Yung Wu: Shore Leave (1987)

I've made no secret of my undying love for the Feelies' 1986 classic The Good Earth, the Peter Buck-produced slice of jangly, pastoral heaven that rarely leaves my stereo for very long.  Yet while it took them 6 years to release Good Earth following their 1980 debut, they managed to come up with a sequel in under a year.  But it wasn't an actual Feelies album; that would take another year, 1988's terrific Only Life.  Instead, 1987's Shore Leave was an album by Yung Wu -- essentially the same band, only with percussionist Dave Weckerman handling all the vocals (and the addition of keyboards from John Baumgartner, of Feelies-related project Speed the Plough).

And it's a surprisingly delightful album -- but with one caveat I need to hit right up front.

Weckerman is not everyone's ideal for a lead singer.  Now, Feelies frontman Glenn Mercer isn't exactly all smooth and silky, his rough delivery akin to Reed and Dylan and largely built for indie rock fans; but Weckerman is even more off-putting for some, naive and childlike and intermittently off-key, but with a Jonathan Richman-like charm that I find perfectly acceptable.  Give it some time, it may grow on you.

Fortunately, the songs themselves are great, with the addition of non-intrusive keyboards and Weckerman's casual stylings giving them a poppier feel than much of the Feelies' other work.  

The title track that kicks off the album sounds like it could be a Good Earth bonus track, the only differences being the playful keyboard strains and, again, Weckerman's askew vocals. Other stand-outs include the insistent groove of "Eternal Ice," with its darkly compelling bassline; the light and buoyant "Aspiration"; and upbeat closer "Modern Farmer," which more than any other track sounds like a Feelies tune with Weckerman's vocals subbed in for Mercer's.

There are also some outstanding covers, well-chosen and respectfully faithful to the originals, including Neil Young's always welcome "Powderfinger," the Rolling Stones' psyche-era b-side "Child of the Moon," and most notably a bang-up job on the Brian Eno/Phil Manzanera pop ditty "Big Day," which lends itself particularly well to Weckerman's wide-eyed vocal turn (and is probably the best tune on the LP).

How about an audio rip of their Stones cover?
Here's a nice live run through "Empty Pool" and "Eternal Ice":
 Here's a live clip of the title track:
...and a live clip of "Big Day":