The New Cars: People either love them or they hate them. And to be honest, I haven’t heard of many yet who love them.
I’ll say right up front that I don’t know a whole lot of deep details about The New Cars. The basic strokes are that in 2005 Greg and Elliot joined with Todd Rundgren (vocals, rhythm), Kasim Sulton (vocals, bass) and Prairie Prince (drums) to put together a band where Greg and Elliot could play the classic Cars tunes in addition to creating some new music. They released one album (It’s Alive!) in May of 2006 that contained a bunch of live recordings of songs by The Cars, a couple of Todd Rundgren songs, and three “The New Cars” originals. They toured a bit, playing small venues, and wrapped things up by the fall of 2007.
From what I understand, Greg and Elliot would have preferred a true reunion of The Cars. Sadly, this was not going to happen since Benjamin was gone, David ‘amicably declined’ as he had retired from the music scene by then, and Ric was not interested. Though there are reports that Ric ‘gave his blessing’ to the guys for the project, other interviews imply that Ric made it hard on Greg and Elliot to proceed, and in the end the aggravation and hassle just weren’t worth it.
I haven’t invested a lot of time in their music; I think mostly because I do not enjoy listening to Todd Rundgren at all; I’m just NOT a fan of his. I have clicked on The New Cars’ original song, “Not Tonight” a few times and I liked it well enough; it’s fairly rockin’, and really, who can resist an Elliot Easton solo? Not me. I took the time to listen to “More” and “Warm” and they’re not bad. I also enjoyed reading an interview with the bass player, Kasim Sulton, who had some nice things to say about trying to fill Benjamin’s role.
But I’ve never attempted to listen to anything else they’ve played, and I’m certainly not interested in any song they cover that was originally sung by my man. Not fair of me, maybe, but there it is.
The one reason I *do* care about The New Cars is because of Elliot.
In my all-time-favorite Elliot interview ever, he shared the history of and his heart about The New Cars, and I’ve had a soft spot for that project ever since. He laid a lot of info out there (starting at about 1:36:30), but here’s what he said that touched me the most:
“That music is my recorded legacy and I wanted to play it, and the joy in people’s faces when you’d play that solo in “Best Friend’s Girl” and they’d elbow each other: ‘look, he’s doing it, he’s playing the solo!’and some of them would almost have tears in their eyes and stuff and it just meant the world to me, and it was just so satisfying and fun to do…”
You’ve just got to hear his voice, too, when he’s talking about it; very moving. Ah, Elliot! So I’ll never be grumpy about Greg’s and Elliot’s attempt to pull The Cars back onto the stage. I stand by them and their efforts 100%.
And now to the real reason I actually started this post in the first place! It came about because a friend of mine introduced me to Doug Powell. Never heard of him? Neither had I, until this recent conversation. It turns out that Doug, who is a well-respected and very talented singer/songwriter/multi-instrument musician, was first contacted by Elliot to front The New Cars. In fact, Doug wrote a handful of AMAZING songs for the project, only to be passed by for Todd Rundgren (ironically, Powell’s former boss), whom the band apparently felt would draw more of an audience.
Here’s the skinny according to Wikipedia (because I’m just not willing to do a ton of additional research on this subject):
“In late 2004 Powell was contacted by Elliot Easton, guitarist for The Cars. Easton had heard Powell’s recording of Candy-O and was impressed enough to ask Powell to be the singer of The New Cars, a reformation of The Cars without Ric Ocasek and Benjamin Orr (who had died). Powell began working on demos for the project and completed six demos. However, as the plans for the band evolved The Cars decided to bring in a higher profile singer, and settled on Todd Rundgren. Powell released the six demos as well as other leftover songs on Four Seasons, released on the Paisley Pop label.”
After listening to Doug’s songs, I’m very surprised that he was passed over. The music is really so great; Doug finds a way to maintain the sound of The Cars without being a copycat of them. He brings a fresh sound, his own style, to tracks that you might actually believe could be The Cars when those first measures roll out.
I can’t help but wonder if Elliot’s and Greg’s project might have had better success if they had not tried to stay under the umbrella of The Cars brand (avoiding the hassles with Ric) and instead went out as an entirely new band, with a unique name and with Doug Powell leading the charge. I mean, they still could have done The Cars’ classics, right? But they would also have had a great source of new material, and since Doug was relatively unknown in the public’s eye he wouldn’t have brought a reputation with him; no preconceived notions.
That’s all water under the bridge now, I guess; too late to change things. And skimming the full Wikipedia article about Doug Powell reveals that his interests are varied and intense; he hasn’t been sitting around crying over the lost opportunity (see what he’s up to by clicking here). Still, Doug’s songs are definitely worth taking the time to listen to. I’ll post a link to a playlist for him. To the best of my knowledge, the songs he wrote for The New Cars project were titled Feel For You, Runaround, Lies, Fire and Ice, One Good Reason, and Chained. Enjoy!
[A little side note: apparently Doug performed Candy-O for the CD called Substitution Mass Confusion, a compilation of recordings of bands playing tribute to The Cars. I haven’t heard Doug’s track yet; the CD itself is fairly expensive and Candy-O is not one of the few youtube uploads from it. I *am* curious though, and plan to get my hands on it sometime in the future.]