It’s a little difficult to write this, let alone listen to this album. Bobby Sutliff was a friend; we bonded around 2008 or 2009 via Facebook, over our mutual love for The Beatles, Big Star and Epiphone Casino guitars. He was a kind, funny and sweet man. We nearly lost him in 2012 after a very serious car accident; we lost him a year ago from cancer and he is very sorely missed by all who knew and loved him.
If you aren’t aware of Bobby’s musical legacy, I won’t go into too much detail, BUT he was the co-founder of ’80’s pop legends (a deserved title, absolutely) The Windbreakers, along with his lifelong friend, Tim Lee. The Windbreakers put out some stunning nuggets of pure gold between 1982 and 1992 (their 1989 known masterpiece, At Home With Bobby And Tim, is a must for all fans of that wonderful pop sound we all loved in the ’80’s).
As The Windbreakers were still going, Bobby released his first solo album, Only Ghosts Remain, which came out on the venerable PVC Records label (through Jem) in 1987. Long out-of-print, it’s been sought after by many – and with the loss of Bobby, became even more of a coveted item. Now, Jem Records will be issuing Only Ghosts Remain Plus, which comprises the original album, plus 11 bonus tracks, culled from his other solo efforts – all picked by friends and collaborators. And it is still just as stirring and powerful now, as it was when it was originally released – and maybe even more so, under the circumstances.
The power-pop mastery of “Same Way Tommorow” makes me ask all these years later, “why didn’t this get massive amounts of airplay when it first came out?” It certainly would have fit perfectly in radio playlists, sandwiched between The Connells and Guadalcanal Diary; it’s a piece of melodic perfection. “Stupid Idea” has that ideal balance of chiming guitars, a sweet acoustic strum and a completely locked-in rhythm section (and those harmonies!); “You Could’ve Told Me” is another masterstroke of pop perfection with a just-right touch of country twang, flavored with more harmonies and groove; “Didn’t Mean To” is one of those “what if?” moments – this could have been a dynamic follow-up single to “Same Way Tomorrow” in a perfect world and “Second Choice” is another flawless exercise in how to write a pure-pop hook. Really, this album could have (and could be) a manual/guidebook on song construction.
Of the minutiae, which I can’t overlook, because it fits just right, the original album was recorded at the now-legendary Drive-In Studio, with Mitch Easter producing, as well as contributing drums and guitar – which I do think elevates this album into one of those “special” brackets. But I’m biased and will always embrace “that sound”.
Nonetheless, this album – bonus tracks aside – is something special. And it needs to be rediscovered, embraced, take to heart and revered. And that isn’t hyperbole. LISTEN and let yourself be immersed in the talent that was Bobby Sutliff.
HIGHLY RECOMMENDED (a must)
Only Ghosts Remain Plus will be released on Friday, September 22nd, 2023