Here is another installment in the Columbia Singles series which has taken me down some previously unexplored musical pathways. This release proves to be no exception as it covers two brief, but intriguing years of a musician who has been on a lifetime voyage of discovery. Shane Martin (aka Neale Lundgren) was from New Orleans and naturally drawn to soul music’s “range of emotion.” Lundgren started out in the Crescent City garage scene as a singer for bands like the Twilights and an early version of the legendary Gaunga Dyns.
|The Gaunga Dyns '66 |
(L to R: Beau Bremer, Brian Collins, Steve Staples, Ricky Hall, Bobby Carter, Neale Lundgren, and Mike King)
His ship came in and he was signed as a solo artist to Columbia/Epic. He certainly had a smooth and strong delivery, but not enough distinction in his voice to take him to the first class. Songs like “Don’t Take Tomorrow Away” had him leaning more towards Gene Pitney than Steve Marriott, but there is certainly the presence of soul (and sometimes a slight sneer) in his voice. From around a corner, the propulsive horns on "You're So Young" and "I Need You"sound like the building brass section from "MacArthur Park" which makes sense because these two Northern Soul classics and the epic "MacArthur Park" were all composed by Jimmy Webb. He connects "Black is Black" by Los Bravos and ? and the Mysterians' "96 Tears" and it works because the stock material both share that "I Can't Help Myself (Sugar Pie Honey Bunch)" bass line. Interestingly, these singles were produced by Jason Darrow who previously wrote songs for ? and the Mysterians like "Hanging on a String." Also included is Martin's convincing "side-buckle shoes" interpretation of Jerry Butler's "He Will Break Your Heart." However, some of the singles like "I Keep it Hid" get a little too swanky and schmaltzy for their own good and enter B.J. Thomas-ville.
He competently covers the Association’s soaring "Goodbye Columbus"-the theme of The Graduate-ish movie based on Philip Roth’s novella The landing gear is activated and the album descends on Mark Eric territory with the wistful, sparkling and sweeping bossa-pop of "Something Beautiful is Gone." In the late ‘70s, Lundgren entered a Benedictine monastery and immersed himself in the sacred tradition of Gregorian chant, the mystical poets and Bach. These Columbia & Epic Singles provide the impetus to trace Lundgren's unexpected path both forward and back while focusing on this particular slice of time. After all, it's part of an era that keeps offering a seemingly infinite supply of remarkable singles and stories.