Saturday, April 12, 2014

Aimee Mann And Ted Leo Shine As The Both

The Both
(Aimee Mann and Ted Leo)
The Both
SuperEgo Records
Five Scoops of Bosco

Reviewed By Allen Bacon, The Daily Bosco

I suppose if I can't get my dream duo of Aimee Mann and her husband Michael Penn together on an album, the next best thing would be to get a guy with the same style as Penn and imagine it is him.

But who would that guy be?

I could maybe rattle off less than one handful of folks that could fit that bill but I could tell you with certainty one of my choices would not be indie-punker Ted Leo.

You know the same Ted Leo of Ted Leo and the Pharmacists and Citizen's Arrest.

Yet here he is with Mann, (two decades removed from her Iconic 1980's Group Til Tuesday), as a duo on their debut album which shares the name of their group, The Both.  The album drops on tax day (Tuesday April 15)

This is pretty much like when you first heard about the combination of Robert Plant and Alison Krause a few years ago.  On paper, anyway, it doesn't sound like Mann-Leo should work.

But like Plant-Krauss, the combination of the two artists that comprise The Both works out very well. And good news: the team of Mann and Leo produces a true collaboration here and not two people playing each other's left over songs.

This is a great album and deserves a listen.

Mann and Ted Leo toured together in 2012 and 2013, resulting in collaborative songwriting sessions.

The "back-and-forth," and "line by line" process started after Mann was intrigued the solo sets Leo played while opening for her on tour. The record was eventually recorded in Los Angeles last year and is produced by Paul Bryan.

When two great artists with distinct and different styles get together there has to be a compromise and on this duo, Leo subdues and tones down his hard-driving punk tendencies while the collaboration gives more of a harder  rock edge to Mann's sound than we're used to (i.e., her 2012 album The Charmer).

But listen to Leo's singing parts especially on songs like "Milwaukee",  "The Prisoner" or "Volunteers of America" and tell me if you don't hear Michael Penn in there.

There are however songs like the opening track "The Gambler" where Leo sounds very much like himself and drives the style of the number with Mann singing wonderful backup.

The roles are switched in the beautiful "You Can't Help", my favorite on this album.  This song sounds very much what we've come to expect from Aimee Mann's solo work with Leo filling in admirably on backup.

The album is primarily hard-driving, only letting up in the middle with "Hummingbird" and "Honesty Is No Excuse".

Nine solo albums and twenty four years after leaving Til Tuesday, Mann continues to solidify her position as one of the top singer/songwriters in the business on this album.  As far as Leo is concerned, this is probably some of the best work he has ever done.

Now if we could just get Mann's husband Michael Penn away from television and movie scores to make an album with her that would be interesting.

But in the meantime, this effort by Mann and Leo will suffice quite nicely.

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