Some people have called Shore Leave by Yung Wu the great lost Feelies album. After all, it has all the members of the classic Good Earth-line up of the band with the addition of John Baumgartner (the Trypes, Speed the Plow) on keyboards. Bill Million and Glen Mercer, the masterminds of the Feelies, produced the record. Percussionist Dave Weckerman fronts Yung Wu playing his songs and a few obscure covers. I remember picking up Shore Leave when it first came out expecting it to be the equal of The Good Earth. My recollection was that it was an OK record, but there was a reason Dave Weckerman stayed at the back of the stage with his percussion instruments when the Feelies played.
That was 1987. Bar/None has reissued Shore Leave on CD for the first time in 2017. It’s time to reexamine and reconsider the one and only record by Yung Wu.
In the liner notes to the Bar/None edition, Weckerman puts Yung Wu in context. When he was drumming for the Trypes, they would swap instruments during rehearsals to and put Dave out front just to have fun. After awhile, they realized they had their own opening act and Yung Wu was born. After Steve Fallon, proprietor of the legendary Hoboken rock den, Maxwell’s put out records by the Trypes and the Feelies on his Coyote label, he gave Yung Wu the go ahead to make an album.
Shore Leave features eight original songs by Weckerman along with Neil Young’s “Powderfinger”, the Rolling Stones B-side, “Child of the Moon” and “Big Day” from Phil Manzanera (Roxy Music). When you think of Shore Leave as friends getting together to have fun, then it’s a good record. Weckerman’s songs and vocals are not as strong as the tunes on a Feelies record, but the playing is top notch. Mercer and Million trade some nice guitar licks and the rhythm section has that some nervous energy that propels the main act. The tune I like best is their version of “Big Day”. “The Empty Pool” is a good tune that was recorded by Yo La Tengo on their debut album. I’ve also grown quite fond of “Eternal Ice”. I think it would be fairer to compare Yung Wu to other one-off larks like the Hindu Love Gods (R.E.M. fronted by Warren Zevon). Dial back expectations and enjoy the holiday.