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Ben Arnold

CALICO (Scifidelity) • Ben Arnold

One of the greatest Philly roots pop rockers, without a doubt. A singer songwriter's sensibility with a rocker's attitude and a classic sense of melody put his songs right on the money. Ben knows what makes pop records work, and has the chops and the friends to get it done. The artist produced with a couple of multi-instrumentalists. Shane Smith, aside from some synth, bass and the occasional horns, handled all the nifty loops on the record. Scott Bricklin laid down a truckload of fantastic tracks, on drums, bass, guitar, baritone guitar, sitar, voice and piano, yo. Scott and Shane also engineered, with Matt Muir, who played great drums. Todd Barneson on mandolin made a difference, as did Mike Frank on Hammond. Many others joined in to great effect.

Ben's a favored Philly son, and nationally a cult figure. WXPN in that city is a major trend setter in the AAA radio format, and they've always been in his corner, to everyone's credit. Three hot records precede Calico, Soar (1993), Almost Speechless (his major label 1995 release on Ruffhouse/Columbia) and In Case I'm Gone Tomorrow from 2000, which included 15 bonus mp3s. Ben Arnold and Scott Bricklin teamed up with two other major Philly talents, Jim Boggia and Joseph Parsons, to form a regional supergroup called 4 Way Street, which put out a well-received CD on Sanctuary Records.

Calico is a super record, the lighthearted savvy of Ben's smoky tone contrasted with the pure-sounding background vocals is classic pop. I'm crazy for "House of Cards," it reminds me in spirit of NRBQ, the Napoleans in rags for whom the artist and I share a near idolatrous affection. Ben Arnold is so all there that he's the kind of guy that could get big any minute, with the right AAA radio song. We get very excited about grown up pop music, there's never enough of it around. Ben fits the bill to a T, as a trip to our Listen page will soon prove. Oh, and do be sure to buy Calico, here. • FG

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