Picks and Pans Review: Beautiful Thing

updated 11/30/1987 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 11/30/1987 AT 01:00 AM EST

Ben Vaughn Combo

He once wrote a song to proclaim his love for 7-Eleven fast food. He drives a 1969 Rambler station wagon. He wears wrinkly T-shirts that have faded into a basic non-color. In sum he is Ben Vaughn, the anti-rock star, the pride of Camden, N.J., the scrawny kid down the street who went and recorded some albums—a man who has searched deep into the heart of rock 'n' roll and surfaced with a style as friendly as Donna Rice on a boat trip. Mixing rockabilly, blues, country, a touch of the Velvet Underground and a few other easy-to-digest ingredients, Vaughn's second album is a triumph of average guy music. There's nothing too complex about the lyrics, nothing to make listeners go wild with Ben-mania. But Vaughn still manages to project a half-kidding tone that keeps his most banal songs from turning dumb. Jerry Lewis in France compares a lover's embrace to the career peak of some of this century's heroes: "I feel like JFK in '62/ The trumpets play Camelot when I'm with you." Vaughn's backup trio chimes in every now and then to sing along in the hokey style of a '40s swing band; they also produce some upbeat roots-rock that fits nicely with Vaughn's unpretentious singing. To enhance the mood, Vaughn wails away on harmonica, and keyboard player Gus Cordovox occasionally whips out an accordion which, despite its sometimes tacky past, turns out to be the chosen instrument of lots of hip bands these days. She's A Real Scream gets the prize for best song. To illustrate the lyrics, the band members let loose uninhibited coyote howls. These guys sound so happy that before you know it, everybody may want to buy a Rambler, head on down to the 7-Eleven and join Ben and the boys for a grape Slurpee and a sing-along. (Restless)

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