50,000,000 Elvis Fans Can't be wrong

Arrol Sean Flynn -  As a card carrying fan of Cody Lee Songs and frequent listener to said album, allow me to say congratulations on another fine piece of musical wonder. I urge everyone to check it out. 

Lon Rozelle - Bout time, my friend. Great rekkid. 

Ryan Carlson - Another beaut, Cody! Glad we had a chance to chat about it awhile back. 😎👍 

Tedi Lopez Mills -  I love it. 

Gary Moss - Love this record, Cody Lee! 

Kim Lopez-Mills -  It’s great, Cody Lee! ♥️ 

Dean Landew - Toot your horn. Another excellent album. You continue to go your own way, with top-notch results. 

Binky Philips -  Way way back when we were all playing Max's and CBGB hoping for the A&R gods to show up, one of the best bands that, like The Planets, came this close to the mythical record deal more than once, was Falcon Eddy led by my friend, Cody Lee. Like me, he simply never stopped making music regardless. True to form, he's just released his what? 4th album under the lovely name, Johnny & The Whatnots. The name is silly fun, the music is not. These are sophisticated songs, musically, lyrically, sonically. The vocals are hushed and pull you in. The lyrics are serious and seriously good. Cody has lived life and it shows in his music. Real heartache. Quiet but defiant angst. Wit. Lots of 12-string ear ambrosia. While Cody's influences are fully integrated, I hear Tom Petty, Pete Townshend, Elton, Bruce, Roger Waters, Beatles, Tom Waits, Richard Thompson, and a singer I can't place. The album also features a killer emotive version of the Velvets "All Tomorrow's Parties" arranged to give you the same wistfulness as "Hand Bags And Glad Rags" by Rod the Mod. Okay, enough from me. Here's the link to Cody's wonderful songwriting and performing. 
So there!

reviews of "The Love Songs Of Dario Cohen"

By Dean Landew:
 

"The Love Songs of Dario Cohen" is a dramatically hushed yet grandly ambitious album. Dario wants to seduce you with his whispery baritone and the velvety instrumentation and muted colors that his first-rate crew of musicians and vocalists serve up, and he succeeds.  In so doing, he makes a case for himself as a potential member of the Great Jewish Rock and Roll Songwriters Club, whose members include such luminaries as Leonard Cohen (but without the existentialist death rattle), Randy Newman (but without the lacerating sarcasm and irony) and Neil Diamond (but without the schmaltzy Elvis-isms). Only time will tell if he succeeds in this regard. 

What I can say is this: there’s a lot going on here, musically and lyrically, and the album doesn’t reveal its secrets immediately. This is the work of a mature and sophisticated writer and musician who is still evolving, who has lived and loved and lost, and who’s changing moods reflect his complexity. The album’s depth and emotional impact is there for those who seek it, and the patient listener will be rewarded with an understanding of its layers of meaning, starting with its deceptively simple and seemingly straightforward title. 

If You Have to Go: 

This is the album opener, and it is stunning. It begins with an atmospheric organ chord swirling softly for a few seconds. A trumpet then plays a haunting minor-key solo for a full minute, underpinned by a lightly strummed acoustic guitar. Dario doesn’t make his entrance until well over a minute, but what an entrance it is. His voice is barely audible but instantly hypnotic. The vocals are so dialed down that you may have to put on headphones to hear them, but even if you can’t make out every word, the mood is spellbinding. It’s a masterpiece of orchestration and understatement, and a thing of real beauty. Someone is breaking his heart, and it seems he can barely get the words out in response. 

Your Fan Club: 

The mood shifts to a major key. Against a gauzy background of acoustic guitar, he tries to assure someone, perhaps his wife, that she can put her trust in him. This raises the unanswered question of what led up to this scene. 

Incredible: 

No angst here. Just a gentle declaration of Dario’s love for his woman, built on a foundation of light percussion, vocal harmonies, and a jazzy electric piano. 

The Sound of Lonesome: 

Piano, organ and rolling tom-toms provide a dreamy backdrop for this enigmatic tale of two lonely strangers at a late-night bar. 

Now I Know the Blues: 

A curveball. Musically, this is the most upbeat song on the album. It actually swings, complete with handclaps, like a restrained and jazzier version of Booker T and the MGs, with the addition of an unexpected flute that riffs throughout, but the lively musical accompaniment belies the stark reality that Dario addresses head on: “I used to do a lot of things I don’t do anymore, because I just can’t.” 

Hold Me When the World: 

His perspective moves from his heart to his bank account. Economic pressures have got him worried, but as the song concludes, he reaches for a positive way out: “Let them throw whatever they got.” The flute once again dominates, but this time, it’s far more restrained, suggesting that all may not end well. 

The Love of the Hurt: 

How’s this for a devastating couplet: “Happiness proved too elusive/And torture felt just right/Working out our issues/Every fuckin’ night.” But it’s sung so softly, that you might not even hear it. In addition, Dario sweetens the bitterness with another upbeat and jazzy instrumental track that recalls 1970s rhythm and blues. 

If You Want Me to Love You: 

A melancholy flute line weaves its way through this snapshot of a woman who wants to take Dario away from his woman. His response: “She’s a saint, she’s a goddess, she’s a golden girl.” Yet the mood of the song expresses a tone of regret. 

Drunk: 

With stately piano chords, a lovely acoustic guitar line, and some gorgeous harmony singing, the album closes on a somber note, about the state of our country. Dario is back at that late-night bar, contemplating the world. He names no names, and the song is not overtly political, but he seems saddened and provides no solutions for these uncertain times.  The song ends on a beautifully ambiguous chord. 

"The Love Songs of Dario Cohen" is a bold, serious and highly personal statement from a real artist. 

DEANLANDEW.COM

By Kurt Eger-
 

Firstly, it is impressive the way in which the “The Love Songs Of Dario Cohen” (TLSODC) holds together musically, sonically, thematically. These are songs and confessions of a man who is world-hardened and refined, who has lived, experienced joys and sorrows. This is evident in his vocal delivery. The Spanish guitar (nylon strings to the uniniiated) is a key writing partner and the foundational instrument on these songs.  Anyone that’s been listening to “pop” since the ‘70s will hear echoes of Aja or The Nightfly in the songs. I appreciate how the “middle-aged” voice juxtaposes the twenty-something female background voices so the music always remains young and fresh even while the topic material is mature. His voice throughout could be compared to Leonard Cohen or Tom Waits, but Dario’s voice has a tenderness & caring that the aforementioned singers never really demonstrated- vulnerable, but not aloof in their delivery. 

If You Have To Go: 

I am such a sucker for the sentimental- this one oozes it, I absolutely love the fluegelhorn intro beautifully played by Chicago jazz great, Victor Garcia-so sweet. And the minor 7th and minor 9th chords.  Beautiful opener and sets the tone for everything to follow. 

Your Fan Club: 

This is a lucky woman that has a song like this penned for her.  Kicking off with drummer Neal Wehman’s Steve Gadd inspired- “50 Ways” intro (nice!) and the one to the two-major chord progression (hold the 7 in the bass), one of my favourite changes. Check out the way he sings “maybe a little TLC or maybe more”, followed by the sexy blues riff on the nylon string and then a little growl ala Barry White. 

Incredible: 

Again, the woman who inspired this should smile daily. I was cruising up I-65 heading toward Vanderbilt, this is a great high-speed driving song and it gave me the same feeling I had listening to Breezin’ back in the day. Beautiful Fender Rhodes, played by Paul Mutzabaugh(keys throughout), riffing over the diminished chords Auto-tune is eschewed throughout the record. Maybe, there were a few spots it might have been used it, but as we know from pre-auto-era recordings,perfect pitch is not always “perfect”. 

The Sound Of Lonesome: 

I see the artist walking down a frigid Chicago Street at 2AM. Beautifully evocative of late nights in a big city.. 

Now I Know The Blues: 

For this reviewer is the record’s zenith. With a lyrical co-write assist from Rocky Maffit (http://rockymaffit.com) “But they don’t look back at me like when I was 23”- great line. ha, how true! Making light of getting older. “Bonnie had a Clyde”- excellent image. This is a fun song throughout. Terrific flute by another Chicago jazz giant, Steve Eisen. The track ends with a full-out, stomping, clapping, singing gospel choir (compliments of the amazing Rena Day Himick). 

Hold Me When The World: 

Flute and Hammond play intro line together, nice. Wurlitzer piano? Dario, takes a rare solo. Cool. 

Love Of The Hurt: 

I always appreciate when I hear a rhyme that I haven’t heard before: discern and learn. Otherwise the tune glides along- and also to hear a well-placed curse word and not be offended, well done. 

If You Want Me To Love You: 

Nice groove throughout, it’s important and helpful to have a good co-producer to keep a project on track. Besides a sterling job on the engineering side, Dario identified in Fred Breitberg, a major ally in bringing his concept to fruition. 

Drunk: 

Curiously, probably my favourite track- I am attracted to the desperate, the lonely, the hopeless. The opening horn triplets push, taunt and prod. “Truths get roughed up like a cheap whore” is a strong image. And the girls really shine here(apparently “girls” again, equals the amazing  & multi-tracked Rena Day Himick”). I like the way the song unravels at the end- it gives the listener the sense that the “story” is not finished. 

KURT EGER-https://www.facebook.com/kurtegermusic/

Reviewed by Mike Howie 

You’ve had those moments. You grab a corner spot at the pub. Someone grabs the next chair and you two, strangers really, begin a conversation that takes you right up to closing time. It’s not so much that you agree on everything as much as it is a whole raft of ideas for you to sift through. 

That’s exactly the kind of pleasure you’ll get from The Love Songs of Dario Cohen. The record invites you in, welcomes you to all of its layers -- the instrumentation, the vocal phrasing, the backup singers. The lyrics, for goodness’ sake: smart conversation, evocative, wry and subtle. It won't make you think as much as it will invite you to. 

Dario’s voice sounds great throughout and the lyrics are smart and emotive. The music is well-played & arranged. The backup vocalists (mostly a multi-tracked Rena Day Himick) add to the music without calling attention to their parts. I was really struck by how subtle Dario is with his vocal tone, phrasing and dynamic, all beautifully captured by Chicago studio legend, Freddie Breitberg. 

Dario enlisted some of the greats of the Chicago jazz scene to help record these songs.  A good choice.  I love the jazz influence.  I was thinking how would I categorize this album? And the closest I could come was the first Al Kooper helmed Blood Sweat & Tears LP, “Child Is the Father to Man”.  The record’s jazz-infused approach works very well. And there are so many moments where either Dario’s guitar or one of the other instruments adds a punctuation mark to a lyric or a phrase. And by the way, for those who delight in all things guitar, the guitar playing is superb. This reviewer was struck again & again, with how put together the album feels. Like everything is there for a reason. Nothing is filler. 

I said it earlier, but it is worth repeating, this is smart writing. 

Some things are pretty great the first time. Some things get even better the next time. The Love Songs of Dario Cohen is like that. Great stuff, start to finish. 

One of the changes the iPod wrought (among many) was that the listener could take individual songs and use them, in whatever order, to create a soundtrack to their life. Musicians who had grown used to creating “the concept album,” now found their concepts trampled on or, worse, ignored. Artists responded by releasing CDs that were simply a collection of songs or, alternately, a concept so tight that it damn near dared the listener to try to separate the songs. Few artists bothered – or, maybe, were able - to successfully create an album that worked in both whole and parts. 

The Love Songs of Dario Cohen does just that. Successfully. 

This undeniably sophisticated and emotionally nuanced album is about love in its kaleidoscopic shadings. There’s the young, bubbling, rose-coloured blush of new in “Incredible”; the weary dysfunction of “Love of the Hurt”; the mature romance of “Your Fan Club.” Loss, need, temptation – its all here. And like love itself, this album is grand, compelling, exciting. 

Cohen is above all a songwriter, and the album is collection of strong songs. Even so, the record is bracketed by two standouts. The lush opener “If You Have to Go” lays out a musical and emotional landscape that runs through the album. It ends with the seething fury that underlies “Drunk.” Lines such as “So raise your glass to nothing” which beg to be sung with despair and ennui are instead sung by Cohen and Rena Day with a searing intensity that evokes love every bit as much as the gentler, more mournful opening track. 

For finally TLCODC is an album unified by passion. Quiet, burning, embarrassing, frightening, new, hurt, blind, liberating – passion bursts from each song and lifts the album into a realm rarely reached by new artists. It’s a remarkable achievement. And even if we aren’t lucky enough to have such passion in our lives, we can at least have it as the soundtrack. 

– M. S. Dodds

By Rocky Maffit-

The Love Songs of Dario Cohen feels like a song cycle about, what else, love. It is lush and spare at the same time. Its intimacy comes from the confessional quality of the lyrics as well as where the lead vocal is placed in the context of the rich jazz influenced orchestration. 

There are echoes here. Imagine Leonard Cohen singing with Pat Metheny. Burt Bacharach comes to mind as well, particularly in the beautiful accompanying vocals of Rena Himick. Her voice is smooth and polished while his is rough-hewn.  She is often singing in the near distance while his voice, dry as sand, is sing-speaking of love and joy through weariness. 

It is rewarding to listen closely as there is a lot of detail in the recording but it doesn’t feel fussy.  This is music for grown-ups. It could only be composed (and sung) by someone who has really lived. It is a very hopeful album about the deep pleasures of loving someone for a long time—and never giving up. 

Bravo.
http://rockymaffit.com/

Pygmalion Fest 2016

FRIDAY

With my early trepidation about the rain, I bustled around early on, and didn't catch an act in full until Cody Lee. Lee is old school in the best way, and he brought his unique brand of rock and roll to The Accord to help usher in the evening indoors. His sound has a bit of Elvis Costello mixed with the Stones, and some plantive folkiness added in. His guitar work was masterful and great to see.

Smile Politely Ms. Julia McAnly
http://www.smilepolitely.com/music/the_pygmalion_festival_music_2016_the_first_weekend_in_review/

Cody Lee
Songs for Damaged Hearts
(Periscope)

Cody Lee is a reflective romantic, a singer/songwriter who makes no apologies for wearing his heart on his sleeve. He is a rare breed. In this age of backing tracks, electronic mumbo jumbo and auto tune, Lee has chosen to forge his own path, armed with only his voice, his guitar and his talent to write a good song. His efforts and those of the few like him should be heralded; for they hold the ability to introduce music once again to hungry ears in a barren industry.

With this, his second solo album, Lee has reached a new level in his development as a songwriter and storyteller. The lyrics are so masterfully crafted that you can’t help but think that many of the songs must be autobiographical. And whether or not they are doesn’t matter, what does matter is that he’s so adept at his craft that he easily brings you into the world he wants you to experience. The adventure is his to direct and he does so with focus, wit and a couple of appropriate covers, both of which are done “Cody’s way” and support the flow of ‘Songs for Damaged Hearts.’ That’s true talent, my friend. And, he’s able to accomplish all of this without sounding like the stereotypical acoustic balladeer. Lee has a unique sound and approach that sets him apart and begs notice. And surely that comes from his long tenure slugging it out in bands from New York to the Midwest.

You see, Cody Lee is no stranger to the stage or the studio. He cut his teeth in the CBGB’s/Max’s Kansas City era of New York’s glam/punk scene. He’s shared a stage with The Kinks and played bass in The Dictators. This guy has street cred out the wazoo. As the years passed he found himself in Champaign, Illinois, the indie rock mecca, and, for nearly two decades, he fronted a blues rock band before breaking off and going acoustic. One might say he’s devolved…but they would be wrong. In reality it’s been his search for purity that has led him to strip away the accoutrements and the trappings and embark on a journey that benefits us all.
Paul Barrel - innocentwords.com

Review: “Songs For Damaged Hearts” by Cody Lee
 
“Songs For Damaged Hearts” is a perfect title for this compelling solo acoustic set of confessional ballads, performed live in the studio with only a handful of overdubs. The gently swinging guitar playing provides a vivid contrast to the subject matter of the lyrics, which explore the singer’s complex behavior in his relationships with women, or possibly with just one woman over a period of time. Yet, every lyric is written in the present tense. The ambiguity is fascinating.
 
Here are some impressions of each song, and its position in the album’s sequence.
 
Bounder: 
The album opens with some lightly rhythmic and immediately engaging strumming, with a sweetly loping overdubbed guitar line. Then it really opens: “I was a drifter, I was a bounder, I was a waste of your time.” And more: “I was a no good lover of women, filled with malice and pride.” And then an even deeper reveal: “Somewhere in the back of my mind, you could hear me cryin’, holier love than I’ve ever known, equal to the glory of Rome.”
 
75: 
The roles reverse. After imploring a lover to tell him what’s bothering her, he asks if someone told her something that didn’t turn out true and “broke your heart in 75 places.”
 
I’m Here: 
Against a shuffling minor key chord sequence, he doubles down. “I’m here, no matter what you say, I’m not running away, I’m here, I’m never gonna change, I’m not goin’ away.” But who is he addressing and under what circumstances?
 
Heroes: 
He dispenses with the wildly impassioned original approach of David Bowie’s great song about a doomed love affair. With just a vocal and an acoustic guitar, he flips the script. In a low soft voice, he puts the vulnerability of the couple’s illicit romance ahead of the crazy passion that unites them.
 
It’s Just Raining: 
Jazzy rolling minor key chords act as an undertow against the seemingly upbeat lyric. “I know some people need everything and some don’t have enough, I don’t know how much more I need, I’m fine with just your love.”
 
No Words: 
This is the album’s most accomplished and challenging song. The chord sequence is highly unusual, alternating between major and minor keys, and also between rock and jazz harmonics: “No words, no sounds, hold me in your arms forever, tell me this isn’t better than anything we have, anything we had, anything we wanted to do.” It ends on an unexpected dissonant chord, repeated five times, played emphatically and with powerful effect. Darkness descends.
 
Something To Believe In: 
His declaration of romantic idealism, complete with a lovely and graceful guitar solo. Despite the damage he’s done to others, and the damage that’s been done to him, he still wants “the magic.”
 
You Say It’s Over: 
The song begins with a simple and endearing major key guitar figure, but as soon as he starts to sing, it’s clear that he’s on the receiving end of the pain.  Even though he restrains his emotion vocally, another unexpected dissonance―an augmented note―pops up twice during both the guitar solo and the last verse of the song, leaving the impression that the end of this relationship is twisting him more than he’ll say in words. But then the narrative shifts again, into the album’s quietly uplifting three-song conclusion.
 
Mojo Darlin’: 
“Lovin’ you is good, lovin’ you is grand.” He tosses negativity aside. No dissonances, no reveals, no reversals.
 
Thirteen: 
In this tender and touching reading of the Big Star classic, one of rock and roll’s best songs about innocence and adolescence, he fondly recalls his early teenage years.
 
Mary On A Fall Day: 
The album closes with a gorgeously wistful and hauntingly enigmatic instrumental. Is he looking back on a wondrous love from long ago, or paying tribute to the love of his life, now in the autumn of their years together?
 
It may not matter. As the final guitar chord fades away, damaged hearts seem healed.
 
Maybe yours will be, too.
 
Dean Landew
 
www.deanlandew.bandcamp.com