Album Review: Various Artists – Yesterday’s Tomorrow

If you’re at all familiar with the alternate and/or college rock scenes of the 1970s and ‘80s, you’ll know the names Mitch Easter (Let’s Active, producer of R.E.M.), Peter Holsapple (The dB’s, Continental Drifters), Chirs Stamey (The dB’s, work with Alex Chilton) and Don Dixon. This busman’s holiday of a sort is a document of a live performance from 2018 in which those artists (plus others of comparable reputation and quality) get together and dig into their collective musical pasts.

The set list is the kind of thing that a music fanatic and/or critic might have put together. But these guys aren’t doing it to be arch pop archivists; they’re re-living (for a moment) the music of their youth, the songs they played as teenagers and young men.

And quite often, the tunes are demanding stuff. No “Louie, Louie” here; no, instead we get Bubble Puppy’s “Hot Smoke and Sassafras,” a tune that veers perilously close to prog while rocking hard-as-hell. The Music Machine’s “Talk Talk” is no easy tune to execute, either. These musicians – in various configurations that reunite their old bands or create bizarrely-named new aggregations – are having the time of their lives as they reunite with old friends and dig into these songs.

Aside from the super covers are songs by the artists themselves. Let’s Active’s “Room With a View” gets a lovely lead vocal from Lynn Blakey (with Mitch Easter). Sneakers get back together to play a few of their classics (“Ruby,” “Condition Red,” “S’il Vous Plait”).

If you have even the slightest passing interest in either (a) any of these fine artists or (b) these semi-obscure covers or (c) both, Yesterday’s Tomorrow is a must-have. And the liner notes are a delightful must-read.