JEFF ELBEL + PING - THE ELEVENTH HOUR STORY BOOK )(*NEW-CD, 2005) Steve Taylor + Aunt Betty's
Musically, Elbel and friends, including Andrew Carter (a.k.a. andrewesley, former Aunt Bettys guitar slinger) Phil Madeira (Hammond B3), and Steve Taylor (also a guest on Hammond B3), generate largely tongue-in-cheek, mid-tempo rock in the same vein as Swirling Eddies; in fact, Elbel’s vocals are remarkably similar to Terry Scott Taylor’s.
Ping is one of those "hard to classify" groups. Frontman, guitarist, and vocalist Jeff Elbel has such diverse musical influences that seem unrelated, until you hear the flow of songs one to another. Equal parts Big Star, The Rolling Stones, and They Might Be Giants, the Eleventh Hour Storybook covers the waterfront from relational issues ("Goodnight, Rabbit"), career problems ("Soul Destroyer"), rock star dreams ("Getting Ahead of Myself"), to humorous novelty songs ("Bark Along With Cody").
Elbel's tongue in cheek humor, combined with some wonderfully talented bandmates (Andrew Carter, formerly of LSU, currently Andrewesley; Phil Madeira; Chris Wicklas, among others) make for a fun record that, every so often, catches you off guard by making you think.
"Engine of Destruction" is an exaggerated account of the havoc a young child can wreak. "Muffin in the Oven," subtitled "the insensitive maternity song", has been featured on the Dr. Demento show, as has "Bark Along With Cody," a mostly true tale of studio recording woes caused by the neighbor's pet. "Sing It Out Loud" is a self-deprecating tale concerning the ever-revolving door of musicians that have played in, sang with, or otherwise performed in Ping.
Elbel's vocals range from '70's front men to Jonathan Rundman in style, with a dose of Mick Jagger thrown in for good measure. "You Little Victim," a depiction of martyr syndrome, rocks as hard as any song here, while "Goodnight Rabbit" may be the most complex piece. The latter blends a Rolling Stones riff with a tale of marital discord inspired by Bugs Bunny cartoons; yet the chorus of the song features a similar harmony to the old Paul Simon song "Mother and Child Reunion." "Time to Leave" is an exit song, designed to finish out a live set.
Ping is an indie/small label talent that deserves more notice than they will receive, and the pity of it is that any proceeds from the record go to Habitat for Humanity. My recommendation is this: buy one for yourself, and enjoy the wise investment you have made for your musical collection. Then buy another, give it to a friend, and write off your tax deduction to charity, knowing what your donation can bring.
Brian A. Smith
27 July 2005