Clubland: Paul Rocha holds CD-release party for ‘Crayons’ at The Roost in Northampton
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Paul Rocha, singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist/mega-music fan, was one of the countless kids whose imagination was captured by the Beatles on “The Ed Sullivan Show.” He was 6 at the time, and his older brothers and sisters kept a steady stream of cool music coming his way.
Rocha just released his first solo CD, and he summed it up by explaining his personal theory about pop music, which of course involves the peerless Beatles.
“Somewhere around ’66 and culminating with ‘Sgt. Pepper,’ music went from black-and-white to color,” he said in an interview earlier this week. “And that’s what I was trying to do: a color album.”
The CD is aptly titled “Crayons,” and the public can hear the hour-long record in all its kaleidoscope glory at the first-ever Roost Rock Listening Party, to be held at the Roost in Northampton next Thursday, Nov. 15 at 8 p.m. The restaurant/cafe will play the new CD with Rocha in the house.
Be sure to get there early, because the record’s opening track, “Sevens Into Nines,” is one of its very best, a catchy Badfinger/XTC-ish power-pop number that bounces along on see-sawing mellotron flutes à la “Strawberry Fields Forever.” Rocha’s singing style — besides having an uncanny resemblance to Fountains of Wayne’s Chris Collingwood — sounds surprisingly British, but it’s an aural illusion of the Beatlesque music mixing with his southeastern Massachusetts accent (he hails from Somerset).
Rocha moved to the Valley in late-1977 and not long after started a “band of best friends” called Pryvate Tunings, which included Matt Cullen — who also co-produced “Crayons.”
“I met Matty in ’79,” Rocha said. “He was really into punk so he was playing a lot of choppy Ramones kind of stuff, and I’m very much into fingerpicking and here I am playing ‘Blossom’ by James Taylor.”
The two hit it off, bonding over similar upbringings (both had older siblings turning them on to fab new sounds) and also a mutual love of the Beatles, not to mention Spirit’s cult classic album “Twelve Dreams of Dr. Sardonicus.” Rocha went on to play in a number of area groups, among them The Amy Fairchild Band, Paulzilla, Sugar Giant and The Wedgies — but 12 years ago found himself moving away from making his own music. He bought a house, got married. He worked in a machine shop for 70 hours a week for a number of years, describing it as “a taxing existence. I just didn’t have the time or energy to [write and record new music]. I kind of got out of it. You get away from playing, you get rusty, you’re not inspired, so I got away from it even further.”
But “Crayons” is the dazzling and detailed sound of Rocha rediscovering and returning to what he loves most. The album is big and bold, brimming over with thick harmonies, melodic inventiveness and a playful side, too, as displayed on the standout track “Fairies in a Yorkshire Glen,” an immediately memorable and clever pop song that could be a lost Andy Partridge gem.
The album’s title track is one of its strongest mood pieces, with a Left Banke kind of cracked-glass melody and gorgeous, gritty strings played by violinist Sam Barnes.
Even the record’s few awkwardly quirky lyrical moments are married to winning melodies, like the album-closing “Baby Adolph,” which ends with Rocha overdubbing himself into a one-man Beach Boys, taking the album out on a slow wave of soaring harmonies.
For those who can’t wait for (or attend) the listening party, “Crayons” is available at www.cdbaby.com.