Shindig Magazine, November 2003 (www.shindig-magazine.com)
By Phil Suggitt
Goodbye September (Not Lame Archive Series; CD)
Not Lame are quietly collecting together some impressive unreleased gems
for their Archive series. The Deal were a power pop band from Charlottesville, Virginia, who "almost made it" in the '80s. Playing music with echoes of The Hollies and Big Star was deeply unfashionable at that time, but they were picked up by Albert Grossman's Bearsville label only to lose their big chance. Grossman died of a sudden heart attack whilst on a flight to Europe to market his label in general and The Deal in particular. Tragically, lead guitarist and key member Haines Fullerton eventually took his own life in the '90s.
The Deal had a lot going for them, particularly Mark Roebuck's song writing
ability and their vocal sound. The first two songs on this CD are forgettable
Cars-like affairs, but the other eleven songs are strong and varied. The
infectious 'Maybe I'll Just Keep You Hanging On' is sung almost as a vocal
round. 'Marianne' reminds me of The Hollies' jangle. Some of the demos included, like 'Time Won't Come Back' and 'Lighting Candles In The Rain' are among the strongest cuts, because the melody and vocals are so clear, even though the band are all singing around one microphone.
In common with other '80s pop bands like The Shoes and The Connells, the
harmony vocals have a gentle, fragile quality. They seem about to be swamped by the music, but never succumb.
Oddly for a band aiming to produce hits, many of the tunes are too long for
radio play, clocking in at well over four minutes. This is often because
guitarist Haines Fullerton liked to solo. His playing must have added a great
deal to the band's live sound, but on record he could have been a little more
The songs have been compiled from sessions and demos over six years, but
they are consistently strong. You can't keep a good tune down.
Rick Schadelbauer for Amplifier Magazine -- copyright 2003 all rights reserved
"For every episode of VH-1's Behind The Music that makes it to the air, there must be thousands of hard luck stories equally heartbreaking, yet lacking only one key piece: the band never got the requisite breaks to make it big in the first place. Place Charlottesville, Virginia's the Deal in that category. Signed in the early '80s to Bearsville Records (home to, among others, Todd Rundgren and NRBQ), the band recorded an album that fell victim to the label's blood feud with parent Warner Bros. and was subsequently shelved for 20 years. Thanks to the efforts of long-time Deal fan Troy Elliott and all-around pop good guy Bruce Brodeen of Not Lame Records, the album (plus a number of demos and subsequent efforts) is finally available for mass consumption. And the wait was well worth it - the Deal's sound is classic power pop, virtually unscathed by the decade in which it was recorded. Driven by the vocal and songwriting talents of Mark Roebuck and the blazing guitar artistry of Haines fullerton, Goodbye September is intelligent, quirky pop with a heart. And though it may be a case of revisionist listening, it seems the Deal's music becomes increasingly world weary and cynical as time progresses (not unlike Badfinger, as they too, saw their shot at stardom slipping away). Although the band's story of heartbreak and even suicide (read the liner notes, folks, it's heavy stuff) is truly sobering, in the end it's the music that remains the lasting legacy. Keeping that hidden any longer would have been truly criminal."
Mike Bennett Capsule Reviews, August, 2003
The Deal -- Goodbye September (Not Lame Archive): Not Lame unearths unreleased tracks from powerpop wannabes, who, due to a variety of reasons, were sort of never wases. Though the sonic quality on here is not the best, preserving songs like "DC-10s", which sounds like a collision between 1978-era Shoes (down to the stiff drum rolls) and Bram Tchaikovsky isn't just a nice gesture; it seems obligatory. Though neither reference would include this fatalist bon mot: "if this is all I have to live for/I want to die." Troy Elliot's liner notes provide plenty of background on a band that was conversant in various pop-rock styles. Their primary weapons were their low key harmony vocals that were smooth and sweet, without being too much of either, and Haines Fullerton, who dashes off an assortment of memorable lead guitar figures that provide little extra bits of catchiness throughout. While the recordings here (two of the sessions at the Bearsville studio) aren't lo-fi, since this stuff was never prepped for release, it was not subjected to the gloss that was glopped on to records of the time. Which means that this stuff actually sounds better having avoided that treatment -- it allows the music to retain its sense of proportion. Whether it's nifty wimp pop like "Hopi" (imagine a twee Mental As Anything) or the intent "Marianne", which has a chord structure reminiscent of Husker Du's "Never Talking to You Again" before heading into sunnier territory, and "Maybe I'll Just Keep Hanging On", which merits further positive Bram Tchaikovsky/Shoes comparisons, the band had the right hooks at the right time. A couple tunes on the latter half of the disc are kinda dull, but songs like "Cinnamon Square" and "5:45" (the track starts like a soulless hit single, but the band's sincerity and heartfelt hook won out) show that songwriter Mark Roebuck never ran out of good ideas. This was definitely worth compiling and preserving. notlame.com
Claudio Sossi September 2003 /Shake It Up! (www.powerpop.org/shakeitup)
Hawks -Perfect World Radio - (Not Lame)
Goodbye September - (Not Lame) We've all noticed that if you just wait it out long enough, just about anything will find its way to a CD.
Take the Hawks, for instance. Two albums were released by Columbia in the early 80's and goodbye. Even further below the radar was The Deal, who managed one LP that they released independently after numerous major label stops and starts. Well, those who were fans then will rejoice in the release of these two collections of outtakes and demos. Those who weren't might find themselves scouring eBay for each band's original output. Me? Well, if you got a lead on The Deal's LP I'd love to know about it.
I didn't completely by-pass the Hawks when they first appeared. I thought that there self-titled debut had a couple of solid moments, but felt that their follow-up was far too polished for my ears. The ratio's pretty much the same with Perfect World Radio. Songs like "Only Love Is Real" and "Living Inside Your Love" (great tune that almost sounds like a Plimsouls outtake thanks to its gritty vocal) have a comfortably familiar power pop vibe. Otherwise, songs like "Roxanne" and "Pretty Promises" sound a little too much like the songs you skipped over on your radio. Hey, this is decent enough music from some pretty talented individuals (four of the five were songwriters - which might account for some of the inconsistency), but the whole rarely takes off for me.
And then there's The Deal.
The Deal had Big Star's legacy close to their hearts and perfected their own brand of power pop built around some raw guitar, rough edges, and a good-time DIY feel that comes through like a stamp of approval. Now, I don't know what their lone legitimate release sounds like, but the tunes that make up Goodbye September come together to make up for a real gem of a power pop record.
It's pretty hard to find songs like "Picture A Lady" and the sharp "Don't Go Out" anything short of irresistible. Drawing from Mark Roebuck's songwriting skill, The Deal had a more dedicated rock and roll side that finds a home on songs like "Marianne" and the ferocious "DC-10s" ("ferocious" if only for Haines Fullerton's lead guitar). Elsewhere, The Deal search for the perfect pure pop song and find it in "Cinnamon Square" and the pretty "Hopi". It's skinny-tie power pop that deserved to have a larger audience than it did.
Releases like these do a huge service in charting rock and roll history as it becomes clear that nothing's written in stone. While the Hawks don't move me, The Deal indeed does and I now count them among some of their perhaps better known contemporaries.
I love it when that happens.
5.5 - Hawks 7.8 - The Deal
By Gary Glauber, 6 November 2003
(Not Lame Archives)
Release Date: June 24, 2003
When songwriter Mark Roebuck and friend Eric Schwartz starting performing original acoustic music around Charlottesville, Virginia in the late 1970s, they couldn't foresee the long and circuitous musical journey yet to come. When talented guitarist Haines Fullerton caught their act in the spring of 1979, the three agreed to join forces in what would later become The Deal.
What has followed in the decades since is a long convoluted series of possible opportunities and releases that never really happened, a string of bad luck that might make any band consider changing their name to The Raw Deal. Here are just a few instances. In 1983, The Deal signed a five-album recording contract with then Warner Brothers label Bearsville Records. Later that year, they recorded an EP. Shortly after the completion of that EP, Warner Brothers ended its relationship with Bearsville. The label was left without any distribution outlet and the EP was never released. Dejected by the turn of events, Eric Schwartz and drummer Hugh Patton left the band by 1984 and suddenly, live performances for The Deal stopped.
The Deal, however, continued to record additional material. When Albert Grossman, head of Bearsville, headed to Europe in January of 1986, things were looking up. He assured them that he had lined up investors that would save the label and its acts, among them The Deal. He packed the marketing materials and tapes that should have secured the deal. But midway through the Concorde's transatlantic flight, Grossman suffered a heart attack and died. All master tapes remained legally tied up with the erstwhile label and were never released.
So The Deal broke up in 1986. But with a little assistance from Big Star alumni Jody Stephens and Alex Chilton, the band did more recording in Memphis the following year. Those sessions were done "on spec," but no major labels were interested. Finally, the group decided to independently release their only album Brave New World in 1987.
That self-release got great reviews. The Washington Post called it "remarkably self-assured pop classicism" and the Raleigh News & Observer termed it "one of the best independent releases by a regional band in years." In 1988, on the basis of the song "Cinnamon Square," Musician magazine named The Deal one of the 20 best unsigned bands in the world. Yet, that same year, The Deal again agreed to call it quits.
While some of the members went on to other musical choices (both Haines Fullerton and Mark Roebuck have written songs with Dave Matthews), sadly lead guitarist Haines Fullerton committed suicide in September of 1996.
In the wake of all that great unreleased music, Tom Bickel, avid long-time fan of the band, contacted Bruce Brodeen of Not Lame Records in 2001. Another fan, Tim Anderson, followed up by sending an extensive selection of Deal recordings. Now, in 2003, the music finally has been given a chance to be heard.
Goodbye September is that chance, and thank goodness for Bruce Brodeen and Not Lame, rescuing this from oblivion. This 15-track collection of demos and lost studio tracks is sweet and memorable.
At the basis of the Mark Roebuck songs is an acoustic sound, with harmonies, gentle folk rock that sort of predates the early sounds of The Posies circa Dear 23. Add to these well-constructed infectious ditties the kind of powerful lead guitarist you'd find in louder bands (Haines Fullerton) and you've got the winning paradox that is the sound of The Deal.
"Don't Go Out," a song about leaving, is almost Cars-like in its stutter rhythms, and features a superb dual guitar lead. "Rebel Girl" builds on a soft bass-driven beat and features great harmonies, perfectly placed as hooks, along with yet another searing lead from Fullerton.
To get a sense of Fullerton's leads, remember we're talking about a time period circa "Freebird" and those great trading Allman Brother leads, among others. Fullerton obviously was a student of these and then some.
While many of the tracks are only 4-track recordings, The Deal manages to load up those tracks with as much as they can. On "DC-10s" you get percussion that seems almost phase-shifted, and obscure lyrics that may have made a lot more sense way back when (perhaps not even then). The chorus ("If this is all I have to live for / I want to die") is extremely catchy, the harmonies work well, and Fullerton goes all out on his lead here.
Roebuck's soft tenor is pleasant to listen to, and the soft harmonies work their way into your sub-conscious effortlessly. After several listens, you'll have a hard time picking favorites: "Picture A Lady," Pass Away," "Maybe I'll Just Keep You Hanging On," and the string-laden "Cinnamon Square" are all possibilities.
"Marianne" sounds like it could be a Hollies song - the harmonies are that good. "Hopi" might be my current favorite, yet another ultra-infectious guitar-driven Roebuck creation, this one about asking a wizened Hopi for advice. "Strangers In Disguise" is very Posies-like and is built on great harmonies and wonderfully percussive guitar (and no drums).
The heavily produced "5:45" (later era The Deal, more techno/electronic) actually features a guitar solo by Todd Rundgren. The CD closes with the innocent youthful attempt that is the title song, sung into Eric Schwartz' family stereo by a 17-year old Mark Roebuck, poignant and sweet.
Perhaps with this release, The Deal finally will get some long-sought recognition, even after the fact. Mark Roebuck really knows how to write classic pop melodies, and the smooth harmonies from Eric Schwartz and impressive guitar leads of Haines Fullerton deserve a wider audience. *Goodbye September* is a true find, a collection of music that is sweet, soft, smooth and impossible to get out of your head after repeated listenings. Better late than never, they say, and that's certainly the case here.
C-ville September 2003
In the days when the Hackensaw Boys were still banging on their mother's pans, before Lauren Hoffman was old enough to get her ears pierced, and while Dave Matthews Band was still under the table and dreaming, there was the Deal. In the 1980s, the Deal stood posed as Charlottesville's golden boys, the college band that would put the City on the musical map. Then they disappeared. Now, 15 years after their breakup, Not Lame Records has released an anthology, Goodbye September, spanning the band's heyday from 1980 to 1986.
The Deal's label describes them as "power pop". No, that doesn't mean Creed - it's "a cross between the melodic sound of the Beatles and the crunch of the Who". But for all save the strictest '80s power pop purists, the hardest core of Dave-heads (band members Mark Roebuck and Haines Fullerton co-wrote early DMB favorites 'Song that Jane Likes' and '#34') and 40-year-old fratties at Easter time, the Deal is likely to seem dated, more Starship than Jefferson Airplane.
The band does have some gems that will leave you singing along after a few listens. The high point of the album is the rock anthem "Rebel Girl". Front man Roebuck is at his best on the title track, an acoustic folk ballad hidden away at the end of the CD. Elsewhere, lead guitarist Fullerton manages to spruce up some otherwise tedious tunes like "Strangers in Disguise".
Listening to Goodbye September is like sifting through a time capsule, reminding you of what came before and suggesting a world of possibilities that never happened. The CD might be worth buying simply for the liner notes, though they're also available online at www.thedealband.com. The band's history resembles a Greek tragedy, abundant with reversals of fortune, meteoric ups and devastating downs. The album is dedicated to Fullerton, who shot himself in 1996. One particularly haunting number is "DC-10's". Sounding like a remote homage to the Blue Oyster Cult, the song is one of two on the album that Fullerton co-wrote with Roebuck. In it echoes the refrain that, for better or for worse, could serve as the Deal's mantra: "If this is all I have to live for, I wanna die."
Swiss Records (www.swissrecords.com)
By Robert Pally, November 2003
Goodbye September Not Lame Records
The Deal hatten in ihrer 9-jährigen Geschichte nicht gerade viel Glück. Der 1979 in Charlottesville, Virgina, ins Leben gerufene Fünfer wurde vom Schicksal gleich ein paar Mal arg gebeutelt. Als sie 1982 ihre erste EP eingespielt hatten, gab es Probleme mit der Plattenfirma, welche die EP auf Eis legte. Kurz darauf verliessen der Schlagzeuger und der Gitarrist die Band. 1984 wollte Alfred Grossman, der ehemalige Manager von Bob Dylan, in The Deal investieren. Leider starb er kurz darauf an einer Herzattacke, was alle Investitionen stoppte. Drei Jahre später veröffentlichte die Band doch noch ein Album, wenn auch mit eigenem Geld. The Deal waren aber finanziell und gefühlsmässig so angeschlagen, dass sie sich 1988 auflösten. «Goodbye september», ein Kollektion von Studio Sessions und Demos zeigt eine Band, die mehr verdient hätte. Hauptsongschreiber Mark Roebuck verstand es ausgezeichnet, Pop-Kleinode zu verfassen, die auch 20 Jahre später keine Patina angesetzt haben. Im Gegenteil, Songs wie «Dc-10s», «Hopi», «Time won’t come back», «Light candles in the rain» oder «5:45» sind wunderbare Ohrwürmer irgendwo zwischen Badfinger, Big Star, Cars und den Beatles. Die Songs sind aber keine Instant-Hits. Ihre Qualitäten erschliessen sich dem Hörer erst nach mehrmaligem Hören. Dafür bleiben sie länger haften.
7.5 out of 10
TRANSLATION: The Deal was unlucky during its nine-year history. The five-member band, which was founded in 1979 in Charlottesville, Virginia, was hit by several unfortunate occurrences. When they recorded their first EP in 1982, they encountered problems with their record label and the label froze the EP. Soon after, the drummer and the guitar player left the band. In 1984, Albert Grossman, the ex-manager of Bob Dylan, decided to invest in the Deal. Unfortunately, he died shortly thereafter of a heart attack and, as a result, all investment ceased. Three years later, the band finally published an album, but financed with its own money. The Deal was financially and emotionally so drained that they broke up in 1988. “Goodbye September,” a collection of studio sessions and demos, reveals a band that deserved more. The main songwriter, Mark Roebuck, had an ability to write pop-treasures that are still fresh even after 20 years. Songs like “DC-10s,” “Hopie,” “Time Won't Come Back,” “Lighting Candles in the Rain,” or “5:45” are wonderful “evergreens” somewhere in between Badfinger, Big Star, the Cars, and the Beatles. The songs are not instant-hits, however. Their quality is revealed to the listener only after several plays, but that's why they stick with you even longer.
7.5 out of 10