In July BAM published its so-called "California 50," a critics
compendium of "the greatest rock n roll albums ever to emanate from
the Golden State," or so it promised on the cover. Some of the choices were
apropos and expected (Pet Sounds and Los Angeles held the top two slots, while
records from Neil Young, the Doors, the Byrds, and Moby Grape followed); you
could see them coming. A few selections were surprising enough (Loves
Forever Changes, a record no actually listens to, ranked third), while even
more were inexplicable (Get the Knack? Not on your life). Ever since the
issues publication, readers have fired off missives wondering why their
fave Cali disc didnt make the cutusually something by the Red Hot
Chili Peppers, but those are BAM readers for you. But overall, the list, loaded
with pop promises and punk poetry and country whispers and gangsta growls,
provided a wonderful place to start for those who want to understand what it
means to make music at the end of the world.
Andrew Sandoval did not make this list, perhaps because he has no full-length record to call his own; he has so far released only singles and, now, an EP. No matter: Sandoval, the man keeping the Monkees alive over at Rhino, is a California 50 unto himself, a man whose heart beats in time to the shifts in the fault line. Hes far more than a pure-pop fetishisthe has single handedly created his own Paisley Underground 14 years after the original "scene" disappeared, killed off by extravagant record deals and unfulfilled promises. On singles and in concert, Sandoval has surrounded himself with the likes of bassist David Jenkins, drummer-singer Jim Laspesa, multi-instrumentalist Kristian Hoffman, and other like-minded musicians who fantasize about in L.A. that hasnt existed in 15or, more like it, 30years.
Theres a reason Sandoval credits his songs to Greener Days Publishing: He and his pals just arent made for these times, as their hero Brian Wilson once proclaimed. Along with such bands as baby Lemonade and the Negro Problem, other revisionist wonders, they would have been stars in 1966, heroes of a Sunset Strip drenched in pretty plastic. But now they create their magical pop in anonymity, holding day jobs and rarely playing out nights. On the back of his first disc, the five-song Million Dollar Movie, Sandoval can be seen reading an old book titles Nobody Listens to Andrew, and its a shame.
Million Dollar Movie is the sort of record made byand so very much forpeople who like their pop music big and beautiful, who want their records to comfort them instead of merely entertain them. Sandovals music wraps you in cellos and violins, French horns and 12-string guitars, harpsichords and oboesits crafted deliberate, perfect. From beginning, from the first millisecond of "The Man Who Would be King" (and that would be Sandoval), Million Dollar Movie conjures memories of every single Byrds hit, then slides into the heavy orchestrated glory of Pet Sounds with "Dream About You." And it takes a real man to pour extra syrup over the Bee Gees "Nobodys Someone," which is so sad and lovely its like listening to a frown.
The lyricsthese are love songs all, each about different states on longing and lossare almost meaningless; the music conveys the message, the emotion, the bald-faced desire. Besides, a cynic doesnt make records like this. This is music carefully, delicately constructed by someone who believes that everythinglife, love, recordswill one day be better than it is now. And Sandovals voice, so small and pretty and reminiscent of Squeezes Glen Tillbrook, cant hide anything.
Is it finally time for big-production pop to reassume control of L.A.'s ever-changing music scene, once the home base to Phil Spector? Andrew (Sandoval. Rhino's ace archivist) weeps and wails before an honest- to-god orchestra, with Jon Brion's harmonium and piano. Kristian Hoffman's harpsichord and Probyn Gregory's French horn fronting a phalanx of violins and cellos. But if this is just a blip, the natural place to file it is next to the buttery baroque genius of the Left Banke.
Actually, the budget for this five song disc was modest, but it's rich in craft, feeling and fun. Singer/songwriter/guitarist Andrew Sandoval (with bassist David Jenkins and guests like ex dB Peter Holsapple and L.A. pop wizards Jon Brion, Kristian Hoffman and Robbie Rist) offers songs recalling mid-period Kinks and symphonic Beach Boys. Standouts "The Man Who Would Be King" and "Dream About You" suggest Andrew could someday produce a blockbuster.