" Royal Academy of Reality"
The Swimming Pool Q's. Bar None Records. 20 tracks.
For local pop music scribblers, this album has been a running joke for the past decade. Every six months or so, Swimming Pool Q's frontman Jeff Calder would dutifully check in and provide updates on its progress. Like local pop act the Producers' long-rumored but long delayed fourth album, most fans assumed the Q's 1989 album, "World War 2.5," would be its last. And then in 2001, something odd happened on the Atlanta pop scene --- that Producers record, "Coelacanth" mysteriously turned up in record bins. Just as quietly, the Swimming Pool Q's' gorgeous new "Royal Academy of Reality" graces store shelves today.
While the band emerged from the same humid, kudzu-choked Southern funk that spawned Pylon, the Brains, R.E.M. and the B-52's in the late 1970s and early 1980s, "Reality" sounds like nothing the Q's have recorded before. Nostalgic fans looking for "Rat Bait" redux , a retread of the group's first hit, won't find it here. This is a dense, spiritual, satisfying gumbo with loads of chunky, delicately seasoned bits to be found in the Technicolor trippy broth. If Alice had an accompanying soundtrack in her Discman when she fell down that rabbit hole, this would be it.
"Reality" sonically resembles what "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" and "Pet Sounds" might have sounded like if the Beatles and the Beach Boys had joined forces and had the luxury of a decade to record --- and the advanced technology the Q's employ here.
Unlike most of the disposable pop records issued in today's market, repeat listenings of "Reality" yield countless new pleasures. There's Calder's ironic, smart, funny lyrical insights along with ear candy pellets of glass harps, sitars, vibraphones and Appalachian dulcimers sprinkled throughout the recording.
For old fans, just hearing Calder and Q's vocalist Anne Richmond Boston sing together on record again is well worth the sticker price. It's the compact disc equivalent of inviting old friends over for dinner and discovering that, despite passage of time, the mortgage payments, spouses and kids, you still share the same worldview.
--- Richard L. Eldredge
ROYAL ACADEMY OF REALITY
In 2003, to great acclaim, THE SWIMMING POOL Q’s released their disc, Royal Academy of Reality (BRN-CD-145) on BAR/NONE RECORDS. Produced by Q’s singer/songwriter JEFF CALDER and producer/engineer PHIL HADAWAY, this was the first Swimming Pool Q’s full-length album in over ten years. Across the spectrum of American media, RAR has generated the highest praise.
Royal Academy contains 20 tracks recorded at various studios and remote locations in Atlanta and Savannah. During the sessions, The Q’s’ core line-up since 1982 [BILL BURTON, drums; Jeff Calder, vocals, rhythm guitar; BOB ELSEY, lead guitar] was augmented by Neill Calabro (vibes), Marty Kearns (keyboards) and percussionist Pete Jarkunas, who played bass on The Q’s’ 1981 debut, The Deep End.
ANNE RICHMOND BOSTON, The Swimming Pool Q’s’ exquisite vocalist, returned to active service as the making of Royal Academy entered its final stage. Her alto achieves its characteristic emotional effect, most evident on the duet, "Radio in Memphis". The Q’s received additional support from a distinguished cast of more than two dozen musicians, including: BRENDAN O’BRIEN (producer of BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN, TRAIN, PEARL JAM &c); MOE TUCKER (drummer of THE VELVET UNDERGROUND); TOM GRAY (composer of "Money Changes Everything" by Atlanta greats, The BRAINS); SAMARAI CELESTIAL (the late drummer for SUN RA).
Contributing to the album’s rare atmospheric beauty and reinforcing the Royal Academy’s themes, The Q’s supplement their guitar-based sound with glass harp, Clavioline, harpsichord, dulcimer, bagpipes, Leslie steel guitar, muted trumpet, turntables, tamboura, sitar and the Chinese version of the koto, known as the chang.
As fans of The Q’s previous work might expect, the group’s incomparable lead guitarist, Bob Elsey, conducts his solos in trigonometric fashion throughout (see, "Yin Yang" and "For No Reason"). Drummer Bill Burton’s undiminished powers of invention are of particular note on the closing 5/4 jam, "Alpha Centauri’s Rise", The Q’s tribute to coastal net-casters who secretly serve as interstellar senders-and-receivers.
The composition of Royal Academy of Reality is punctuated by ambient interludes ("Cosmogonical Heliopolis") and ecological concerns ("The Earth Makes Us Feel Things"). Still, "Everybody Knows Tomorrow" and "Out of Nothing" affirm that The Swimming Pool Q’s have lost none of the Pop sensibility that defined their mid-80s’s work. Jeff Calder’s familiar growl and wicked sense of humor remain intact, especially on rambunctious jaunts like "The Do What and The Who What", wherein the song’s protagonist has a flashing light on the top of his head, so the planes won’t hit him in the dark. Among the Royal Academy’s many highlights, The Velvet’s Moe Tucker pounded drum and tambourine one afternoon between 2:45 and 3:00, forming the basis for "Wheel of the Sun".
Royal Academy of Reality reestablishes The Swimming Pool Q’s as an American band of first consequence.
Title: ROYAL ACADEMY OF REALITY (BRN-CD-145)
Light Arriving Soon
Out of Nothing
The Earth Makes us Feel Things
The Discovery of Dawn
Everybody Knows Tomorrow
The Radio in Memphis
The Do What and the Who What
For No Reason
What is Beyond
The Wheel of the Sun
Alpha Centauri's Rise
THE SWIMMING POOL Q’s:
Anne Richmond Boston: vocals
Bill Burton: drums
Jeff Calder: vocals, rhythm guitar
Tim DeLaney: bass
Bob Elsey: lead guitar