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Butch Hancock; Health & Happiness Show

Health & Happiness Show is now a quartet, formed by singer James Mastro and several other musicians best known (if at all) for their work with early East Coast "new wave" bands. Current touring personnel includes ex-Bongos drummer Vinny DeNunzio and guitarist Richard Lloyd, a founding member of Television and most recently a Matthew Sweet sideman.

Health & Happiness Show is now a quartet, formed by singer James Mastro and several other musicians best known (if at all) for their work with early East Coast “new wave” bands. Current touring personnel includes ex-Bongos drummer Vinny DeNunzio and guitarist Richard Lloyd, a founding member of Television and most recently a Matthew Sweet sideman.

Mastro original “Anytime” is closest to pure country that the group performed Thursday night, and even that sounded as if co-written by John Lennon, with bass lines of various songs sounding like they’d been pulled from “Lady Madonna” or “In-a-Gadda-Da-Vida.”

Like many great ’60s bands, Health & Happiness have a good song based on “La Bamba” chord changes; theirs is “Don’t Have Far to Fall,” which also bears a passing resemblance to “Like a Rolling Stone.”

For all of their good ideas, Health & Happiness sounded unfocused, overarranged and under-rehearsed compared to their strong, simple and confident backing of Hancock, reshaping older tunes by the singer (who usually performs solo with acoustic guitar) into something as strong musically as they are lyrically.

Butch Hancock; Health & Happiness Show

(Jacks Sugar Shack, Hollywood; 250 capacity; $ 10)

  • Production: Presented in-house. Band: Health & Happiness Show: James Mastro , Richard Lloyd, David DeCastro, Vinny DeNunzio. Reviewed July 6, 1995. Odd pairing of the week -- if not the year -- must be the combination of Hoboken, N.J.-based Health & Happiness Show and highly regarded West Texas singer-songwriter Butch Hancock. Newly formed combination debuted, after only hours of rehearsal, with a set comparable to when Bob Dylan started playing with the Band. Imagine Hancock's "Boxcars" done up with some of the mysterious feel of "Harlem Nocturne," or "Dallas" as a 12-bar blues out of "Highway 61 Revisited ," and you get the idea. Hancock is a wordsmith who, like Dylan, tosses off phrases that other writers could spend an entire career without bettering --"She had a smile like Christmas morning, she had a heart like Halloween," for instance, or "Put your heart where it belongs -- right back in your pants." He's currently on North Carolina's bluegrassy Sugar Hill label, after several albums released under his own imprint.
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