A tribute album to Adam Schlesinger being released today on Bandcamp includes cover songs by two actors who collaborated with the late songwriter on projects, Rachel Bloom and Sarah Silverman, as well as contemporaries of Schlesinger’s from the rock world like Kay Hanley, Nada Surf and Tanya Donnelly.
“Saving for a Custom Van,” which takes its name from the title track of the essential Fountains of Wayne album “Utopia Parkway,” is a 31-track collection that covers the breadth of Schlesinger’s performing and songwriting career. Besides familiar FoW songs from the late ’90s and 2000s, the collection also includes songs from his six-season run as the core house writer for TV’s “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend,” the films “Music and Lyrics” and “That Thing You Do!,” and Schlesinger’s other long-standing band, Ivy. Even two of the songs he wrote for “Josie and the Pussycats” figure into the expansive track list.
Schlesinger died April 1 at age 52 of the effects of the coronavirus, setting off mourning in the rock ‘n’ roll and television communities, which were both left bereft at the passing of one of the great songwriters of his generation. “Saving for a Custom Van” is set up with proceeds to go to MusiCares’ COVID-19 Relief Fund. (Find the album here.)
Bloom sings Schlesinger’s best known song, the Fountains of Wayne hit “Stacy’s Mom,” in an arrangement that slows down the power-pop charge of the 2003 original and turns it into an unlikely ballad of intergenerational same-sex attraction. (Just to underscore the added tenderness, she adds a bit of unexpected profanity to the tune’s coda.) The star of “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” shared in Schlesinger’s Emmy win in 2019 for a song from the series as well as several previous nominations.
Jack Dolgen, who also shared in that Emmy with Schlesinger and Bloom and was their frequent collaborator on the ongoing “Ex-Girlfriend” song score, turns up with a new version of the season 1 song “What’ll It Be.”
Silverman, with whom Schlesinger had been co-writing the songs for the upcoming stage musical comedy “The Bedwetter,” joins singer-songwriter Ben Lee for a duet of “Way Back Into Love,” a song central from the 2007 film “Music and Lyrics.”
One of his longtime bandmates in Fountains of Wayne, Jody Porter, makes the choice to honor Schlesinger’s other band, Ivy, with a cover of “Four in the Morning.”
The album features plenty of contributions from musicians and bands who came up with FoW as part of the alt-rock scene of the mid- and late ’90s. Letters to Cleo’s Hanley (who’d sung some of his handiwork on the “Josie and the Pussycats” soundtrack) handles “Radiation Vibe,” the seminal radio hit from the group’s debut album. Donelly and Gail Greenwood of the band Belly re-team for the Ivy song “Undertow.”
The collection is implicitly a tribute not solely to Schlesinger’s songwriting genius but also to that of Fountains of Wayne co-founder Chris Collingwood, who was the writer of several songs included on the collection, like “Valley Winter Song.” (He and Schlesinger were officially credited on all FoW material, although, like Lennon and McCartney, they eventually almost always wrote apart.) But it’s Schlesinger’s fairly singular mixture of wit and pathos that connects so many of his songwriting highlights from FoW and beyond, like “Hackensack” (here covered by Ali Koehler), the ballad that has almost come to replace “Stacy’s Mom” as his signature song.
“Saving for a Custom Van” is jointly curated and released by Father/Daughter Records and Wax NIne. The latter is a label run by Speedy Ortiz’s Sadie Dupuis, who under the nom de plume Sa13 sings “A Fine Day for a Parade.”
The full track list: