Over the past 20 years, children’s book author Danny Adlerman has gotten musical support from members of two of New Jersey’s leading rock bands — The Smithereens and The Grip Weeds. Jim Babjak of the former band and Kurt Reil of the latter have worked with him on songs that have accompanied his books and been released on CDs of their own.
Reil and Adlerman also contributed to the 2001 album by Babjak’s side project, Buzzed Meg. But for the first time, the three — under the band name The BAR (an acronym for Babjak, Adlerman and Reil) — have put together a full album of rock music for adults.
The self-titled album, recorded at Reil’s House of Vibes studio in Highland Park, is available at Adlerman’s site dannyandkim.com (Adlerman and his wife Kim, who live in Metuchen, work as a team on children’s books and music) as well as at thebar.hearnow.com.
Not surprisingly, the music of The BAR has a strong retro vibe and offers echoes of both The Smithereens’ richly textured power-pop and The Grip Weeds’ more psychedelic approach to music. All three musicians contribute to the songwriting and take turns singing lead.
Check out, below, the album’s first single — the catchy, Byrdsy “Katie’s Shoe’s,” co-written by Babjak and Adlerman and sung by Babjak. Other highlights include the more urgent garage-rocker “Firefly Girl,” co-written by Adlerman and John Sharp and sung by Adlerman, and “The Winding Circumstance” (co-written by Reil and Adlerman, and sung by Reil), which has a more relaxed feel and a sumptuously beautiful melody. There is an air of mystery to “Don’t You Want to Get to Know Her Better,” in which Babjak sings “In your hour of need she will confess/You cannot give what you don’t possess,” while “Desiree 5” is a gently lilting tale of romantic obsession.
“Jim and I met at a Dr. Seuss’ birthday celebration in Freehold — he as local rock ‘n’ roll celebrity, me as a children’s author, I want to say in 1999,” says Adlerman. “We took to each other and found we had lots in common. A few weeks later, he turned me on to Kurt. We also hit it off, and started recording immediately.
“My first couple albums were rock for kids, then a holiday album for whole families with another couple of mates, and finally transitioned to rock ‘n’ roll — which I have been writing and playing since high school, just never professionally.”
Adlerman was in the studio, recording what he thought was going to be a solo album, when the project morphed into a band endeavor.
“I realized that every song not only had both Jim and Kurt performing on them, but that every song I had either written, or wrote with Jim or with Kurt,” Adlerman said. “And so everything just kind of coalesced. I turned to Jim … we stepped outside for a break one day and I said, ‘You know, we ought to be a band.’ ”
Babjak, naturally, said he was already in a band. Adlerman says he then said to Babjak, ” ‘I know, man. But the three of us, we’re a band. Let’s be a band.’ ”
The BAR has not been able to play live, of course, since the album came out this fall. But assuming that things get back to normal at some point in 2021, would they?
“Yes, for me,” said Adlerman. “I would say it is likely, on occasion, with Kurt. And I can’t predict … I am certainly not shutting a door, but it would be premature, honestly, to say one way or another about Jim, just because he’s looking to get back with The Smithereens on the road, too. They’re obviously going to take precedence.”
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