Back in the 1950s, five-year-old Richard X. Heyman “started banging on things.”* After becoming a full-fledged drummer, keyboardist, guitarist, songwriter, founding member of New Jersey garage-rock band the Doughboys, and occasional session musician for Brian Wilson, Jonathan Richman, Ben E. King, Link Wray, the Shangri-Las’ Mary Weiss, the Left Banke’s Michael Brown and others, thirty-something-year-old Richard X. Heyman recorded a six-song EP entitled Actual Size and a full album entitled Living Room!! in his…living room (well, his home recording studio). Both packed with quality power pop befitting someone who’s hung out and worked with those aforementioned artists.
Thirty years and eleven albums later, Mr. Heyman has released Incognito, a collection of 14 power pop gems that could only come from a true pop music craftsman. Described on his website as “one of the first ‘one man band’ recording artists, in the grand tradition of Paul McCartney, Emitt Rhodes and Todd Rundgren,” Richard X. Heyman is capable of churning out top-shelf tunes that rival any of those guys. The bright, melodic sounds on Incognito hearken back to when radio waves were full of such stuff, but without merely going “retro.” Just listen to the sparkling guitar that opens the title track, the flavorful vocal harmonies reminiscent of CSN&Y, the Beatlesque beauty “A Fool’s Errand,” the majestic, hook-laden “And Then,” and the album’s centerpiece, the bouncy, Byrds-ish love song “Gleam.”
R&B horns make the scene on “So What,” Traffic-style psych is the order of the day on “Her Garden Path,” Heyman channels Dylan on “Miss Shenandoah Martin” and Bob Seger on the raucous “Terry Two Timer,” waxes philosophical (with just a hint of the late great Warren Zevon’s sound and sentiment) on “These Troubled Times,” then brings Incognito to a rousing close with the soulful call-to-arms “Everybody Get Wise.” Heyman’s extraordinary rock ‘n’ roll voice – a mix of Steve Winwood and Graham Parker with a touch of Tom Petty – is the meat ‘n’ potatoes of this album…so much so it’s a wonder the guy isn’t more of a household name by now.
And as if a new RXH solo album isn’t enough, the resurrected Doughboys continue to push out poppin’ fresh (sorry) material, with a new release due out very soon. The band is a regular favorite on the playlists of Little Steven’s Underground Garage channel on Sirius XM.
So until Mr. Heyman lines up some new gigs (hopefully soon!), let’s just stay home, lie on the couch…and remain (and listen to) Incognito.
Richard X. Heyman…at home (image courtesy Soundbard.com; image up top courtesy Musoscribe.com)
* from Wikipedia