To those already in the know, it is clear to see why Les Fradkin is about to be inducted into The Akademia Hall of Fame with a lifetime achievement award for “a musical repertoire that is truly original.” And if you are new to his work, although you will subliminally be aware of his work via the numerous songs he has played on, hits he has penned, and his industry-changing work with MIDI technology, Artist Kit Sampler is a great place to tip your toe in the sonic waters.
Kicking off with the masterful Jangleholic, the song both emulates and celebrates the jangle sound of bands such as The Byrds, which acted as a formative inspiration for the artist, but also talks about how that jangle sound evolved and changed over the years but could still be heard echoing from the heart of all manner of songs. It speaks volumes that Fradkin made his name as a player of 12 and 6-string basses and guitars.
God Bless California is a glorious slice of West Coast pop-rock, and Magic Attic is a song wrapped in beautiful vocal harmonies, gorgeous sonic tones and sublimes musical textures. Everything Is Wrong harnesses the same staccato sound and restless energy that defined the New Wave sound, and System Crash reminds us that Fradkin is just as adept with the slower, more calm and collected deliveries as he is with the faster numbers.
The EP rounds off with the brilliant Under The Covers, a stomping rocker which sounds like a love song but which, on successive listens, could also be about him as an artist always present in the musical landscape but never really in the spotlight—or both. Ambiguity is a great device. Lyrically, there is always a lot in his writing that talks about the story of music, of anecdotes and events in his own life, neatly wrapped up in more immediate deliveries. The more I think about it, the more I believe this songs duality to be true; he’s smart like that.
It’s a great collection of songs that shows his familiarity with many styles and sounds, genres and eras and which he deftly and delicately wraps around each other to make his own signature sound. Hall of Fame? Why did it take you so long to make the call?