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Donnie and Joe Emerson: Dreamin' Wild (Light in the Attic) 

One of the best things about a culture obsessed with anthologizing every bit of its construction is the occasional discovery of a truly hidden gem. With a back story that serves as its own PR copy—in 1979, a farmer father builds an extravagant home-studio-cabin to house his teen sons' grand (and ultimately unsuccessful) ambitions—Dreamin' Wild could succeed as a cultural document even if it failed as musical statement.

Thankfully, Dreamin' Wild helps us comprehend the grand garage (or cabin) aspirations of musical youths during the 1970s. Dreamin' Wild processes the musical touchstones (from Smokey Robinson to Boz Scaggs) of its era. For instance, the opening hustle of "Good Time," its breezy paces underwritten with swirls of distortion and keyboard whines, suggests the brothers were on a different, weirder beat.

Standout track "Baby" is a hypnotic and sultry ballad. Cooing about "making love" over midnight keyboards, Donnie's teenage lust (he was 19 at the time) oozes out of the speakers with all the breathy confidence and smoldering sensuality of an aged soul singer.

Equally alluring conflations of psychedelia and pop abound. "Dream Full of Dreams" is a cavernous, spacey love ballad. Closer "My Heart" locks into a groove of tremulous guitar lines and a steady drum backbeat for nearly 8 minutes, allowing cacophonous cymbal crashes and guitar noodles that never upset the principal groove.

This turn-of-the-decade album, behind the youthful energy of its creators, expertly captures the wide-eyed excitement and resigned professionalism of the 1970s.

More by Michael Petitti

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