Written by: Don Ciccone
Dwight Twilley, aided by partner in crime Phil Seymour, is known as one of the founding fathers of the Power Pop movement in the mid to late 70’s. He hit a homer right off the bat, with “I’m On Fire,” and found himself living the dream. Dick Clark brought him back time and again on American Bandstand and Twilley and his band (which sometimes included Tom Petty on bass) were regularly seen on MTV when he scored another hit simply called, “Girls,” in 1984.
Ten years later, when the L.A. earthquake rendered his home inhabitable, Twilley took it as a sign and went back to where it all started: Tulsa, Oklahoma. He bought a ranch, built a recording studio, and made a string of albums co-produced and engineered by his wife, Jan. This two-record set, with tracks hand-picked by Twilley himself, samples that material.
There are some real gems in this chest. Surprisingly, it’s the “grandiose” (as Twilley himself calls them) ballads, rather than the rockers, that shine brightest. “A Little Less Love,” from 1999’s Tulsa album, is a gorgeous, Spector-esque wall of shimmer that would’ve been perfect for Jackie De Shannon. “Goodbye” is from the same album and features long-time Twilley guitarist, Bill Pitcock IV. 12 string heaven! Bill the Fourth is also on board for the title track from 47 Moons, another standout. “Chandra”, who the singer proclaims is the best thing in his life, turns out to be one of the best songs Twilley’s ever cut. It begins with a Motown-ish bass riff followed by “Be My Baby” drums, then Badfinger piano and some twangy Tulsa guitar thrown in. Perfect arrangement.
Back in the day, Seymour covered the Bobby Fuller Four classic, “Let Her Dance” and Twilley, again with help from Pitcock, takes his turn here with a strong rendition, exclusive to this release. The Sparks-ish, “Me and Melanie,” off 2010’s Green Blimp, has a great descending hook a la The Kinks’ “Summer Afternoon.” There are some lovely acoustic guitar arpeggios on “Let it Rain” and tasty slide guitar on the T-Rexy, “Doctor,” both of which also originally appeared on Green Blimp. The finale is a Dion-like (think “The Wanderer”) rocker called “My Friend Billy” which was a hidden track on the Soundtrack CD, from 2011. If only this throwaway was longer.
All of the above make the journey worthwhile. The best of “the best” occurs when it seems as though Twilley wasn’t trying for another hit (and sounding like The Police or The Cars). That’s when he clearly tapped into something very special. This double LP is the perfect way to catch up on Twilley’s work over the last couple of decades.
It’ll make you want to dig deeper… until Volume 2 comes along.