Written by William Elgin, posted by blog admin
The story behind an album like Don’t Put All Your Eggs in One Basketcase and its creative guiding light Elliot Schneider is the stuff of unadulterated rock and roll legend. Schneider came of age during a halcyon era in our national history, the now fabled 1960’s and 1970’s, and rubbed elbows with a number of iconic figures through fate’s unpredictable machinations and his musical ambitions. His personal history boasts brushes with giants like Les Paul, John Hammond Sr., and Murray the K, among others, as well as going down as one of the first acts to debut at seminal New York City venue CBGB’s on a Saturday night – a plum distinction Schneider and his then band the Pitts enjoy with such names as Blondie, Television, and Patti Smith. Schneider later left popular music behind and became a high school history and philosophy teacher instead. He pursued his musical passions on the side, but the nights playing club gigs receded into memory. Schneider survived cancer and, when he retired from teaching, turned his full attention once again towards music. He’s on his fourth album now since returning to the arena and the wittily titled Don’t Put All Your Eggs in One Basketbase quite readily lives up to the intelligence implied by its title.
It opens beautifully with the song “The Moon Has Flown Away”. It isn’t necessarily the most hopeful lyric of note, but Schneider delivers the words with warmth regardless of their import and his talent for tailoring his tone to fit the tenor of the music makes it an even more successful ride. It’s the sort of breezy opening you’d hope with this album, has a melodic timelessness, tasteful instrumentation, and an often eloquent lyric. There’s definitely some real humor driving the song “Diehard Killjoy”, but this is a distinctly unpleasant character the song depicts. The flourishes of rollicking guitar flaring to life throughout the piece give it some added oomph. The uncluttered retro sound dominating much of Don’t Put All Your Eggs in One Basketcase finds one of its best expressions in the song “Are We Only Dinosaurs?” and the tracks rates, as well, among the album’s craftier bits of songwriting. It’s truly a mark of how good Schneider really is that attentive listeners can discern his influences coming through and yet hear them in perfect balance with his own truly individual strengths.
An old school count-in brings listeners into the lush ballad-like number “In a Sense Innocence” and the massed, choral vocals possess an airiness of texture that seamlessly melts into the acoustic arrangement. There’s a smattering of electric instruments woven into the song’s tapestry to satisfying effect. The radio edit of “A Key to You” has straight-ahead, head down rock and roll swagger that comes swinging out of its corner and connects at will. The keyboard flourishes recurring throughout the song vividly light things up. His improbably titled jaunt “Overruling Neo-Fascists” has a relentless bounce and dismissive attitudes towards all politics in general while reserving its sugar-coated bile for a particular bent. There’s even some harmonica tossed into the mix. The golden oldie rock vibe heard earlier on the album keeps coming here, as well, with an especially effective guitar solo in the song’s second half. “First Day of Summer”, written more than forty years ago and a song Les Paul reputedly wanted to produce for a young Elliot Schneider, makes its belated debut near the end of the album and has every bit of the elegance and melodic sensitivity you might expect drew Paul to the song. The final proper song on the new album, “I Just Don’t Really Know If You Exist”, is truly an idiosyncratic number surprisingly reminiscent of something Frank Zappa might have attempted in this vein accompanied by Schneider’s customary melodic excellent and attention to vocal details. This is a reminder of how an album was once a transformative experience thanks to the imaginative powers and musical skills of a writer able to bring you completely into their world and experience. Elliot Schneider’s Don’t Put All Your Eggs in One Basketcase succeeds spectacularly.