’s more like a three-record set or a box set.
The album title I’ll Remember the Laughter is rather apt because laughter is not the only thing this brace of tunes will make you remember. It is a stylistic traipse through the history of 60s and 70s AM/FM radio (with a little 80s and beyond mixed in for good measure).
Sharp has grown a cult audience for his sharp pop songwriting skills and on-point understanding of popular (and also obscure) music of the past. Taking a sonic trip through I’ll Remember the Laughter is like coming across a transistor radio from the multiverse; an alt-history of songs that could have, should have and would have been hits in the glory days of Top 40 radio, only if they had just been recorded in time.
It is a place where Todd Rundgren rubs elbows with T. Rex, The Knack hangs out with Hall & Oates, and The Raspberries had the kind of career that merited inclusion in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
The styles of I’ll Remember the Laughter are all over this place – and I mean that in the best possible way. From the bluesy shredding of “No More Silver Linings,” the strutting bubblegum pop/soul of “42nd Street” to the catchy prog of “Halyx Rising (Lora’s Song)” to the sunshine pop of “Dennis” to the soulful lament “Cracking This Heart of Stone,” the album is a primer of musical styles and feels.
“Lightning Crash” feels like an old lost Cheap Trick fave, while “Shut Out the Lights” rides on a Clapton-esque guitar line. “Ghetto Child” (not to be mixed up with the Spinners classic of the same name) does share that song’s Philly International soulful vibe, as does the sweet intro to “Are You a Lover or a Fighter?” which eventually moves into more of a blue-eyed soul feel. “Between the Lines” on the other hand, pulls from the paisley underground school of The Dream Syndicate and The Bangles.
Beyond Sharp’s sharp originals, I’ll Remember the Laughter also offers some adventurous and intriguing covers. There is a swinging version of The Who’s “The Kids are Alright” and two (count ‘em) covers of songs from a semi-obscure pre-superstardom album by 80s pop/rock icon Rick Springfield of “Jessie’s Girl” fame. (Springfield adds some tasty backing vocals to Sharp’s recordings of his songs.) However, possibly the greatest cover is a stunningly catchy version of “Girl,” which is remembered in pop culture as the song which Davy Jones performed in his guest appearance on The Brady Bunch.
So, if you miss the glory days of pop radio, where diverse styles rubbed shoulders in a mind-boggling array of music – with the only true through line being that most of it was one hell of an earworm – you can recreate that sensation with I’ll Remember the Laughter.
Jay S. Jacobs
Copyright ©2023 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: February 6, 2023.