Another Summer of Love

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After debuting with an album that captured the good-time, easy feeling of the early-'70s version of the Grateful Dead at their warmest, GospelbeacH return with a second album that jumps ahead a decade or so, switches gears sonically, and in the process makes a bigger impression. Under the guidance of Beachwood Sparks' Brent Rademaker, on Another Summer of Love the band shelves its impressively deep Dead worship in favor of some serious Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers vibes. From the jangling warmth of the guitars to the hooky choruses, the subtle keyboards to the ringing, overdriven guitar solos that feel lifted from Mike Campbell's bag of tricks, the album is like a lost Heartbreakers classic made just before Petty went solo on Full Moon Fever in the late '80s. The band's Jason Soda (like Rademaker, another West Coast musical lifer) handles the production duties, and using a mix of acoustic guitars, 12-string electrics, vintage keys, vocal harmonies, and the Mellotron the band America used in the '70s, he gets a richly organic sound that's stadium-sized while being far warmer and more human-sounding than anything Petty would have done in the '80s. To go along with the upgrade in sound, Rademaker's songs are some of the strongest he's put on wax in a while, with midtempo ballads like the very pretty "In the Desert" sounding really good next to chugging, Petty-sounding rockers ("Sad Country Boy"), post-Byrds rockers ("Hangin' On"), barroom rockers that sound like Dwight Twilley in a cowboy hat ("Kathleen"), and cinematic soft rock ("I Don't Wanna Lose You"). He and Soda make a fine writing team, and the assembled players (including Miranda Lee Richards on backing vocals) have all the tightness and snap of a working band, sort of like the Heartbreakers in their prime. Another Summer of Love's not a million miles away from what GospelbeacH tried to do on their first album -- Petty and the Dead certainly share large chunks of musical DNA -- but here the energy and sense of purpose the group displays make it a much more cohesive and entertaining record, filler-free and radio-ready. It's one of the most focused and hooky records Rademaker has made in his long history, and it's far more together and poppy than one may have guessed after hearing the band's first album.

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