Album Reviews

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Neon Swing goes high concept

• For its new album, the Neon Swing X-perience didn't just throw together a collection of 17 standards and originals, it set out to tell a tale -- the story of "Grandpa Tempo: The Chairman of Swing."

It all started to the east of us in Ravens country.

"We were playing a swing dance in Baltimore," says singer/trumpeter Mike Urick, "when we got yelled at by a cranky elderly chap because our tempo was too fast. Our keyboardist, Andy [Leer], looked over at me and jokingly said, 'Who's this guy, Grandpa Tempo?' "

Later, when they were playing a Sinatra song, Mr. Tempo approached them again claiming that he in fact was The Chairman, not Frank. They set out to write a backstory for this now mythical character, who would be a ballroom dancer "too big for his britches."

"We had been writing some new songs that we never knew would make it to an album," Mr. Urick says. "We started writing songs, though, with similar themes -- and these themes seemed perfect for the title of the album. Then, by fate it would seem, we were doing a bunch of live recordings at the same time. A lot of the tracks that we really liked from the live recordings had similar themes to the songs we've been writing."

The lively album roars through such classics as "Just A Gigolo," "Zoot Suit Riot" and "Blue Suede Shoes," while adding uptempo originals, including "275 Miles," "Speakeasy" and the doo-wop rave-up "Would You Stay the Night?" As it progresses, it gets a bit more heady with the Squirrel Nut Zippers' "Hell" and Screaming Jay Hawkins' "I Put a Spell on You."

Says Mr. Urick, "The themes we noticed were maturing from a party animal into someone that's had a lot of life experiences, journeying, lost love, the afterlife, ultimate redemption, etc."

For the release show Friday at the James Street Gastropub and Speakeasy, 422 Foreland St., North Side, the NSX will perform the new album live, followed by two more sets of favorites and rarities.

Blue Suede News

Neon Swing X-Perience / Here To Stay

Neon Swing X-Perience has been playing a powerful mix of modern Swing for the last 10 years in and around Pennsylvania. Founder and singer Mike Urick (also on trumpet) contributed four of the ten songs. Reworks of classics include "In The Mood" (like Glenn Miller's arrangement), "Jump, Jive & Wail (more like the Brian Setzer version than Louis Prima's original) and Cab Calloway's cool "Minnie The Moocher", among others. Their own "Tragically Uncool" starts off the self released album with a powerful groove and lines you haven't heard before like "A Subaru is my favorite car". The following "Man With The Hex" is a rockin' Swing that combines the power of Gospel style shouting with the voodoo of Screamin' Jay Hawkins. The septet reminds me of bands like Big Bad Voodoo Daddy. Fans of modern Swing music will enjoy Neon Swing X-Perience. -GMB

Pittsburgh City Paper

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