Picks and Pans Review: Small Miracles
In the warm months the sidewalks and skyscraper plazas of midtown Manhattan are transformed into a crowded carnival of pushcarts, pedestrians and itinerant entertainers. These include magicians, jugglers, stand-up comics, solitary saxophonists and entire rock bands, who set out their bread box-size battery-powered amplifiers and often attract intent, encircling crowds. At the center of one of these throngs this summer one is likely to find the Drongos, whose danceable, peppy, melodic rock has an alluring freshness and sparkle. At the microphone in pleated pants, suspenders and a T-shirt, Richard Kennedy sings and plays snappy lead guitar. Harmonizing and taking a few appealing leads of her own is rhythm guitarist Jean McAllister, an Olive Oyl with the thigh-length coiffure of Morticia from The Addams Family. Bouncing on his toes, his string tie swaying, Tony McMaster usually stands apart, playing agile bass. Behind them Stanley John Mitchell seems to be enjoying himself immensely, whipping up mountains of rhythm on just a snare drum and a cymbal. After arriving in the city from their native New Zealand in 1978, the Drongos worked on the local club scene and appear regularly at such respectable underground venues as CBGB and Irving Plaza. But they still like the street. Last fall they parked their beat-up van at the curb and recorded some of their sidewalk sessions on a simple eight-track machine. Small Miracles is the aptly titled result. Technically, it doesn't sound as if it were recorded on the street, despite the blat of a horn at the beginning of Some Things, which Jean sings in her country-inflected voice. The quartet plays in an early Beatles vein, with hints of latter-day power pop and rockabilly (and a few rousing outright statements such as Chuck Berry's Too Much Monkey Business and Johnny Cash's Get Rhythm). Listening to the record is almost as much fun as standing there at Broadway and 50th Street, tapping a foot and digging into a pocket for change. (Proteus, P.O. Box 5233, FDR Station, N.Y., NY. 10150, $8.95)
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