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Main » 2008 » July » 22 » Tiny Lights - Prayer for the Halcyon Fear, Hazel's Wreath & Hot Chocolate Massage
Tiny Lights - Prayer for the Halcyon Fear, Hazel's Wreath & Hot Chocolate Massage

Tiny Lights

Prayer for the Halcyon Fear (1985)
Hazel's Wreath (1988)
Hot Chocolate Massage (1990)

Three albums by New Jersey's almost completely forgotten wonder-band - Tiny Lights.

From Wikipedia:

Tiny Lights was a music group formed by John Hamilton and Donna Croughn in 1985. Original members include Dave Dreiwitz, Jane Scarpantoni and Andy Demos. Based in Hoboken, New Jersey, the group released a total of seven albums, two of which were later released on Psychic TV's Temple Records. From 1988 to 1994 Tiny Lights toured the United States extensively. Other members include Stuart Hake (cello), John Mastro (drums), Catherine Bent (cello), Andy Burton (piano, organ), and Ron Howden (drums--formerly the drummer for Nectar).

The group's members employed a rich array of instrumentation, including cello, electric violin, soprano saxophone, tabla drums and bass clarinet. Improvisation was a constant feature of their live performances. One critic has memorably described the band as "Sly and the Family Partridge."

Dave Dreiwitz went on to play bass for the band Ween. Jane Scarpantoni has enjoyed an illustrious career, recording and touring for countless artists, including Lou Reed, The Indigo Girls, Bruce Springsteen, and the Lounge Lizards. John Hamilton and Donna Croughn are raising their two children in Cambridge, Mass., where John works as a Professor of Comparative Literature at Harvard University.

Here's Allmusic on the first and third albums:

Prayer for the Halcyon Fear (1985)

Absolute Agogo's reissue of Tiny Lights' 1985 debut (OOP) may be the finest bit of the band's work. Their first album is a blend of orchestrated folk and chirpy pop songwriting that incorporates the attitudes and aesthetics of New York's punk and art-rock scenes to such an extent that it seems, in retrospect, like some sort of new-wave chamber-pop. Rougher, freer recording gives no hints at the brushed-up slickness that hampered many of the band's late-period albums; from the pop opener "Flowers Through the Air" to the dreamy closer "Blue Dot Cleanser," Prayer for the Halcyon Fear has the continual loose brilliance that's typically only found on debut records. Liner notes by Sonic Youth's first drummer, Bob Bert, give a bit of insight into the scene out of which Tiny Lights came.

Hot Chocolate Massage (1990)

Hoboken, New Jersey's Tiny Lights' third record is daring and eclectic -- occasionally, too much so. A folk-oriented combo featuring cello, violin and horns in addition to more traditional instrumentation, the quintet takes stabs at jazz, blues and even some mild funk on Hot Chocolate Massage, to varying levels of success. The first two tracks, the delicate "Lavenderman" and the gently rocking "Moonwhite Day," are sublime, but the remainder of the record lacks focus; too often, Tiny Lights' reach exceeds its grasp.

Strangely, no review of their real masterpiece, Hazel's Wreath. I'll have to try, though this is not my thing:

Shorter, brighter and even better produced and played than their debut, Tiny Light's Hazel's Wreath is a lost gem of psychedelic pop. John Hamilton's sinuous electric lead guitar lines (too often turned to funky riffing on later albums) and beautifully picked acoustic folk outings literally twine and twirl around the strong folky vocals of Donna Croughn atop the supple support of band members Dave Dreiwitz (bass), Jane Scarpantoni (cello) and Andy Demos (drums and trumpet). Every song is unique and deserving of serious ear-attention on this album. Great stuff!

Okay, that's as far as I'm going. I'll admit to a complete bias here, though. This is one of the albums which my wife and I fell in love with while we fell in love with each other. It was part of the soundtrack of our courting, if you will, so the emotional resonance this album exudes is very strong for me. (I'd never hard of the band until HW was released and bought it on a whim because it just "felt good" in my hands. I used to call this the "Laying On of Hands Effect." I bought many dozens of albums and hundreds of books this way and The Hands never steered my wrong.)

As far as all three albums go: Play Loud! All three sound great at volume - don't stint on the power when playing. I ripped them at 320 just to help you out with this.

Personally, I've been trying to find a live recording of Tiny Lights for years. I've got thousands of live boots, but never found a single trader anywhere that has Tiny Lights to share. They were a great live band, one of the best I ever saw and luckily they made Madison, WI a regular stop on their tours. They did get more and more funky as time went on, which was okay, but I missed the song-based strengths of earlier albums and live appearances. Too many bands were going too damn funky in the late 80s. Got pretty sickening pretty quickly.

Tiny Lights were very nice people too, always happy to talk with you. Andy Demos was a big Sun Ra fan, I recall, and Donna (I think) had an awesome "Search and Destroy" tattoo. That was either her or Henry Rollins, but Henry's not as pretty. Always had the coolest t-shirts for sale too.

Category: Psyche/Garage/Folk | Views: 3832 | Added by: gomonkeygo | Rating: 5.0/1 |

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