Sonny Smith: 100 Records Volume 3
An LP-length step through the surf-rock carnival that is the bizarre, but innocent world in Smith’s mind, 100 Records is the third and last installment in San Francisco garage-rocker Sonny Smith’s project of the same name. The trilogy stems from an art exhibit where Sonny made up 100 bands and 100 singles to go along with them.
The idea of a musician taking on different personas is not new – many of the most revolutionary artists redefined themselves multiple times throughout their careers. World tour rocking iconoclast Bob Dylan is no Minnesota Jew Robert Zimmerman, just as the Miles Davis on Bitches Brew is almost unrecognizable from his St. Louis son of a dentist, classical trumpeter self.
As a concept, making ten versions of yourself for one record is like naming different wings of a wall “New York,” “Venice,” and “Paris” and hoping they approximate the inimitable feeling of being in these places.
Like an artist’s gallery opening, the quality of 100 Records should be evaluated on a work-by-work and an overall concept basis. This is indeed a concept record, though the music itself never sounds conceptual; each of the songs fit well within Smith’s artistic idea. Which is just to say that all the songs are intriguing because they sound like they’re coming from different people and places.
Many of these tracks truly sound like they stem from uniquely different artists
Some of them are great, like the ’60s soul-stomper, “If You Don’t Make a Change,” which goes to many musical places – all of which are catchy and good. “Minimum Wage by Bobby Hawkins” features an appealingly outdated recording quality and is musically illustrative of 1960s San Francisco beatnik hippies daydreaming about boxcar hobos and wanting so badly for the rain to let up, so they can surf.
Most of the songs have childish, playful, quirky lyrics, like the immortal mantra, “difficulty with snakes and bears,” one of the made-up artists played by Smith sings. There’s also artwork commissioned for each track.
The 100 Records songs and exhibit never intend to be high art, so have a care-free laugh and listen to the songs and imaginary people hanging out in Sonny Smith’s head.
The album can be purchased here.