Seafoam Green – Topanga Mansion

Album Review | Mellowtone Records | Review by Marc Higgins | Stars: 4/5

Seafoam Green are the soulful vocals and guitar of Dave O’Grady and instrumentalist Rich Robinson from the Black Crowes. Following a recording studios meeting O’Grady was invited by Robinson to open his US and UK dates, this quickly led to writing and recording together. The songs are collaborations, Robinson produces and the album is a pure delight from start to finish. As the good book says ‘in my fathers house there are many rooms’. Seafoam Green’s Topanga Mansion leads us through a fascinating array of musical spaces in a huge building filled with the facets of LA’s 70’s Topanga Canyon. In my head I’m sitting on the porch, on the vinyl sleeve’s gatefold cover, listening to the album. “Celtic Wanderings” is a beautiful opening track. Imagine a musical meeting of a Five Leaves Left Nick Drake track and Blind Faith’s “Can’t Find My Way Home”. Not to suggest that this is a conscious homage or that Seafoam Green are copyists, simply that close your eyes and the endless possibilities of the summer of 1969 fill the room. Dave O’Grady’s world weary vocals are soulful against Cello, Pedal Steel and some perfectly placed backing vocals. Home continues that Americana Soul vibe, like a European Dylan LeBlanc Dave O’Grady’s pull at your heart strings with that warm but miserable, pleasantly melancholic vibe that is so intoxicating. The vocals achieve a crystalline Fleet Foxes purity while Muireann McDermot Long’s backing vocals testify a quiet storm up around him. The ancient organ sound just confirms that this is being laid down in a down south rural clapperboard chapel while the river rolls slowly by. Rich Robinson’s rich electric guitar on “Down The River” raises the temperature a few notches, his Kossoff licks summon O’Grady’s inner Paul Rodgers and the spirit is free in every sense of the word. The exchange between the Rhodes electric keyboard and the guitar is pure classic 70s boogie that puts a Skynyrd sized grin on your face and has you reaching for the bourbon. This isn’t a fey singer songwriter album, it has balls, it has chops. Sister cools the temperature a little, against layers of slithering guitar lines some of the album’s strongests vocals back some lyrical punches with another slow burn soulful anthem. The instrumental return after a few a brief silence is a glorious surprise too, a hidden gem in an album of delights. But it is a brief return as “Runaway” and “Lowly Lou” are glorious turned up to thirteen assaults on the speakers with huge guitar and raw smouldering vocals from O’Grady. Again Seafoam Green surprise and surprise with Adam McDougall’s lyrical piano part in the middle of a gloriously languid almost Prog interlude on “Runaway”. “Royal Call” is another rich, emotional duet. Rich Robinson’s perfect production plays with space, allowing the voices, snappy country drums and an amazing pedal steel to fill the room. “Pretty Tyrants” opens with a lovely piano lullaby that builds with another stunning vocal duet, beautifully understated accompaniment and my favourite lyric of the album “Red wine voodoo”. We’ve all been there. The lyric is charged, the delivery gloriously bitter sweet and the pairing just sublime. “Far From Golden” is another intimate piano ballad with those evocative early 70s paired vocals. It’s the UK’s Prelude or Crosby Stills and Nash, it’s a warm sound that just pulls you in for Robinson’s fiery solo at the end. The sequencing of the album has clearly been given a lot of thought, short gaps between the tracks means one track builds on the mood and soundscape of the track before. So it is with the stunning closer “No Wasted Words”. Hanging piano notes from ­“Far From Golden” lead seamlessly into a roaring keyboard part that recalls Pink Floyd circa “Echoes”. Over a ticking clock drum beat O’Grady spits out some lyrics that rail against the world in the albums most contemporary sounding track. Floydian shimmering piano, bitter vocals, a superb atmosphere closes the album. Look at Topanga Mansion as a whole, it starts acoustic and pastoral like a gig support band, builds to the swampy rock Skynyrd or Tony Joe White set in the middle and closes with a more intimate piano led segway, kind of ‘end of the gig’ upturned chairs on café tables feel. It is surprise after surprise. Dave O’Grady can do aching troubadour and he can do whisky growl with all points in between. Feel good music that puts a smile on your face and has you reaching for the volume knob to turn it up. This is apparently a limited release with 500 vinyl copies, well 499 you’ll have to prise mine out of my cold dead fingers, and 500 cds. You really want to get this, if this isn’t a forerunner for a wider release you’ll kick yourself for missing this classic in the making.