Ben Vaughn’s long artistic career will come to a close with the release of The World of Ben Vaughn. A return to his roots – his recording roots, that is. The album will be released on CD, digital download and via streaming platforms on May 20, after releasing it on 12″ vinyl LP as Record Store Day First.
In 1986, the singer-songwriter released his first vinyl-only album. He did not have a choice. The CD player was not yet an everyday household appliance. Now, many years later, he’s releasing his new record the same way. Energized by the invitation to participate in Record Store Day 2022, Ben recorded the album with a vision of a 12-inch LP spinning in his head.
“I could imagine the packaging, the label, the colored vinyl, the whole thing. It was a seamless, organic process. I even heard Side One and Side Two break while I was creating. Amazing how how inspiring a manufacturing format could be!”
Writing and recording within a specific time frame is nothing new for Vaughn. After releasing seven albums (including the legendary Rambler ’65, recorded entirely in his car) and touring internationally, he spent more than a decade in Hollywood creating television music for Third Rock From The Sun, That’ 70s Show and to compose many films. “It was extremely stressful, but I enjoyed it. Nothing focuses the mind like knowing you’ll be hanging in the morning.”
To realize his new vision for vinyl, Vaughn recorded at two California locations: the Relay Shack in the Mojave Desert, well known to fans of his syndicated radio show, The Many Moods of Ben Vaughn, and the Penthouse in Santa Monica.
He also decided to play all the instruments. “When I was a teenager I was blown away by the early albums of Emitt Rhodes and McCartney and my first recordings were solo band experiences. I started out as a drummer so it was natural to build a track from It wasn’t easy in the days of reel-to-reel tape but I persevered and ended up recording in a more conventional way with backing musicians but came back to that method of once in a while, depending on the material, felt good for that approach.”
The lead single, “In My Own Reality,” is a country-rocker about creating a world in his head where trouble surrenders but never settles down full time. The arrangement features a floating, spaced-out guitar and a California hippie bass solo.
In “Wayne Fontana Was Wrong”, Ben Vaughn proudly pays homage to one of his musical heroes and the British hit Invasion, “The Game of Love”. However, notes Ben, “Wayne had it all wrong. Love is definitely not a game.” This important social message is musically underscored by handclaps and a 60s garage rock organ.
“Blind Alley” is a black and white film noir in song. Dark streets. A mysterious meeting. Danger lurks around every corner. Treason. And of course, love. The backing track of bass, snaps, and snare provides a sparse enough setting for this cautionary tale.
The 12-string guitar on “Nobody Likes a Show Off” (a song that “needed writing,” says Vaughn) and banjo on “Deep In The Weeds” keep the overall sound of the record varied. Plus the blues harmonica. “Probably the result of cutting my teeth playing biker bars in the woods of South Jersey at the time. These guys were yelling, ‘Play the blues or die!’ And I did. Which explains why I’m still here to make this album.
Ben’s background as a record producer (Arthur Alexander, Ween, Los Straitjackets, Nancy Sinatra, Charlie Feathers), fame as a songwriter (Marshall Crenshaw recorded “I’m Sorry But So Is Brenda Lee” and his collaborations with artists such as Alex Chilton, Alan Vega and Rodney Crowell have earned him a reputation as the proverbial career entertainer, but that doesn’t mean he’s tied to the past.
His work remains relevant. Just recently, indie rock icons Deer Tick released a version of Ben’s “Too Sensitive For This World”. And his radio show continues to capture a multi-generational audience. “Turns out clinging to my old vinyl records and 8-track cassettes was a smart business decision. Who knew?”
2022 is shaping up to be a busy year for Ben Vaughn. In connection with The World Of Ben Vaughn’s Record Store Day release, there will be a series of dates in the United States and a tour of Spain in May. “I’m excited to perform these new songs in front of people and it looks like it might actually be allowed to happen now!”
He recently released a video for an off-album single “Dancing In My Mind” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yEUbiDhxEg0