Lauren Wood is a Pittsburgh, PA-born singer-songwriter. She is presently preparing for the release of her upcoming album, The Warner Bros. Years, dropping February 14th on Blixa Sounds. But first, for those not yet familiar with the artist in question, a bit o’ background.
Lauren Wood, a.k.a. Ilene Rappaport has a music career that harkens back to the mid-1960s. It was then that she founded her first band Rebecca & the Sunnybrook Farmers. In 1973 she sang backing vocals for Frank Zappa’s jazz-rock album, The Grand Wazoo.
She also formed the trio Chunky, Novi and Ernie, a family act that included her cousin Novi Novog and bass guitarist Ernie Emerita. The act put out two LPs for Warner Bros. They were produced by John Cale of the Velvet Underground and Van Halen producer-to-be Ted Templeman.
In 1979 she recorded her solo eponymous premiere platter under her own name. Nevertheless, Novog and Emerita still appeared on the album. Other artists appearing on the individual initial audio offering included Doobie Brothers Michael McDonald and Patrick Simmons, as well as Toto guitarist Steve Lukather, Montrose guitarist Ronnie Montrose, Beatles buddy, and Traveling Wilburys’ drummer Jim Keltner, and Little Feat’s own Bill Payne and Fred Tackett.
Woods released her sophomore solo selection, Cat Trick, in 1081. (She would later name her greeting card company, Cat Tricks, which offered cars complete with photos of her favorite felines.) The album is perhaps best known for her song “Fallen” which would garner additional attention nearly nine years later when it would be included on the now-famous Pretty Woman soundtrack.
The motion picture soundtrack, which also included cuts by the Red Hot Chili Peppers, David Bowie and (of course) Roy Orbison, would go on to sell more than 5 million copies. “Fallen” would also be covered by a diverse group of other performers including Johnny Mathis, Nicolette Larson, and Larry Coryell. Since 1997 she released four more recordings prior to this upcoming album.
Wood’s signature sound transformed somewhat throughout her career. It is a mix of music genres including rock, pop, and soft rock.
The Warner Bros. Years
The obvious centerpiece of The Warner Bros. Years is the above-mentioned adult contemporary hit “Fallen” from the 1990 Pretty Woman original motion picture soundtrack. But this upcoming work is more than a single song. It is a 19-track remastered, retrospective re-presentation of Wood’s self-titled 1979 platter and the 1981 follow-up Cat Trick. This is the first time either LP has been offered on CD.
This 19-cut collection opens on the hit song “Please Don’t Leave.” It’s her first duet with yacht rock raver McDonald. It speaks volumes of that era despite not originally being a huge hit.
The pair performs together again on the catchy cut “Hollywood.” Again there is an undeniable familiarity to this tune that even a first-time listener should notice.
Other highlights include her cover of the 1977 Doobie Brothers’ “Nothin’ But A Heartache” written by McDonald.
She also offers up an adaptation of the 1972 Steely Dan ditty “Dirty Work.” It comes complete with a guitar solo by Montrose.
“Time Zone” follows. It features some musical moments that are almost reminiscent of early Kate Bush and features Novog on synth.
“Breakin’ Too Many Hearts” opens the Cat Trick tracks.
While much of the material on this release exemplifies her skills as a solo songwriter, “In The Dark” was co-written with Allen Willis.
“Work On It” features Robbie Dupree on vocals. (Dupree is perhaps best known for his hit song “Steal Away.”)
Not to be confused with the 1952 country hit by Hank Williams, “Half As Much” is an original song that further demonstrates her ability to work with others as the music here was co-composed with Mark Pelsone.
Finally, let’s forget the above-mentioned 1981 hit “Fallen.” It’s highlighted with a sax solo by R&B and Blues specialist David Woodford and percussion by Airto Moreira (Cannonball Adderley, Miles Davis, Stan Getz, Santana).
Overall, the album marks that famous musical moment when we lowered the disco balls and dipped our toes into the rockin’ residue of that first splash of a new wave of music.
It also offers ample evidence that music that evokes that popular West Coast sound and strikes a chord in the adult contemporary market may at best always be commercially viable and at worst offer a secretly welcomed moment of nostalgia and musical melancholy. So check out Lauren Wood’s The Warner Bros. Years because it’s “Gotta Lotta” good stuff on it.