Review by Warren Moore
Seth Swirsky seems to be a 21st-Century Renaissance man. He’s the author of several books about baseball, his new film about the Beatles is doing well on the festival circuit, and he finds time to write songs for artists ranging from Celine Dion to Taylor Dayne. However, he’s best known in certain circles for The Red Button, where he works with producer Mike Ruekberg to create breathtaking works of pop alchemy. The Button’s first album, She’s About to Cross My Mind (2007) was a mix of 1960s influences including Bachrach, Harry Nilsson, and the Lennon /McCartney juggernaut, a sort of neoclassicist pop that never lapsed into pastiche. Most importantly, it was a damned fine album. Fortunately, the team’s new album, As Far as Yesterday Goes, avoids the sophomore jinx, while adding a slightly more contemporary feel to some of the material. As Ruekberg jokes, “This time we’ve leapt boldly into the ’70s!”
Make no mistake — the ’60s influence is still strong, from the 37-minute running time to the chiming 12-strings of “Girl, Don’t” and the harmonica-fueled joy of “Caught in the Middle,” the album’s opener about a girl at the hypotenuse of the eternal triangle. Elsewhere, “Picture” would have fit nicely on a Nilsson album. But the leap Ruekberg describes is there as well, as “I Can’t Forget” sounds like a lost Raspberries tune. “Easier”, meanwhile, with a burbling Fender Rhodes, will please fans of Bread and late-period Klaatu. There are even Chicagoesque horns on “On a Summer Day.” But the album’s most moving track may be its closer, “Running Away”, a reflection on how life can sneak by if we aren’t paying attention. It combines thoughtfulness with memorable melodies in a way that will please any connoisseur of the 3-minute pop song.
It’s hard to say if the new album will outperform its predecessor. However, I suspect that the only thing the first album had that this one doesn’t is the element of surprise. Pop aficionados knew what to expect from As Far as Yesterday Goes. The good news is that they won’t be disappointed.