Album Review: Drawing from Memory by Scot Sax

There’s a reason Scot Sax is releasing his latest album on vinyl (and CD), and it’s not just that the medium is hip and cool these days. As a recording artist, Sax has been releasing a steady stream of tunes ranging from glam to funk to country and everything in between in one digital format or another for years. This time around, though, the songs have a warm vibe that demands the hum and crackle only vinyl can deliver.

The album is called Drawing from Memory, and it’s the kind of record you might stumble upon in your favorite record shop and think, “Huh… I thought I had all the great records from the 70s. How did I miss this one?” The vibe throughout is definitely retro in a completely unpretentious way. Maybe the best way to describe the album is as a love-letter to the music of the artist’s formative years.

Early on, the album has the feel of a Burt Bacharach record—or maybe, to more contemporary ears, it offers a not to some of Swedish popster Jens Lekman’s best tracks: a big, rich snare drum, lush strings, and a toy piano give way to sentimental lyrics in the album’s opener, “Where Do You Go to Cry?” From here, the album gradually morphs into something more along the lines of Carole King with “I Never Loved You,” a song whose lyrics recall “More Today Than Yesterday” by the Spiral Staircase but whose sound (figuratively speaking) is straight out of A&M’s Studio B, where Carole King recorded her legendary Tapestry album. Seriously, listen to the shaker-snare-piano-acoustic guitar combination on this track, and try to tell yourself it’s not 1972.

Other tracks on the album have something of a Beatles-post-breakup-solo-project feel to them. A slightly distorted slide guitar coupled with a lyrical sense of existential angst make a track called “Am I Still Living?” sound like it could be a lost Phil Spector-produced demo from George Harrison’s All Things Must Pass era, while a country-and-western drumbeat coupled with a funky synthesizer on “Song in A Minor” recall the homespun spirit of early Paul McCartney solo projects like McCartney and Ram.

Perhaps the most overt homage Sax offers on Drawing from Memory is “See All with No Sight,” whose Rumours-era Fleetwood Mac influence is undeniable. Here, a driving Mick Fleetwood floor-tom beat along with a twangy Lindsey Buckingham resonator guitar build up to a rocking chorus with a harmony line that you might, for a brief, shimmering moment, mistake for Stevie Nicks if you squint your ears just right.

Bottom line, if you love the adult-contemporary music that was beginning to seriously take root in the 1970s, you’ll love Drawing from Memory. Every track on the album recalls an era when people went out and bought LPs, brought them home, put them on the turntable, and just listened. At least in terms of music, it’s the best kind of memory to draw from.

The Accidental Guitar

I ordered a guitar from eBay the other day, but the guitar that arrived at my door wasn’t the guitar advertised. I’m thinking, though, that the guitar I ended up getting might be better than the one I ordered.

The guitar I ordered was a 6-string Rickenbacker copy made by a company called Cozart, but the guitar that arrived at my door was a 12-string. That’s the guitar that Roger McGuinn of the Byrds made famous with songs like “Turn, Turn, Turn” and “Mr. Tambourine Man.” Tom Petty used one on “The Waiting” as well. Oh, and a guy named George Harrison used one when he played with a band called the, uh…

Sorry, the name escapes me at the moment.

I should have known something was a little fishy when the notice I got from FedEx regarding the delivery said that the guitar was being shipped by the Fluoro Swimwear Company (which was not the company my money went to). When the guitar arrived, I counted the strings and realized there were six more than I was expecting. And when I checked eBay, I got a message stating that the listing had been removed by the seller.

Curiouser and curiouser.

The good news, though, is that the guitar sounds great. In fact, if anyone out there is looking for an inexpensive Rickenbacker copy, try to get your hands on a Cozart 12-String Honey Burst Semi-Hollow. I paid $175 for the one I got, and I’ve seen others going for around $350 (both prices include shipping). Compared to genuine Rickenbackers, which go for between $1400 and $3000, this is a great deal.

One slightly odd thing about the guitar is that the body is somewhat smaller than I expected. The neck is standard, but the small body makes it feel like a 3/4 scale guitar. It’s hard to tell in the photo, but here’s what it looks like:

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And after a bit of research, I found a picture of this guy from some obscure band in the 60s playing one. The size and scale of the guitar in the picture look comparable to mine.

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Sometime soon, I’ll try to post a recording of what the guitar sounds like. For now, though, I’ll just say that it sounds to my ears exactly like the (very) few Rickenbackers I’ve tried out in music stores, riffing away with no intention of buying, much to the salespeople’s chagrin. And if you stumbled upon this blog post wondering if this guitar is worth the money, it most definitely is.