Index of Album Reviews | George Graham's Home Page | What's New on This Site

The Graham Album Review #2203

CD graphic
Click on CD Cover for Audio Review in streaming mp3 format

Organ Fairchild: Songs We Didn't Write

(independent release, as broadcast on WVIA-FM 7/3/2024)

Instrumental covers of popular songs with lyrics, have long been a staple in the music business. Back in the 1950s and 1960s, there were lots of instrumental albums of what used to be called “easy listening” that also filled the airwaves on FM radio when it was still a bastion of such music, and of course, there was the background music service called Muzak which filled offices and elevators with innocuous versions of rock tunes, some of it almost ridiculous in how the spirit of the music was totally emasculated. But the jazz world, of course, lives on creative, improvisational versions of standard songs, and increasingly these days, songs from the rock era.

This week, we have an album of instrumental covers of rock and pop songs done in an organ group setting, that turns out not to be easy-listening background music, but more like jazz in its musical creativity though with a rock and soul sound. It’s the new third album by the Buffalo, New York, trio Organ Fairchild, and it has the accurately descriptive title Songs We Didn’t Write.

The beginnings of Organ Fairchild go back to 1983 when guitarist Dave Ruch, keyboard man Joe Bellanti and drummer Corey Kertzie were playing in a Grateful Dead cover band called Wild Nighs, a group that still occasionally gets together. After years of playing in a jam band cover group, they decided to set out with new original music, and released their debut album Brewed in Buffalo. It was only about 9 months ago when they released their followup album of mostly original music called Leisure Suit, which we featured in this album review series. Now Ruch, Kertzie and Bellanti have gone back to their roots and done a collection of generally creative covers with songs from rather different backgrounds, from Stevie Wonder, to Bob Marley to Harry Styles to the Grateful Dead, and even Leonard Cohen. As on their previous albums, when the organ dominates the sound, Organ Fairchild can be reminiscent of another classic soulful instrumental organ-based group, Booker T and the MGs. And when they get into jamming on the guitar, they can evoke the Grateful Dead, not surprisingly. While most of the album is self-contained with just the trio playing essentially live, this album features a guest appearance by guitarist Jorma Kaukonen, of the Jefferson Airplane and Hot Tuna, and also a horn section appears on their Stevie Wonder cover.

Opening is a Bob Marley tune Them Belly Full, which the band gives a rather upbeat treatment, with a rather different groove than the reggae of the original. <<>>

With the members of Organ Fairchild having spent years playing in a Grateful Dead cover band, its not surprising that they include two Grateful Dead tunes, though they are among the more obscure Dead tracks. The first is Lost Sailor, by Bob Wier and John Barlow. Organ Fairchild give it a kind of soulful jazzy approach with the acoustic piano being more prominent that the organ. The groups also turns it into their longest jam track on the album at seven and a half minutes. <<>>

The most unlikely cover on the album is Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah probably made most famous by the late Jeff Buckley. Like most Cohen compositions, the focus is on the lyrics, rather then the music. But Organ Fairchild’s instrumental interpretation gets a kind of bluesy Gospel feel, which works quite well. <<>>

The band explains that drummer Corey Kertzie’s daughter is a big fan of Harry Styles, of the boy band One Direction. So Organ Fairchild covered one of his tunes Canyon Moon, and it is one of the more upbeat and pop-oriented tracks on the album. <<>>

Guitarist Jorma Kaukonen of The Jefferson Airplane and Hot Tuna makes a guest appearance on the Otis Redding song Hard To Handle. Perhaps, not coincidentally, the backup band on some of original Otis Redding Memphis recordings was Booker T and the MG’s, after whom Organ Fairchild is patterned. The group and Kaukonen give the tune an appropriately soulful treatment. <<>>

Album of covers of classic tunes would not be complete with a Beatles song, and Organ Fairchild do Eleanor Rigby. They give it a kind of breezy feel while still maintaining the original melancholy mood. <<>>

The group gets down and funky on their cover of Stevie Wonder’s I Wish on which they are joined by a horn section, the Brass Machine also from Buffalo. It’s one of the strongest tracks on the album.

The record concludes with another Bob Marley cover, Redemption Song. The group also gives it laid back treatment, with some especially nice guitar work from Dave Ruch. <<>>

The appropriately named Songs We Didn’t Write the new third album by the Buffalo-based trio Organ Fairchild, puts the band in the context of what the members have been doing live for decades, playing spirited cover version of other folks’ music. Though their original material was first-rate on their previous albums, this release gives the band a chance to put their arranging skills to use. They generally don’t wander too far from the original shape of the songs, and they put the organ trio setting to good use with a classic sound that could have come from Stax Studios in the 1960s with Booker T and the MG’s. The rather wide-ranging selection of material makes for engaging listening, with everything, even the laid-back tunes, having a positive, melodic feel.

Our grade for audio quality it an A-minus, with decent clarity and a refreshing absence of attempts to introduce the sonic flaws and distortion of the analog days, something that is increasingly popular among retro bands.

As I mentioned in my review of their last album, actress Morgan Fairchild gave her blessing to the band’s name in a cute video on the band’s website. Organ Fairchild’s new album makes for some good-time listening.

(c) Copyright 2024 George D. Graham. All rights reserved.
This review may not be copied to another Web site without written permission.

<<>> indicates audio excerpt played in produced radio review

Comments to George:

To Index of Album Reviews | To George Graham's Home Page. | What's New on This Site.

This page last updated November 06, 2023