Denny Carleton

Excepts from The Unknown Legends Of Rock N Roll by Ritchie  Untenberger 2015 (E book edition) 
Denny Carleton’s 1985 release Color with Crayons was one of the standout cassette underground recordings of the 1980s. It’s fair to say, though, that few artists used the cassette medium for uncommercial-but-melodic pop-rock nearly as effectively as Newell has. Some notable contemporaries of Newell worth checking out would include melodic folk-rocker Jeff Kelly, funnier-than-hell weirdos Walls of Genius, dainty miniaturist Linda Smith, and Denny Carleton, who created a worthy cassette-length suite of bits and bursts of catchy pop tunes on Color with Crayons.  


Recommended Recordings: By Denny Carleton: Color with Crayons (1985, Green Light). One of the most interesting blends of pop and the avant-garde on an ‘80s home tape, this hour-long suite of sorts weaves together song fragments as if they’re fading in and out of a dream. The fidelity is lo-fi, and the instrumentation primitive in an ‘80s sort of way, with its rhythm machine and Casio. Yet these bits and pieces are very catchy pop-rock, and most likely more interesting when strung together in this fashion than they would be as fully developed songs. Reverb and spooky sound effects supply much of the experimental quotient, but don’t overwhelm the sometimes power-poppish songs, sung with great ebullience and heart. This is somewhat easier to find than many home tapes after getting issued on CD in 2000, again on Carleton’s own Green Light label.

The Lost Souls are one  example of how tape-only releases don’t even have to be of post-1980 material, this is an archival collection of unreleased mid-to-late-‘ 60s recordings by a Cleveland group that never got to put out a record. One of their members was Denny Carleton, also responsible for the mid-‘ 80s Color with Crayons tape listed earlier, and also responsible for issuing this cassette. While the sound varies from excellent studio quality to muddy demos, the original material is really good energetic ‘60s pop-rock, standing up to some of the best numbers by the Left Banke and the Zombies. Some tunes also mix in Motown influences and weird psychedelic tempo changes, off-the-wall experimental instrumental passages, and even segues from garage rock to Frank Zappa-like bits. Quite melodic and harmony-laden despite the odd song structures, it’s extremely enjoyable and accessible, yet has never been issued on LP or CD.