Million Star Hotel (Dec. 2005) - Jeffrey Dean Foster
December 24, 2005 -- (DD Thornton, Deaconlight) -- One morning a couple of weeks ago Hubby came over to my desk and plopped down the newspaper down on it. "This is your assignment today," he said. I looked down and saw where he had the paper folded to Parke Puterbaugh's review of the new record by Jeffrey Dean Foster called Million Star Hotel.
What exactly he meant by my "assignment," I'm not sure. We're kinda broke right now so it isn't like I could run out and buy anything that day. But I figured I should at least post something on Deaconlight about this record being out. I set the review aside to read later.
As my desk began to pile up like the paper magnet it is, the article got lost in the pile. Not forgotten, but unread. Still on my list of things to check out.
The first time I heard Jeffrey Dean Foster was September 11, 1981 at Appalachian State in Boone, North Carolina. The guy I was going out with at the time (The Bass Player Who Shan't Be Named) was in a band called The Apostles (which also included Steve Poole of American Underslung and Rid of Dailys). The Apostles had been invited to open that night for Gangrene, who in turn were opening for a band called The Right Profile.
I had not heard of The Right Profile before so I did not know what to expect. The Apostles were classic punk pop and Gangrene were sorta Devo-esque. Since The Clash had a song called "The Right Profile" from London Calling I had figured this band would be a punk band.
The Right Profile did sound modern but there was a lot of roots rock to their music. The singer/guitarist was this blonde dude wearing a bandana - red, I think - around his neck. More cowboy than punk. They also had a guy playing piano, which you didn't see much at punk shows. At times I felt like I was at a Springsteen concert.
The guy playing keyboards was Steve Dubner, who I saw on 20/20 a couple of months ago promoting his Freakonmics book, which I hear is great. I dropped him an e-mail and asked him about sending me some Right Profile mp3s. He said he might.
The guitarist, of course, was Jeffrey Dean Foster. Jeff Foster as I knew him then. I got to know The Right Profile because they would send me stuff to play on Deaconlight and later on WKZL and Z-93. Nice guys. They also had a lot of fans. (Check out paragraph eight of this letter from a Deaconlight fan gushing about The Right Profile's song "Let's Pretend," which Jeffrey Dean wrote. I got lots of requests for that song over the years.)
Today I went in the attic to look for my Friday the 11th T-shirt. I didn't find it but I did find a virgin copy - my third copy - of The Right Profile's first 45. Looks like new!
When I retired from radio in 1986, I lost touch with a lot of the local scene. Occasionally I would see Jeff's name pop up in a music column, but I never saw him perform with any of his post-Right Profile projects. I think the last time I had seen Jeffrey was a few years ago when David Byrne had his art show at SECCA.
So here I see where Jeffrey has a new record out and I'm really thinking I should check it out. It seems I miss so many things here at Deaconlight because of lack of time. I could not even find the time to read the review.
Sometimes things just need to line up right to give me a little push.
Friday night, Hubby, our daughters, and I were invited to a party at Mitch Easter's studio, The Fidelitorium. (That place is really cool! UnReal !! The girls and I went over there last summer and Mitch let them have the run of the place, pulling out guitars, basses, keyboards, etc. I have got to get some pictures of that studio here.)
When we walked inside the first person I recognized was Jeffrey Dean Foster. We talked about the fact he had a new record out and I asked if I could get a copy. I told him, however, I only post stuff on Deaconlight.com that I like. Now, I knew I would like anything Jeffrey does so I wouldn't have said that if I had thought there would be any chance I wouldn't like his record. That probably came across as rather snobby but it wasn't intended to be.
I will write more about the party - which was a blast - somewhere else.
Later in the evening Jeffrey walked up and handed me a copy of the CD.
Well, first thing we did when we got home was put on the CD. It knocked me out on the first listen. I glanced at the liner notes and noticed where Mitch had a hand in creating this awesome record.
As you might know, I don't pretend to be any kind of rock critic so I don't even attempt to write reviews. I guess it's like when Supreme Court Justice Potter ruled about pornography way back when. He said something like he couldn't really define pornography but he knew it when he saw it. I don't always know how to explain why I like certain records but I know a good record when I hear it. Million Star Hotel is a great record.
I have been and always shall be a crusader for great music. Million Star Hotel is full of really pretty songs. Many are the kind I like to listen to on a rainy day. I'm totally hooked. Already I have several songs stuck in my head. This record deserves to be heard and played for the masses. Not in the Top 40 sense, but this is a record I know I will still be throwing in my CD player for years to come. (Hubby is playing it now and it sounds UnReal !!. Can't wait to get off this computer and go sit in front of the fire and listen to this record. Although at the moment Jeffrey's singing "Don't listen to me." Sorry dude but I am going to ignore that directive!)
As for that review, I can't find the newspaper. I'll leave it to the critics to give you the "professional and authoritative" evaluation of Million Star Hotel. I'm sure there will be many more good reviews to come.
Jeffrey Dean Foster - Million Star Hotel Album Tracks
Press About Jeffrey Dean Foster - Million Star Hotel
The Day - New London, CT
by Rick Koster, Thursday April 6th 2006
On the one hand, you wonder how many folks like Jeffrey Dean Foster are lurking around out there, of zero interest to major record labels (presumably because they're good and have something to offer other than a jaw line or a resume in a reality show). On the other hand, as demonstrated on this consistently excellent CD, Foster occupies some pretty rarified air. While effortlessly conjuring pleasant aural images of Neil Young, the Byrds, Brian Wilson, and Chris Bell, Foster, over the course of a few listenings, admirably establishes his own identity as a literate songwriter for whom hooks fly off his fingertips like a magician tossing glitter over a room full of awe-struck kids.
by Fred Mills, Associate Editor, March 2006
While it's common to cite the early-'90s ascendancy of the Chapel Hill scene (Merge Records, Superchunk, Polvo, Archers Of Loaf, etc.) as evidence of a golden era for North Carolina, longtime residents know that the mid-'80s was an equally fruitful period. One of the greats was unquestionably the Right Profile, hailing from Winston-Salem (yes, that same geographical-artistic gene pool that gave us the dB's and Let's Active) and specializing in a riveting, drenched-in-emotion brand of rootsy power pop.
Sadly, the vicissitudes of the record biz conspired against the quartet: A deal with Arista failed to yield a long-player and the band was history before the decade was out. Drummer Jon Wurster, of course, subsequently earned fame with Superchunk, while guitarist Jeff Foster went on to work with Don Dixon, the Carneys and the Pinetops.
Foster eventually tested the solo waters in '02 with the live-and-lo-fi The Leaves Turn Upside Down, and he now returns with his first full-blown solo studio effort, Million Star Hotel. The album is elegantly stoked by co-producers Mitch Easter and Brian Landrum to spotlight Foster's honey-sweet high tenor, his classic-rock-leaning arrangement skills and his feel for rescuing poetic truths from longing, heartbreak and reflection.
Highlights include the Ryan Adams-esque "Lily Of The Highway," twinkly power-popper "The Summer Of The Son Of Sam," brash anthem "Lost In My Own Town" (with its outrageous Move/ELO "Do Ya" steal) and the piano-and-trumpet meditation "Milk And Honey" (a veiled anti-war tune recalling Tom Petty circa Southern Accents). If Ryan Adams had been humble (and smart) enough to distill the best 14 songs from his three recent records onto a single platter, we might have Million Star Hotel.
Incidentally, even if the name Jeffrey Dean Foster isn't familiar, it's likely his face will at least register on a subliminal level: He was the guitarist in William Shatner's house band for that classic string of P! riceline.com commercials featuring Captain Kirk's, er, estimable talents at the microphone. [www.jeffreydeanfoster.com]
Pop Culture Press
by Andy Turner, March 2006
Jeffrey Dean Foster releases don't come around too often, but when they do, they're always worth your time. Since the early '80s, his work with the Right Profile, the Carneys and, more recently, the Pinetops, has put Foster among North Carolina's elite musicians.
The five-years-in-the-making Million Star Hotel (slang for being homeless), put together with help from Mitch Easter and Brian Landrum among others, is his most ambitious effort yet. Foster says correctly that it sounds as if it could have been recorded "in the last or the next 35 years." Merging classic rock, roots music and pop experimentation with Foster's reliably brilliant songwriting, the album recalls the likes of Big Star, Wilco, Neil Young and even the Flaming Lips. "The Summer of Son of Sam," in which "the devil left his mark and the freebird hit the ground," is a wonderfully realized remembrance of youth, with Foster's sweet tenor positively perfect. The achingly beautiful "Milk & Honey," recorded at 4 a.m. with Mercury Dime's Cliff Retallick on piano and organ, is a stunner.
While mostly low key, the album does rock out occasionally and effectively ("Little Priest," "I Know How Your Broken Heart Feels"). At 14 songs and more than 65 minutes of music, Million Star Hotel requires a bit of an investment, but reread the first sentence: worth your time. Foster does not disappoint.