It's hard to imagine a more endearing rock & roll tale; two winsome young brothers spend endless hours writing pop hits on their family's sprawling farm in rural Washington. Their old man, noting their enthusiasm for all things music, builds 'em a fully-functioning home studio, stocks it with all the gear they can dream of, and even constructs their own venue (with snack bar!) in an unused field. The siblings diligently record and self-release an entire album, Dreamin' Wild (Enterprise & Co., 1979), and few seem to notice or care, least of all their classmates. Maybe Dreamin' Wild sounded a little too dated; it was '79, after all, and rather than adapt to the increasing popularity of hard rock, new wave or disco, brothers Donnie and Joe Emerson cobbled together influences that were, by decade's end, falling off the radar: AM-dialed pop, light-as-a-feather soul, hazy Stax-like rock/funk strut. Indeed, the Emersons may have been subconsciously -- perhaps naively -- nostalgic for sounds that dominated teen culture some five to six years prior to the recording of their opus.
And for the better. As Light in the Attic Records' reissue of this LP illustrates, the Emersons' naïveté belied a genuine knack for songwriting and craft, for solid harmonies, for fairly inventive dynamics and production techniques in the face of homespun limitations. As a result, they made a charming and timeless album. In a song like "Good Time," you hear an exemplary mix of Donnie and Joe's aw-shucks earnestness and self-made fuzz -- which sounds, on this track in particular, very similar to Midwestern self-recorded contemporaries the Shoes. It's hard to pick one song, since the entire record is a humdinger, but with tunes like "Baby" (Emitt Rhodes/Marvin Gaye amalgam) and "Give Me a Chance" (funk strut peppered with overloaded keys effects), Dreamin' Wild is a no-brainer. The folks at Light in the Attic spared no expense in the quality here -- they even filmed a short documentary teaser about the Bros. Emerson -- so if you're even remotely interested in unheralded pop/kitchen-sink gems, you'd be remiss to pass this one up.
-Eric Cecil (July 13, 2012)
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