Monday, December 21, 2015

she hangs brightly

Mazzy Star rummaged through desire and doubt to find illumination in this hazy velvet venture.  David Roback and his brother Steven had been in the Unconscious with their neighbor Susanna Hoffs before forming Rain Parade with David's college roommate Matt Piucci, becoming a major part of the Los Angeles Paisley Underground scene.   Roback remembers:   "I went to New York mainly to be part of the art scene; but I gradually found myself getting more inspired by what was happening in music than in art...People like Patti Smith and Television...I felt like a punk. That's the attitude I identified with. But when I picked up the guitar and started playing it, the music didn't come out sounding punk. It was something else...When I started playing music, it came out sounding very psychedelic for whatever reason. I guess it was just what I grew up liking. The Beatles and Jimi Hendrix were the best groups for me...The late Beatles more than the early Beatles--their message, the whole political and spiritual involvement."

At the same time, Hope Sandoval formed folk duo Going Home with classmate Sylvia Gomez.  They managed to slip backstage after a Rain Parade gig and give Roback a copy of their demo tape.  He offered to produce an album for them:  "I felt I was the luckiest person ever.  I could not believe that he wanted to join our band. He called me and said: ‘I really love your music, and I want to play guitar for you guys."

Roback left Rain Parade and formed a new project Opal with Kendra Smith (from Dream Syndicate):  "I was very idealistic. I thought I would retire and make music on my own, not be part of any scene. It didn't seem all that radical because my heroes had done it--people like John Lennon and Syd Barrett--at certain points in their lives...I didn't feel the acceptance or attention was important to me. I wanted to make music that I felt and if people liked it, fine, otherwise the music would be enough reward...At times, I felt like the music world was on a dead-end street, that everyone was simply rehashing the same old ideas...But rock is still a potentially great art form...No matter how down you are, there may be a light in a song that gives you strength...something spiritually regenerating. To me, that's the goal of a musician--to find that light."

Sandoval ended up joining Opal after Smith quit during a tour with the Jesus and Mary Chain.  They toured and began work on a second album (Ghost Highway) for Opal; but instead they changed their name to Mazzy Star and recorded She Hangs Brightly at Hyde Street Studios in San Francisco.  Sandoval says she wanted to "start something completely new ... David definitely knew more about music and equipment than me. He knew more about the Velvet Underground; I didn’t really know their music. Sylvia was really into them and I was always saying: ‘Turn that off: it’s too noisy’. But when I started working with David, he turned me on to them. I liked modern stuff like Soul II Soul, along with Syd Barrett and the Rolling Stones. So it worked, even though we were coming from different places."

She Hangs Brightly did not chart; but it became a hit on college radio.  In the UK it sold over seventy thousand copies and in the US it eventually sold a half a million units, earning a gold certification.  The album cover is from the Hôtel Tassel in Brussels.

Roback reveals:  "I think Hope deserves a lot of attention.  I think she is a great singer and a great songwriter. When I first heard her, I though she could be someone like Bob Dylan, someone who could speak for a lot of people her age...I see a lot of hope in her songs. It's like that movie... 'A Tree Grows in Brooklyn.' Something nice can come out of a very caustic environment...Something that tells you all isn't lost."

"Halah" reached number nineteen on the US modern rock tracks chart.

"Blue Flower" is a cover of the song by Slapp Happy.  It charted at number twenty-nine on the US modern rock tracks chart.

She Hangs Brightly
full album:

All songs written and composed by Hope Sandoval and David Roback, except where noted.

00:00 "Halah"     3:16
03:16 "Blue Flower"   (Peter Blegvad, Anthony Moore) 3:35
06:51 "Ride It On"     3:01
09:51 "She Hangs Brightly"     6:24
16:16 "I'm Sailin'"   (Minnie McCoy) 3:13
19:28 "Give You My Lovin'"   (Sylvia Gomez) 3:50
23:19 "Be My Angel"     3:17
26:36 "Taste Of Blood"     5:36
32:13 "Ghost Highway"   (David Roback) 3:28
35:42 "Free"     3:11
38:51 "Before I Sleep"     2:10

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