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coverpic flag US - Connecticut - Full Moon 160 - 10/04/09

Various Artists
Ciao My Shining Star: The Songs of Mark Mulcahy
The Mezzotint Label/Shout Factory / Playground

Ciao My Shining Star : The Songs of Mark Mulcahy has a very, very impressive line-up. Michael Stipe, Thom Yorke, Frank Black, Vic Chestnutt, Dinosaur Jr., Mercury Rev, The National, Josh Rouse, Ben Kweller, Juliana Hatfield, and Rocket From The Tombs, to name some of the more distinguished aboard this benefit album. Mark Mulcahy, the former front man of Mid Haven, CT mid80s-eraly90s alternative band Miracle Legion, who lost his wife Melissa last year. This 'friendly gesture/support a good colleague' record is meant to help him out to continue as a musician, all of a sudden being the single parent to a pair of three-year-old twins. Sad story.

Even if the story behind this collection is a sad one, this sure is a fine collection of songs, penned by Mulcahy. And a fine opportunity to get to know Mulcahy's songbook better. I'm not familiar with the Miracle Legion's music/records, but this album makes me want to check out the band as well as Mulcahy's solo albums; Fathering (1999), Smilesunset (2001), In Pursuit Of Your Happiness (2005), and Love's the Only Thing That Shuts Me Up (2007). The cover versions here represents all his solo efforts; 3 or 4 off each, except In Pursuit Of Your Happiness (which seems to be his most central piece of work), with 5 songs covered. Here are 3 songs off Miracle Legion's (from now ML) 1987 debut album, Surprise Surprise Surprise, and one off Me and Mr. Ray (1989). J. and his senior gang, Dinosaur Jr., have picked the title track off The Backyard EP (1987), which is a fitting song for the jura-indie rockers. But, it's Thom Yorke who opens the album. Yorke, who once claimed Mark Mulcahy as one of his quintessential vocal mentors, does a Radiohead-ish version of "All For The Best" (off ML's debut). The National follow with a very National take on "Ashamed Of The Story I Told" (which is the only non ML/non Mulchay solo song, but a Polaris song - Polaris being his mid-1990s project providing music to a TV show, The Adventures of Pete & Pete). In fact, all artists/bands (well, all that I know in prior to this album) sound very themselves, which is good. When covering a song, and you're able to make it sound like it's your own song, well, then you've done a good job. Michael Stipe of course sounds like Michael Stipe, and it's said that it could've been Miracle Legion in stead of R.E.M. who broke out of the underground and into the spotlight back in the 1980s. Frank Black does a cool and tough, yet laidback song called "Bill Jocko" (off Mulcahy's first solo), but Vic Chesnutt sings one of the more beautiful songs off this album, "Little Man" (another track off ML's debut). Folk/punk singer/songwriter Frank Turner (one of the few Brit's here) has got another of the finer contributions, with "The Quiet One" (off Smilesunset). Here are 21 artists having contributed, altogether, and most of the songs are indeed good, some very good. Others worth mentioning? Autumn Defense's (they're multi-instrumentalists John Stirratt, of Wilco and Uncle Tupelo, and Pat Sansone, who's been working with Josh Rouse, Wilco and more) quick and catchy pop song "Paradise", the third track off the ML debut; Hayden's "Happy Birthday Yesterday", off Love's the Only...; Mercury Rev's "Sailors And Animals", off ML's second album, Me and Mr. Ray (1989).

So, a good cause, and plenty of good music along the tracks. Due to a songwriting talent. Support a good cause, and you'll be rewarded. Visit Mulcahy's label site: The Mezzotint Label, and buy his records!

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