The Koles believe in keeping it in the family . . . the talent, that is. The Koles are a tuneful tribal troupe led by L.A.-based singer/songwriter Arlene Kole on guitar, vocals and mando. The rest of this ballading Brady Bunch (minus one) consists of Bill Kole (bass, banjo, drums, percussion, vocals and mando), Skyeler Kole (piano, vocals, percussion), Wyatt Stone (fiddle, accordion, vocals, piano and mando) and “Uncle Jimmy” Rolfe (guitar, bass, mando and vocals).
The twelve track album, Odds & Ends, opens on a strong note. “Take Me Back” is a tune that was written by Arlene Kole and features guest artist Rob Hewes on the piano. The song quite capably reminds listeners that while we all must grow old, we don’t necessarily need to grow up and some things can be fun no matter what your age.
(Your writin’ rapscallion still dances with damsels in the mountainside moonlight . . . and can still “ahem” rock in the back seat, too!) Why let kids have all the fun? Youth is, indeed, wasted on the young.
The second selection is “Decemberland”. This was co-composed by Skyeler and Bill Kole. It’s got a nice, familiar feel to it even though it’s obviously new.
“Suffocation” follows. This one is collaboration between Rolfe, Stone and Bill Kole. It’s overshadowed, however, by a noteworthy cover of the Beatles’ classic cut “Norwegian Wood”. It’s pretty enough that most may not even recall that the song is essentially about Lennon cheating with another woman and then committing arson.
“Lucid And Dreaming” is a clever composition by Rolfe and The Kole clan. Bill Kole’s rainstick adds a nice touch to an almost instrumental track that works surprisingly well as a lead-in to the next number, a Koles cover of yet another Beatles’ song “She’s Leaving Home”. It works quite well for this real-life Partridge Family with an appropriate part for everyone.
“Get Back What You Give” stands out as both a karmic cut and as the only piece to be written by Bill Kole alone. It’s quickly followed by Skyeler Kole’s only solo composition “Dance” and Rolfe’s “With The Snap Of A Finger”. All three tracks clearly reveal some of the individual ingredients these folks contribute to the group itself.
The next track is The Koles’ cover of the classic cut “Old Man”. Shane Gaalaas guests on drums while the female vocals—(Wilson Phillips minus one)—add something new to this Neil Young number. Not to be confused with Huey Lewis’ 1980s hit “The Power Of Love”, “Power OF Love” is an original piece by Arlene and Bill Kole which somehow signals the end is near for this album.
The actual closing cut is “Time’s Up (Kathleen’s song)”. This is very appropriate in that this tribute track—dedicated to the memory of Kathleen Bourcier “and the unsung heroes in schools and community art programs”—alerts listeners the disc is done. Perhaps what is most interesting here is that the CD somehow has a live feel to it.
Of course, those who read liner notes will find that as no surprise. There’s a reason why this collection of cuts seems to showcase the band members’ talents. The work is largely a studio version of the group’s live playlist that as they state: took on “an interesting life of its own.”
It actually works. While even the best live albums often include foibles and flaws, with The Koles’ Odds & Ends the listener gets the best of both worlds—the live playlist with studio perfection. That ought to be enough to make most music fans get up and “Dance”.
My name is Phoenix and . . . that’s the bottom line.