WENDY FLOWER - FOREVER “NEW” Creating a follow-up to a masterpiece - it can be daunting.
Iconic singer-songwriter Wendy Flower has made a triumphant return with “New,” her first new pop album since 1969’s Wendy & Bonnie folk-rock-psych-jazz cult classic, “Genesis.”
Wendy herself created the intricate, multi-layered harmonies for this 2013 release. Many talents helped with the project.
A gifted producer, Adam Rossi (Luce, Megan Slankard, Brad Wolfe) teamed with Wendy to bring the work to fruition. The late Trish Keenan (one of Wendy’s great inspirations) and James Cargill, both of Broadcast, joined on the gothic “In The Attic.”
Flower’s diverse sonic canvas spans her epic, mini-symphonies, “Cinders,” “Skyways,” ”Flaws” and “Child’s Play,” the poignant Americana of “Faded Rose,” the jazzy, breezy “WInd Chimes,” the sunshine pop of “The Corner,” the heavenly vocal blending on “One Last Dream,” the continental, flamenco sound of “Jamais Toujours,” the nostalgic “Ferris Wheel” and the haunting folk-rocker “Kindness of Strangers.” The album contains a bonus track, the classic rock-sounding “Long Night,” as well as a never-before-heard Wendy & Bonnie snippet. “New” was well worth the wait.
The album’s musicians included Gawain Mathews, lead guitar (Mickey Hart Band, Ben Lee); Ezra Lipp, drums and percussion (Sean Hayes, Huckle); Paul Olguin, electric and acoustic bass (Mary Wells, Bob Weir, Mazzy Star), Savannah Jo Lack, electric and acoustic violin (Alanis Morissette, Rod Stewart), Joe Cohen, saxophone, clarinet (Thomas Dolby) and Paul Freeman, acoustic guitar (romper), who wrote several of the songs. The rest were penned by Wendy, who played keyboards, as did Rossi.
Melody and harmony have always played a major role in the life of Wendy Flower. The San Francisco native’s parents were involved in music. Her father, drummer Arthur Flower was a fixture on the Bay Area scene, including a lengthy stint in the house band of famed Bimbo’s 365 Club. Her mother Jeane sang with big bands.
So Wendy heard a wealth of jazz, as well as classical music during her childhood. She grew to love folk, pop, rock and Latin sounds.
Younger sister Bonnie played drums and guitar. Wendy learned to play instruments, including violin, piano, guitar, melodic percussion, and more.
Wendy became the lead vocalist of the promising Bay Area band rock band Crystal Fountain, which recorded several acetates.
In 1969, in their early teens, Wendy & Bonnie recorded the now classic “Genesis” album. It was produced by jazz great Gary McFarland (Wendy & Bonnie are interviewed in a new documentary about the musician/arranger/producer). Session players included Larry Carlton, Jim Keltner and Mike Melvoin. Though it was garnering interest from radio, TV and press, the album quickly disappeared, due to the bankruptcy of the label, Skye Records.
Wendy subsequently sang with numerous other Bay Area bands. With sister Bonnie, she recorded jingles and added vocals on sessions with prominent artists, such as Cal Tjader.
Wendy earned her childhood education degree and taught music. She wrote and recorded children’s music, including the animal rights-related “My Pet Songs” and the album “Flower Power,” which communicates the sounds and messages of the ‘60s to young listeners.
Meanwhile, “Genesis” had become a cult favorite. Interest from such artists as Stereolab and Broadcast, as well as such producers as Irwin Chusid and Mike Alway led to the album’s release on CD via the Sundazed label. It earned rave reviews from North American, UK, European and Japanese critics, as well as continuous global airplay.
"The music is unashamedly pretty and deceptively complex, and any fan of late '60s soft pop has to hear it ... Genesis is a remarkable album." - Amplifier
The innovative Welsh band Super Furry Animals chose a sample from “By The Sea,” one of the beloved songs from “Genesis,” to open their “Phantom Power” CD. While playing San Francisco’s legendary Fillmore Theater in 2003, they invited Wendy to join them on stage. She performed a duet of the band’s “Hello Sunshine” with front man Gruff Rhys to a standing, cheering, full house. SFA included the rehearsal of that number in their DVD documentary “American Sasquatch.” She sang with the band in following years at New York City’s The Tonic and London’s ICA. More recently Laetitia Sadier (Stereolab, Monade), covered the W&B classic “By The Sea.”
In June 2007, at Andy Votel’s invitation, Wendy traveled to England and was warmly received as the closing act at the U.K.’s Llama Festival. Supporting her were Jane Weaver (Misty Dixon), as well as members of Major Dawson, Booger Red, Beep Seals, All Traps Set, and Romper. [Wendy guests on Jane Weaver’s recent album, “Fallen By Watchbird.”]
Wendy then played the Meltdown Festival, which was curated by Jarvis Cocker. Sean O’Hagan and the High Llamas backed her at that show, where she was featured as one of the “Lost Ladies of Folk,” along with Susan Christie and Bonnie Dobson. Again Jane Weaver joined her on harmonies. Reviewer Shaz on Sunshine Pop said, “Such a showman! She had the same distinct resonance she had when she was 16, and the notes she reached! Wow!”
And “Wow!” is what fans will be exclaiming when they hear Wendy’s creation, “New.”
In 2014, Wendy added a new single to her repertoire, "Guilty Pleasures (Chocolates, Chardonnay and Billie Holiday)," a wry, touching number, blending pop, jazz and blues flavors.