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With the release of the long-anticipated All the Colors, Greater California are just getting warmed up
Record stores may be a dying breed, but on April 7, Long Beach quintet Greater California made one such place feel like the liveliest spot in, well, greater Southern California, at least.
While big-box retailers were hawking copies of the new Lil Wayne or Rascal Flatts discs, beloved Belmont Shore record shop Fingerprints was hosting the release party for Greater California’s third album, All the Colors. It was an occasion for friends, family and fans—older folks, little kids and, of course, music snobs—to share the good vibes found in abundance on the album. Each aisle echoed with the undeniably cheery energy of songs like the title (and opening) track: “The summer sun is kissing again,” lead singer Terry Prine advises. Lines like that, delivered with no trace of irony and with intricate yet unpretentious melodies and refreshing harmonies, hit listeners like a sugar rush with no crash. This stuff sounds fun because it is fun.
The charm of a local, independent record store was a perfect match for the out-of-time quality found in much of All the Colors. This aesthetic informs the visuals as well as the tunes: The liner notes and CD itself are designed to look like a View-Master reel.
“The idea came to me during the holidays,” Prine writes via e-mail. “It seemed to complete the album visually and fit so perfectly in the sense that it held a form of childhood nostalgia for all of us.”
The nearly five years between their latest and their sophomore release, Somber Wurlitzer, was beginning to make people nostalgic for Greater California’s existing discography. Recording started almost three years ago, giving the album a nearly “mythical” status, sort of a local (and not terrible) Chinese Democracy. So along with all the positivity exuded from the band that day at Fingerprints, there was also a sense of relief.
Prine explains that the longer-than-average gestation period is a result of the album’s humble origins as a collection of demos and covers (their versions of “So You Want to be a Rock and Roll Star” by the Byrds and “Beechwood Park” by the Zombies remain unreleased).
“Word got out around town that we were recording again, and we were approached by Ikey Owens to produce the album,” Prine writes.
Ah, yes, Ikey Owens—seemingly an obligatory presence for any Long Beach outfit. The Mars Volta keyboardist/Free Moral Agents bandleader was a Greater California fan, and the band was excited to embrace his musical contributions.
“I think Ikey’s vision for producing really revolutionized the way we will approach recording from this point on,” Prine writes. “He turned us up, he added color and he expanded our boundaries by about 20,000 feet.”
Prine explains that this amplified enthusiasm was, in some ways, both a blessing an a curse, and added to the record’s delay.
“I think by the end of the recording we were all so ambitiously chasing the dragon, that our ears and hearts may have got the best of us,” he writes.
Location was another factor that pushed things back a bit. Greater California’s first two albums were recorded in El Cajon down in San Diego County, the latest one in Signal Hill and the band’s own rehearsal space. Prine calls working so close to home the “biggest culprit in the delay.”
But these delays would only be relevant if All the Colors turned out to be vaporware. It’s here, and the lush melodies and tasteful arrangements (at times enlisting vibraphones, trumpet and a Hammond organ) suggest that it was worth the wait.
And silly as it may sound, April—with the weather starting to warm up—really feels like the best time to release the album. There’s a song called “Almost Sunshine,” after all. The vibrancy of tracks like “Five Senses” would simply lack context during drearier seasons. Prine agrees.
“We were really wanting the album release to happen right before summer,” he writes. “It just didn’t seem right to have it come out in winter.”
Greater California plan to take full advantage of the summer. They’re planning on touring behind All the Colors, most likely heading to Seattle (where they’ll be providing an always-needed dose of sunshine) and back.
Visit Greater California online at www.myspace.com/greatercalifornia.