Doctor Who has his TARDIS and Marty McFly had his DeLorean, but for most of us, the only way to travel through time comes from books, movies and music.
Take, for example, Bob Perry’s new album “A World Like This,” being released digitally on Friday, Sept. 3.
Close your eyes and its dozen warm, embracing soft-rock tracks will waft you back to a halcyon Hoboken when MTV still played videos, Maxwell’s still hosted the best bands anywhere, and you could still get an egg sandwich at Schnackenberg’s for a couple of dollars.
That’s not to say “A World Like This” sounds dated, or even retro. But its mood and approach and production all hearken back to an era that longtime Hoboken fans will remember well.
Perry and his family now live in Ringwood; however, as the saying goes, you can take the boy out of Hoboken but …
A bit of history: Back in the late 1990s, a group of Hoboken musicians – including Perry – formed a record label and collective called Cropduster Records, with Jim Mastro’s Health & Happiness Show as its flagship act. Mastro had been in the Bongos and spearheaded the jangle-pop Hoboken sound of the ‘80s, but by the ‘90s, he and a new generation of locals had championed an Americana-based folk-pop sound. It was basically an East Coast version of L.A.’s fabled Laurel Canyon scene, which included the likes of Linda Ronstadt, Jackson Browne, Joni Mitchell, James Taylor, and Crosby, Stills & Nash.
Not surprisingly, quite a few members of the Cropduster family – who pooled their money and contacts to work collectively on promotion, publicity and label expenses – still make music today: Mastro, of course, as well as Debbie Schwartz’ Psych-O-Positive, guitarists Keith Hartel and Tom Beaujour of True Love, and Stephanie Seymour (then known as Birdy), to name a few.
Seymour, in fact, adds harmony vocals on Perry’s “A World Like This,” and Mastro even pops up to play mandolin and bouzouki on a track. They’re joined by a raft of familiar names from the Mile Square music scene: drummer Paul Moschella, violinist Claudia Chopek, keyboardists Ray Nissen and Dave Stengel, and bassist Chris Gefken.
But it’s Perry’s gentle, melodic, but purposeful vocals that give the album its warmth and accessibility. Every lyric feels like Perry is telling you a story you want to hear. The songs range from the quietly romantic “On and On,” to the jauntily rocking “Garrett,” Perry’s updating of the traditional murder ballad, with a nimble guitar solo adding color to the prosaic verses. Modern-day anxieties fuel the edgy “Man on the Brink” and “The Boy Has a Gun,” an acoustic reverie on toxic masculinity and its deadly consequences.
“Ruby” offers a change of pace as a lilting acoustic instrumental, showcasing Perry on guitar and electric piano, while “Truckstop Sweetheart” delivers exactly the lighthearted honky-tonkin’ smile its title promises.
The album’s title arises in “Broken Sides,” which uses that dark day in Charlottesville as a touchstone to discuss the divide of hate and partisanship plaguing America today: “Colors fly at the Capitol/ bearing symbols and wearing white robes/ lighting torches so everyone knows/ who you oppose,” Perry sings. “I don’t wanna live in a world like this/ time to change it, change with it.”
“A World Like This” will be available at bobperry.bandcamp.com and on all major streaming platforms.
Speaking of Hoboken ex-pats, Roland Ramos now lives in Brooklyn, but for decades he championed both art and music in the Mile Square City and Jersey City, where he not only lived but also curated festivals and exhibits, started an international arts podcast, and performed regularly.
Before he arrived in Hoboken, though, Ramos sang in the reggae-soul quartet Forbidden Fruit, and on Thursday, Sept. 2, he’ll release “18 Years,” a collection of songs “written in the back of a bar in Teaneck, NJ in the band’s heyday of 2004.”
The group – Ramos, drummer Jim Rasmussen, bassist Maggie Perrota, and guitarist Ted Stevens – recorded a five-song EP nearly two decades ago but never released it. Now, with modern technology, these old friends were able to lay down the tracks anew without being in the same room, adding perspective as well as the musicianship they’ve accrued over time.
Reggae’s naturally seductive rhythms mixed with Ramos’ soulful vocals pair like red wine and bittersweet chocolate, from the dreamy “18 Years” to the breezy, buoyant “Enroute.” Some cruise ship line should license “Island Speed” for their next commercial; listening to it feels like sipping a rummy drink on a sun-kissed Caribbean beach.
“Reggae Soul” amps up the funk, while “Straight to the Top” fuses a reggae beat with a driving rock vibe.
“18 Years” will be available on Artifications.com, where you’ll also find links to Ramos’ globe-trotting art-scene podcast as well as other art and music resources, Spotify and other platforms.
Jim Testa can be reached at [email protected].