The Cherry Bluestorms | Bad Penny Opera

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Bad Penny Opera

by The Cherry Bluestorms

A 13 track song cycle chronicling "Penny's" journey South to find herself, via the 1960's British Rock influences that inform the band's music.
Genre: Rock: Madchester
Release Date: 

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  Song Share Time Download
1. Bad Penny Overture
5:16 $0.99
2. By Your Leave
2:36 $0.99
3. A Better Place
4:07 $0.99
4. Wear Your Love Like Heaven
2:58 $0.99
5. A True Heart Wears a Thorny Crown
3:05 $0.99
6. Sunday Driving South
3:52 $0.99
7. The Country Man
3:17 $0.99
8. World Going Mad
4:37 $0.99
9. As Above so Below
4:50 $0.99
10. London Bridge
4:09 $0.99
11. To Love You Is a Crime
3:56 $0.99
12. Start Again
5:14 $0.99
13. Bad
4:02 $0.99
Downloads are available as MP3-320 files.


Album Notes
Bad Penny Opera opens somewhere in the industrial North of 1960's England. Penny and her lover are ending their relationship and Penny begins a pilgrimage South to find herself and a new life. Her story is set against a backdrop of The Cherry Bluestorms' music, fully informed by the British Rock of the era. Although the album wears its influences on its sleeve and in its grooves, it is in no way a slavish parody of the 1960's Hit Parade. Other influences, such as the 1990's Manchester scene, such as The Stone Roses and The Charlatans are also brought to bear. What emerges is a savvy and surprisingly original audio soundtrack to the era of the Angry Young Men, Carnaby Street and early British psychedelia.

The album includes The Bluestorms' version of Donovan's "Wear Your Love Like Heaven".



to write a review

Mark Mansfield

Bad Penny Opera Shines!!!
I have been listening to The Cherry Bluestorms’ new song-cycle CD, Bad Penny Opera. The CD showcases what I believe to be the Cherry Bluestorms’ strongest, most appealing songwriting to date -- assured, fully fleshed out lyrics, which at times keenly bring to mind Lennon/McCartney's deliberately playful toying and larking about with ambiguity. Glen Laughlin's full-bodied, robustly confident, contemporary production brilliantly evokes Bad Penny's milieu, the interstitial period of Britain's psychedelic nascence, while never falling prey to being slavishly "of" or hamstrung by that period. Deborah Gee's vocals find her singing with fresh vigor and aplomb, at her apex, while the band's vocals in general are polished and perfectly attuned to the period mentioned above without coming off as affected. The Cherry Bluestorms’ playing likewise is impeccably better than ever before, and of a piece with the eerily pendulous psychological sweep and return, only to sweep ever closer to the point of no return that sums Bad Penny Opera's unrelenting momentum. The instrumentation/arrangements, (especially vividly rendered horn parts), further invite the listener along into the swirling eddy (or eddylike swirl!) of Bad Penny's chiaroscuroesque journey -- a vivid musical postmodern cautionary tale that ultimately neither takes nor offers quarter.

Courtney Meloche

Sometimes It's Good To Be 'Bad'...
BAD PENNY OPERA is the second release by Los Angeles indie band The Cherry Bluestorms. A concept album revolving around the fictional character ‘Penny’ (portrayed by singer Deborah Gee), BPO is a musical love letter to England in the Swinging 60s, with cleverly placed lyrical and musical references that provide colourful illustration as we follow Penny on her physical journey from the North of England to London, as well as her personal journey of self-discovery.
The collection kicks off with the instrumental ‘Bad Penny Overture’, a perfect showcase for multi-instrumentalist Glen Laughlin’s musical prowess, and a well-crafted sampler of BPO’s diverse sounds. Following the overture, the story begins with the acoustic-based ‘By Your Leave’, the closest that this rocking band gets to a folk song. The relatively sparse arrangement beautifully supports the sonic bliss that is Gee and Laughlin’s unique vocal blend. ‘A Better Place’ introduces horns to the mix, as Gee soulfully croons about the end of a relationship.
Next up is a driving re-imagining of Donovan’s ‘Wear Your Love Like Heaven’. The Cherry Bluestorms deserve special commendation for their ability to cultivate something uniquely their own from the few songs that they cover, despite living in a world where everything seems to be an overtly commercial regurgitation of what’s already been done. See also their cover of The Beatles’ ‘Baby You’re a Rich Man’ from their debut album TRANSIT OF VENUS.
Laughlin tackles the lead vocal on the next track ‘A True Heart Wears a Thorny Crown’. He possesses a more straight-ahead rock voice compared to Gee’s often slightly quirky and always distinctive vocals. Laughlin’s qualities are a perfect fit for this finely crafted, melodic pop-rock piece. Gee’s trademark vocal sound is not completely absent, however, as she harmonizes beautifully with her partner in crime throughout the song. Laughlin’s vocals are also featured on the quirky ‘The Country Man’, ‘World Going Mad’, which features an introduction reminiscent of The Police and a groovy, attention-grabbing bassline, and the trippy sounding ‘London Bridge’.
‘As Above So Below’ is a tight little rocker, featuring parallel harmony vocals by Laughlin and Gee. Once again, it’s worth pinpointing their vocal blend, which is unique in the best possible way. When these two harmonize, you sit up and pay attention.
‘To Love You Is a Crime’ hits hard right out of the gate, and ‘Start Again’ is a catchy mid-tempo rocker. Finally we come to ‘Bad’, a reprise of ‘Bad Penny Overture’ wrapping up Penny’s tale. All three feature Laughlin on lead vocals.
While the entire set is gloriously strong and there isn’t a single weak moment present, the undoubtable highlight is the stunning ‘Sunday Driving South’. Gee’s hauntingly beautiful vocal, the incorporation of strings and organ, an effortlessly catchy and memorable melody, and every other element of this piece come together flawlessly to display The Cherry Bluestorms’ artistry at its finest.
BAD PENNY OPERA as a whole is a wonderful piece by an immensely talented band who deserve nothing but a wealth of success. They are currently working on their third album, which based on their track record, cannot possibly be anything short of brilliant.

Steve Winnall

A First Class Tour Round The High Roads Of British Psychedelia
So here it is at last. Some six years after their well-received debut album we have the second coming of the Sunset Boulevard Branch of the Village Green Appreciation Society. A baker's dozen of postcards from the old country, Bad Penny Opera loosely follows the character of Penny, who after a broken relationship travels from the north of England to London. She acts as a sort of cipher for an American rootlessness and the quest to connect to an illusory England. It's a pilgrimage firmly rooted in the soil of melodic sixties' rock, but with timeless lyrics. Lightly psychedelic, but nothing chemically informed or any anachronistic tomfoolery
The Bad Penny Overture sees us on our way, bearing something of The Small Faces. It's an excellent start. A swirlitzer of an opening leads into a Charlatans-like heavy groove: yes, it's decidedly danceable. But there's a distinctly ominous feel to it as riffing vignettes point to the road ahead. It's clear the journey we're embarking on isn't going to be entirely smooth. Covering the bases it does, it's hard to tell from the Overture where we're immediately heading. A sign homes in to view reading By Your Leave and it transpires we're somewhere in the area of acoustic-bucolic reflection blueprinted by Nick Drake, and here resting on a rising bed of hammond organ. Glen and Deborah harmonize wistfully as lovers calling it a day. Lovely. Next up, A Better Place is ostensibly a sad song venting emotions in the aftermath of a friend passing away. But by employing a brass-fuelled music-hall feel in the vein of The Kinks' Dead End Street, it's also strangely uplifting and conducive to the belief we can go to, and leave this world, a better place. This is a Laughlin-Gee composition, and the only other track not solely written by Glen Laughlin is an energized makeover of Donovan's Wear Your Love Like Heaven, replete with horns and with Deborah on lead vocals. It works a treat. Sunday Driving South is a melotronic bittersweet beauty featuring a MacCartneynesque bass line. The tension and regret of a foundered relationship eventually resolving to escapism on the road, 'Passing Mr. Toad', on a quest for those psychedelic summers of love. And so the quality continues. World Going Mad chops to and from a rock-reggae rhythm reminiscent of The Police and has a great vibraphone part. As Above So Below is a fast busy number that kicks behind and would have suited The Monkees. Until the ante is upped further still when we arrive with Penny at London Bridge - 'falling down'. An impeccable song from its fade-in with Space Oddity strumming, to its whimsical fairground interlude, to the mocking laughter of Mr. Punch that sees it out. It might be the other side of the penny to Waterloo Sunset, but this one really holds up against its classic swinging London antecedents. But hot on its heels comes To Love You Is A Crime. A wall of sound crashes in before giving way to a rubbery bass line. Burbling keyboards and a blissed and yearning chorus filtered through Madchester make this another of the album's biggest stand outs. Then as we near the close guitar bleeds in for Start Again, recognizably an anthemic heart-stirrer to bring the curtain down; sounding like Matthew Fisher assisting The Beatles around the time of Hey Jude. Hope and melancholy vie for eternal supremacy as the song soars and finally ebbs away leaving just valedictory strings. Only it isn't quite the end as like a Bad Penny the Overture returns with a vocal reprise to complete the cycle: invective making manifest what was hinted at the very beginning.
It's been a fabulous journey, an embrace and tour of musical influences and themes fated to recur again and again. Just as you will find Bad Penny Opera has a habit of returning to your music player.