The Universal Thump
Walking The Cat: The Abbey Road EP


Excellent music, fine recorded sound, colourful arrangements, and an independent attitude when it comes to record producing (the album was in fact recorded thanks to a Kickstarter campaign), all this convinced me to write a very favourable review of the first album released by The Universal Thump, the "Orchestral Pop" line-up that has singer, pianist, and main composer (of both music and lyrics) Greta Gertler Gold, and drummer, singer, arranger, and versatile "jack of all trades" Adam D Gold, as its central figures.

Over four sides - both "virtual" and "real" - The Universal Thump offered music that sounded fresh and surprisingly accessible, also quite original, though inside a framework where it wasn't difficult to discern models and predecessors.

Then, I got news of some concerts - one in Rome, which sadly I could not attend - and of a new Kickstarter campaign. Then, there were news about a soon-to-be-released EP titled Walking The Cat: The Abbey Road EP. And though I immediately got the reference to Rufus Thomas and to his famous song titled Walking The Dog, I couldn't seem to grasp the reason why the title mentioned the world-famous Beatles album titled Abbey Road, and/or the historical EMI studios that changed their name as an act of homage to the aforementioned Beatles LP.

Imagine my surprise when I got to know that the new mini-album had indeed been recorded at Abbey Road! "And how does it sound?", I hear you say. Well... WOW!

The musical coordinates on this album are quite similar to those of its predecessor, with the credits to Walking The Cat showing quite a few familiar faces. Both Greta Gertler Gold and Adam D Gold, of course; also Jonathan Maron on electric bass; Barney McAll on organ, synthesizers, and Clavinet; Oren Bloedow on guitar; and J. Walter Hawkes on trombone (whose overdubbed work on the ballad titled Treehouse adds a few spices, while reminding me of the trombone work by Nick Evans on Lady Of The Dancing Water, off King Crimson's Lizard).

I have to admit that - though I was quite aware of its reduced length - at first I felt a bit let down, those featured five songs having a total duration of about 16'. But in the end - though I still feel a strong desire to listen to more - I have to admit I agree with the leaders' decision: it's been a long time since I last listened to music so vividly rich with colours - just listen to those skins and drums, with so many harmonics.

I'm sure readers will be surprised to know that - for "technical" reasons - I listened to this album under the guise of an MP3 file, which with just a few minor adjustments on my part (I just added a bit more "air" - but of course, I burned a CD, which I listened to on my usual Hi-Fi system) sounded way more "musical" and "dynamic" than 90% of the music I bought in the last few years (which, come to think of it, is quite sad and depressing).

Kudos to those involved: Gordon Davidson, the engineer at Abbey Road, and his assistant engineer Greg McAllister; Noah Simon, who did the mix; Alan Silverman, who mastered the album, and his assistant Mike Tierney; additional material was recorded in New York City, at Benny's Wash n' Dry, by Adam D Gold, J. Walter Hawkes, and Bennett Paster.

All sounding fresh and lively in both melody and timbre, the five tracks featured here sound quite homogeneous, yet so diverse as to offer a colourful, stimulating journey, so many arrangement details being perceived at a later time, when one thinks there's nothing new left to discover anymore (even after many listening sessions those drum hits at the end of  Watch The Sunrise never fail to surprise me).

Her vocals always sounding so natural and versatile, one runs the risk of "taking for granted" Greta Gertler Gold's vocal performances, so readers are advised to apply extra care when listening. Of course, she's also excellent as a piano player and composer.

Let's have a quick look at those tracks.

Sunset Park starts with rhythmic drums; then piano, vocals, celeste sounding like vibes, fine electric bass, and fine strings (Anne Lanzilotti on viola, Brian Snow on cello) to engulf the melody. There's a fast bridge, almost a "musical comedy" quote, then male vocals acting as a fine counterpoint.

Cockatoos has a more "fractured" melody, quite captivating though ever-changing and full of surprises. Fine drums, fine synthesizer, and excellent vocals.

Watch The Sunrise has a "martial"-sounding air that reminded me a bit of  Haco. Coming from a strongly rhythmic foundation, a very beautiful melody flows, sounding highly contagious, well assisted by chorus vocals and by drums. Sounding quite inventive, a synthesizer solo takes the listener far away.

Treehouse is a slow, delicate, melodic ballad. Sounding cyclical, sporting two voices, it has the male/female ratio reverse in the course of its duration. Fine snare drum, fine bass, the overdubbed trombones adding some spice. Fine piano-drums intermezzo.

Walking The Cat starts with piano and bass, a mid-tempo sporting a delicate, melancholic-sounding melody. An intelligent development, a slide guitar solo ( la George Harrison, perhaps?) coupled with organ. Then the songs gets to sound quite Gospel-like, with Hammond and Clavinet (echoes of Billy Preston?), then the tempo speeds up, with fine backing from the electric bass.

As of today, the EP is available as both MP3 and FLAC digital files, readers are invited to get the FLAC.

Beppe Colli

Beppe Colli 2015 | June 9, 2015