HGR CD Review: David Uosikkinen's In the Pocket

DAVID UOSIKKINEN’S IN THE POCKET – SESSIONS: ESSENTIAL SONGS OF PHILADELPHIA (no label) Known as the drummer for one of Philadelphia’s most famous rock band exports, The Hooters; David Uosikkinen has assembled an all-star cast of Philadelphia-based musicians to form his project, In The Pocket. On Sessions: Essential Songs of Philadelphia, Uosikkinen and In The Pocket celebrate Philadelphia’s rich musical heritage by updating ten songs either created by the city’s musicians or recorded in Philadelphia; and a portion of proceeds from the album’s sale benefits Philadelphia’s Settlement Music School. The cast of performers here is vast; including Uosikkinen and his Hooters bandmates Eric Bazilian, Rob Hyman, Fran Smith Jr. and John Lilley; as well as Scandal singer Patty Smyth, Tommy Conwell, Jeffrey Gaines, Schoolly D and many more. The songs targeted on Sessions cover a wide swath of Philly music history and are all given upbeat treatments, resulting in a joyous and celebratory vibe throughout the album. Two of the most well-known songs are Todd Rundgren creations; the rousing disc-opening version of Nazz’s 1968 chestnut “Open My Eyes” with Jeffrey Gaines singing lead, and the Cliff Hillis-fronted remake of Rundgren’s 1972 solo hit “I Saw the Light.” Another clear highlight is the rock-infused update of Trammps’ 1977 disco-era hit “Disco Inferno,” featuring lead singer Graham Alexander, midsong rapping by Schoolly D, and backing vocals from Richie and Charlie Ingui of the Soul Survivors (known for their 1967 hit “Expressway to Your Heart”). Patty Smyth provides the voice on In The Pocket’s update of the A’s 1981 minor hit “A Woman’s Got the Power.” Early Philadelphia rock’n’roll is remembered with the Tommy Conwell-fronted version of The Dovells’ 1963 hit “You Can’t Sit Down.” The musicians pay homage to Philadelphia rocker and hitmaker Robert Hazard by revisiting his 1983 song “Change Reaction,” and they recall early 1970s group The American Dream by covering their minor hit “I Ain’t Searchin.’” And two Hooters numbers are updated; the group’s 1980 song “Soon You’ll Be Gone,” which pays tribute to departed band members John Kuzma and Bobby Woods; and the disc-ending impassioned rendition of “Beat Up Guitar.” The performances are vibrant and spirited, as the assembled musicians put heart and soul into their celebration of their city’s musical heritage. The sound is full and edgy, allowing the energy of each remake to shine. Sessions offers an exciting listening experience as well as a Philadelphia music history lesson. Here’s hoping it’s just the first of more such chapters recalling Philly’s rich music tradition. (The CD can be obtained through the website www.songsinthepocket.org.)