In Music Reviews

The guitar has taken Milwaukee's Reed Kailing around the world a few times.

"Raw, Rare, Well-Done" tells Kailing's story so far

Is it the Beatlemania talking or does Milwaukee's veteran rock and roller Reed Kailing really sound a lot like Sir Paul?

Kailing, who has been a member of Badfinger -- whose biggest hit was written by McCartney -- and The Grass Roots, portrayed McCartney on Broadway in the hit show "Beatlemania."

Kailing got his start in Milwaukee's The Destinations in the early 1960s and has worked with an impressive slate of musicians, from John Lennon and Mick Jagger to gospel legend Mahalia Jackson to Don Johnson, Player and Kiki Dee.

Kailing has also done some commercial work for the likes of Northwest Airlines, Sears, AT&T and the American Dairy Association.

"The most important influences on me vocally are Rick Nelson, the Everly Brothers, and Paul McCartney," Kailing has said. Nelson and the Everlys had a profound effect on a certain boy from Liverpool, too.

It's easy to hear those influences when listening to "Raw, Rare, Well-Done," Kailing's new CD of demos, rarities and other pop-inflected rock and roll tracks. On tunes like "Rock and Roll Me Over," "Don't Let the Suit Fool Ya'" and "Sarah's Lullaby," the vocal similarities are stunning.

Although that similarity tempers a bit as the material gets more recent, it never really disappears and it becomes clear that more than just providing inspiration for his "Beatlemania" performance, McCartney has had a profound influence on Kailing.

"I was told by a friend that Alan Parsons had mentioned to him that he saw 'Beatlemania'," says Kailing. "Parsons had worked very closely with the Beatlesas a sound engineer at Abbey Road on several albums. After seeing bothcasts, he saidjokingly that I sounded more like McCartney than McCartney."

The title of Kailing's first solo CD refers to the material included on it.

The "raw" songs are demos recorded in the 1970s and '80s with Stephen Bishop, Chicago's Donnie Dacus and others. The "rare" ones are demos recorded in 1980 by Reed on guitar and piano at the California studio of multi-instrumentalist Emitt Rhodes, another McCartney-influenced singer and songwriter.

The "well-done" tracks are what Kailing calls "finished products" recorded in Nashville in early 2008. Some of them evolved, he says, from demos in the "rare" portion of the 15-song disc.

At the end is a "hidden" live version of "Rock and Roll Me Over" was recorded live in Indiana in 1982 on a Badfinger tour.

"I had an archive of unheard music that I composed earlier while working with other groups or co-composed with other artists," Kailing has said. "These songs were either never used or never recorded as finished products. Until recently, most only existed in demo form."

The material -- regardless of when or where or how it was recorded -- is uniformly melodic, accomplished and poppily satisfying, mining a vein that reflects Kailing's experience, from "Beatlemania" to The Grass Roots and Badfinger.

As such, it sets the stage -- telling the story so far -- for Kailing to follow up with a CD of entirely new material that will show us where he's at right now.


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