Review: Donnie and Joe Emerson — ‘Dreamin’ Wild’

The lost gem within the rock narrative has long been teased to cajole listeners from all angles. The reason is simple; most covet a story, which considers the unheralded classic you haven’t heard. In the case of Donnie and Joe Emerson’s 1979 recording, Dreamin’ Wild, attention sprouted and bloomed when Light In The Attic Records reissued it in 2012. Now, celebrating 40 years, LITA has boosted Dreamin’ Wild’s certifiable quality and back history with candy hearts, branded eye masks, long-sleeve fleeces, 8-Track (yes, you read that correct) and a repress of the out of print baby blue vinyl. Even if your Valentine’s Day Weekend is going as planned, consider thwarting it, and spend the remainder with the Emerson boys.

Of the eight tracks adorning Dreamin’ Wild, the cruisin’, open road jam “Good Time” was correctly sequenced to open the 40-minute record. Seventeen-year-old Donnie’s lead, rhythm, and bass riffs, and incredibly mature vocal lifts shimmer against Joe’s continuous, airy drum fills. The smiling inducing vibes stretch even longer on “Give Me The Chance”. Sounding like a Stax recording hit, with its bump in the night bass and rowdy, funk tinged guitar explosions; the duo’s experimentation between verses (strange zaps and energy claps) ignites. Arguably the best-known and most prominent track on Dreamin’ Wild is the slow assassin “Baby”. Part soft rock, R&B B-side and after hours soul lounge, “Baby” overflows in melody and mood altering treasures.

Side A ends with the albums only instrumental, “Feels Like The Sun”, and is perhaps the only example of possible filler. Encouraging listeners to play along (as instructed on the back cover), this lengthy tune bookends the masterful “Baby” and indomitable front half. Donnie’s bass guitar and elegant synth swells run all over and around Joe’s skipping drums. They play it like a finale, sounding part TV mini-series and/or soundtrack to your family’s summer trips.

Side B arises with a cathedral echo and sublime instrument-less opening. “Love Is” is glazed in this strange, out of place, out of time recording. It casts a perfect shadow to the decades Dreamin’ Wild lived in boxes and thrift store shelves.

Perhaps the most stirring and memorable moment from Dreamin’ is “Dream Full of Dreams”. Moonlight piano chords rise and fall with Donnie’s strained flutter. Schmaltzy synths and dropped down bass notes, showcase Donnie’s knack for songwriting and performance. But the enchanted punch is found in the bridge, channeled and murmured by Donnie over the last minute and half.

The candid glamour shot, white jumpsuits, and waving font is undoubtedly sugary and dated, but the unmistakable musicianship from two brothers once living in a tiny farming community is sewn together by a noteworthy story of ambition, family aspiration, and a teenage dream. Strangely removed from the cultural zeitgeists, Dreamin’ Wild somehow channels the past and future with its anchored yacht-pop, soul-jammed, bedroom power rock sparklers that sound good enough to take anywhere and everywhere. May it never need rediscovering.

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