The Vintage Calvinos Press

The Ringmaster Review
The Vintage Calvinos – “An Invitation To Infamy” Published October 18th by RingMaster
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Being engulfed in fascination for something is one of life’s pleasures and stepping into the kaleidoscopic world of An Invitation To Infamy is certainly both. The debut album from The Vintage Calvinos is an absorbing tapestry of sound and suggestion loaded with observation, insight, and a creative devilment which just gets right under the skin.

The band is the creation of song writer/bassist/vocalist David Baird who lured in some of the finest Scottish musicians to the Aberdeen based project and indeed, in the case of backing singer Xavia, literally just passing by talent of drawn to the pied piper-esque sounds coming through the windows of The Anatomy Rooms where the band was rehearsing. Together they have created a web of temptation in skilfully conjured word and multi-flavoured music which has the body swaying and imagination swinging in joyful enterprise and contemplation. From pop to indie, rock to folk and a host of numerous other spices, An Invitation To Infamy is a beautiful collusion drawn from the hearts of a collective of musical adventurers.

The instantly compelling rub of drama soaked strings as Prelude leaps upon ears and imagination sets the scene and tone of things to come, its vocal compulsion subsequently slipping into a warm slow waltz with a flowing energy which soon has hips leaning to and fro as guitars and strings engage with the romancing keys in entwining dulled yet potent percussive beats. The forcibly engaging piece leads into the waiting arms of Last Tango which opens with melodic drama somewhat akin to War of The Worlds. Its rich strains soon twist into a rolling stroll with more infectiousness than a viral cold and a net of creative intrigue which has ears and thoughts enslaved. Baird’s great vocals are more than matched by the backing of Xavia, both wrapped in the melodic dexterity of Paul Davidson’s guitar. With a second never wasted on predictability, the track is superb, almost reason enough alone to accept An Invitation To Infamy.

So Many People follows, the buzz of life breeding a slow carnival march, one seemingly infusing the tiredness of perpetually imposing life with the joy of being. Brass blows with an enticing clamour as rhythms throb, a welcoming cacophony parting for the melancholic spicing of Baird’s vocals and the stirring scythes of strings and in turn uniting for a creative throng which just magnetises the senses. Like a sonic pagan scented Lowry composition with a broader outlook, the track utterly seduces before new single You Are Always on My Mind infests the psyche. The striking coaxing of Mitsuki Takayama’s violin instantly grips, a hold tightening as the song evolves into a sixties pop scented canter. There is no resistance to its teasing temptations and lively catchiness, the quickly involved antics of body and vocal chords swift evidence. Davidson’s wall of keys is just as irresistible along with the theatre of strings and the rhythmic saunter of Baird’s bass and Fraser Peterkin’s drum beats.

The indie seduction of This Handsome Boy absorbs attention next. It is a track with a touch of Lightning Seeds to it at certain moments and pure pop contagion throughout led by the golden tones of Iona Macdonald and warm surges of brass expelled by trumpeter Bill Thompson, trombonist Denis Webb, and saxophonist Dave Carter. Sometimes there is something about it which feels quite familiar yet for no obvious reason as it floods ears with instinctive pleasure.
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The album’s first single, No Room at The Inn released a couple of weeks ago, steps in to captivate straight after with its gentle stroll. Its proposal is low key, compared to other songs, but rich invitation into the album’s broadening musical and lyrical craft while Clouds smoulders with elegance and undiluted captivation. At times it sounds like a blend of Steely Dan and Weekend, a wistful seduction with intensity in its heart and an energetic adventure in its nature.

Through the haunting entrance and golden incestuous intimacy of Alice and the minimalistic but rich stirring of Lost, band and album continue to bewitch with adventurous diversity and creative revelry. Both tracks simply enthral whilst manipulating the body before Teardrops in My Eyes swaggers in with sorrowful melodies and sinful energy to reinforce the submission of ears and appetite before The Vintage Calvinos.

The dusky rock ‘n’ roll of Rock Dreams Part 2 is like a soundtrack to many of our musical upbringings and warm homage to its kings and quite irresistible as too after a magnetic instrumental reprise of No Room at The Inn, is closing track The Beautiful and the Damned. A shadow draped ballad to the lost and the lonely with the darkest outcome, the song is simply sultry aural beauty epitomising the craft and debut of The Vintage Calvinos.

With a host of other striking individual contributions involved in the collective creation of An Invitation To Infamy, all deserving recognition, the album is one of the year’s most essential encounters. The first listen is gold but only an appetizer to the delights and unbridled pleasures which follow with every subsequent union between ear and sound.
Blues Bunny
Album, Single and EP Reviews
Artist: The Vintage Calvinos
Title: An Invitation to Infamy
Catalogue Number: Stereogram Recordings STECD 010
Review Format: CD/DL
Release Year: 2017

It’s not often that you get an album with a prelude these days but that is exactly what The Vintage Calvinos – Aberdeen’s David Baird and associates – give us to kick off “An Invitation to Infamy”. Being a full time cynic, I immediately suspected an attack of artistic pretension was on the cards but what I experienced instead was a selection of songs that, while not quite emulating the style of Tom Waits, demonstrate effectively that there is a new storyteller amongst us.

In consequence, that makes “An Invitation to Infamy” an album to absorb in a single sitting with ambient sound effects, oblique samples and curious interludes being used to join everything into one cohesive yet still thematically diverse musical entity that engages both heart and ears. Add in a curious tendency to use a knowing quirkiness with abandon and you end up with a selection of songs that are most certainly not standard even if the ever sociable ghost of Britpop drops by to haunt both “You Are Always on My Mind” and “This Handsome Boy”. No exorcism is required though as those songs are just about perfect.
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The most interesting thing about this album though is its very complexity. Albums these days tend to rely on the computer to make it perfect yet “An Invitation to Infamy” instead verges on the untidy with individuality much to the fore and everything but the kitchen sink thrown in to provide ballast for a ship that simply refuses to be sunk.

One for mature tastes perhaps but if you have the ears to appreciate rambling magnificence then The Vintage Calvinos are the band for you.

Manic Pop Thrills
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DIVERSITY OF EXPERIENCE – The Vintage Calvinos feature
Date: October 27, 2017, Author: manicpopthrills

Whilst it’s nice to receive free music through the post there’s a certain degree of trepidation attached with receiving a physical artefact as opposed to, say a bundle of MP3s. When it’s cost someone money to send you something, what if I don’t like it?

Consequently, the more I receive from Stereogram, the more I’m convinced that the next one will be the one I don’t like. They’ve had a good run so far, but how long can it last?

Since I knew nothing about the Vintage Calvinos before opening a package the other week I was concerned that ‘An Invitation to Infamy’ might be the album to end that run.

Except it was clear from one play that, resoundingly, emphatically, it was not. Yet again I’ve won in the Stereogram lottery.

As is par for the course the Calvinos don’t sound quite like any other act on the label. Instead they sound like they complete another essential part of the wider jigsaw puzzle that is Stereogram – I’ve a suspicion that if the Vintage Calvinos didn’t exist then Jeremy Thoms would have to invent something very like them.

What is it that makes ‘Invitation’ stand apart from the rest of the catalogue? Stereogram records rarely lack in ambition but ‘An Invitation to Infamy’ dials that up several notches with a dizzying array of instrumentation applied to the 13 songs.

Strings feature throughout such as on driving opening instrumental ‘Prelude’ and the quieter ‘Alice’ and the former in particular remind me of Lomond Campbell’s ‘Black River Promise’. Yet a couple of songs into the record ‘So Many People’ features what sounds like a brass band imparting joie de vivre to the song’s choruses as a contrast to the otherwise mournful verses.

This is typical of the record – the arrangements vary from one song to the next never allowing a particular sound to emerge. Yet there’s undeniably a sense of cohesion to the set and the overarching impressions I get from the record are those of joyful energy and melody.

Both ‘You Are Always on My Mind’ (no, not that one) and ‘No Room at The Inn’ (which sounds a bit like poppy, early Triffids) have already been put out as singles. Yet ‘Invitation’ seems to have an endless supply of similarly catchy material which could act as attention grabbers.
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One of these is ‘Handsome Boy’, which manages to sound reminiscent of both label-mates St Christopher Medal and Glasgow’s Randolph’s Leap, whilst the rockier ‘Last Tango’ is another. ‘Rock Dreams Part 2’ draws on similar influences to another Stereogram label-mate, Roy Moeller, albeit with far more opulent instrumentation.

Ahead of today’s release I managed a quick chat with Vintage Calvinos mastermind David Baird to find out a little more about the record.

First up, David explained that the Vintage Calvinos are a disparate group of musicians brought together specifically to realise his ambitions for the record.

“The Vintage Calvinos aren’t an entity as such. All of those who played on the album are involved with other groups which cover a wide range of styles as I wanted a diversity of experience and approach to playing.

“The drummer is a jazzer who has done numerous sessions, Iona MacDonald has her own folk band Doghouse Roses, Jeremy has his Cathode Ray, I’ve done work with Knox and the Vibrators and so on.”

Applying that diversity to the individual tracks followed on naturally from David’s original songwriting.

“Firstly, I wrote the songs, worked out how I wanted to arrange them, went into the studio with Paul Davidson who plays on the album and he recorded guide tracks. I then approached the musicians whom I wanted and we set up sessions.”

To an outsider it seemed like the process of realising such an ambitious vision for the record would be fraught with difficulty, but David reckons it all went smoothly.

“There weren’t any major challenges with the ensemble other than arranging times when we could all get together. The vision I had for the album is pretty much how it has turned out. I wanted each song to be different, an eclectic mix you might say.”

David is quite clear about what’s most important to any Vintage Calvinos tune.

“My main priority with a song is the melody. The arrangement can be smart, the playing exceptional, the production just right but, for myself at any rate, if the melody is weak, you’ve wasted your time.”

As is often the case with Stereogram acts, an album appearing on the label is often the culmination of many years history.

“I’ve known Jeremy a long time and when I told him what I was working on, he immediately suggested I come on board with Stereogram. As it turned out, he played and sang on a few songs and then went on to mix and master the album as well.”

I honestly can’t recommend ‘An Invitation to Infamy’ enough and it’s available on Stereogram from today.