Concert review by Eric Sandberg with photos by Michael Berman
The Ocean Blue
The Echoplex, Los Angeles, CA
October 28, 2018
In my capacity as a buyer for an LA based retail music chain in the late 80s and early 90s, a lot of promo CDs landed on my desk. If you've ever dug through the $1 CD bins in your local cool record store, you've seen most of them.
Toad The Wet Sprocket, Spin Doctors, Bush, Creed, Limp Bizkit, Spice Girls, Hanson, Ace Of Base, Savage Garden, The Offspring, Everclear, The Presidents of the United States of America, Smash Mouth...the end is listless.
Of all the hundreds of CDs that I received only a handful made it into my music collection and remain there to this day. There's The Odds, Jimmie Dale Gilmore, Collective Soul (actually they're really good) and The Ocean Blue.
From the first moment in 1989 that I heard the shimmering, single-note guitar riff of "Between Something And Nothing" followed by the soft, charming voice of frontman David Schelzel, I knew that the debut album by The Ocean Blue was a keeper.
Their music was simple, melodic and very English sounding despite the band hailing from Hershey PA. Two more even better albums were released on the Sire label, followed by one more excellent record with Mercury, the latter introducing new, key sideman Oed Ronne.
Following the Mercury album The Ocean Blue vanished, along with the retail music industry. I found myself working at Toys R Us and still listening to those four albums regularly. It wasn't until the rise of the internet that I discovered The Ocean Blue had self-released a fifth album Davy Jone's Locker in 1999. They picked up right where they left off - creating music that makes me happy.
A terrific EP, Waterworks followed five years later and it was another nine years before The Ocean Blue released perhaps their best ever album Ultramarine featuring such gorgeous slabs as "New York 6AM" which garnered extensive airplay, at least on KCRW here in LA.
As someone who has seen more than his fair share of bands and artists that ended up owing their labels money rather than getting rich, I often wonder what became of these people. I know a guy who was the guitarist in a one and done major label band who has been working at Amoeba Records in Hollywood for decades. I know another one who was a sideman for one of the biggest artists of all time and was working at Guitar Center when I met him.
David Schelzel, lead singer, guitarist and main songwriter for The Ocean Blue is a successful lawyer, specializing in entertainment copyright law. Oed Ronne is a talented artist and runs a graphic design studio. They got on with their lives after those heady major label days and made a living for themselves.
Thankfully, the band is just too good to be let go of entirely and, despite some of the members living in different time zones, they manage to clear their schedules every once and a while to record new songs and go on tour.
Based on the crowd that packed into the Echoplex on Sunset Blvd last Sunday night, they have enough of a following to make touring a worthwhile endeavor. I was extremely excited for the opportunity to see a band I have loved for decades. I prepared myself that they might look old, fat and bald...like I do, but they clearly take better care of themselves. David Schelzel must have a hyperbaric chamber (or a coffin) in his basement because he still looks like the same Ivy league freshman that appears in the early album photos.
His voice has matured and deepened slightly since those records were recorded but it still possesses the same tonal charm that endeared me to him all those years ago. The playing was tight - the songs aren't rocket science but they sure are catchy and memorable.
I had no sense of time as David Schelzel, keyboardist/guitarist Oed Ronne, founding bassist Bobby Mittan and relatively new drummer Peter Anderson plowed through a twenty-two song set, including three new songs which will appear, with any luck, on a new album in 2019 according to Schelzel.
With the exception of "New York 6AM", the band played every song I and the enthusiastic and surprisingly knowledgeable crowd could hope for. As I found myself much farther from the stage than I would like, I realized that I no longer had this relatively obscure band to myself.
Eric Sandberg: My true opinion on everything is that it's splunge.