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DLC Week of 12/21: The Brevet and Gerry Rafferty

The Brevet’s “Shapeshifter” is the sound of a present-day trio stretching its considerable creative muscle, while Gerry Rafferty’s “Baker Street” is an undeniable musical triumph for the ages. Both of these triumphs are available this Thursday in the Rock Band Music Store.

Released in the fall of 2020, The Brevet’s “Shapeshifter” single finds the alternative rock outfit mining their myriad influences – Americana, folk, rock, R&B, surf, and more – for a satisfying and distinctive end-product. 

The track starts with reverse cymbal-wash that segues into a choppy drum beat over which chirpy, twangy guitars (as well as literally chirpy whistling), and tinkling piano establish a bright, sunny vibe. 30 seconds in, vocals are added and the song begins in earnest. In this iteration of The Brevet (the outfit has had numerous lineups and various personnel configurations over the years), the band relies heavily on *all* the many talents on-hand in this California-based trio – Aric Chase Damm (lead vocals, guitar), Michael Jones (backing vocals, piano) and David Aguiar (backing vocals, drums) – so you’re nearly always treated to some type of pleasant three-part vocal harmony. Having said that, Damm’s unique drawling delivery defines the vox from start to finish. The first chorus sneaks up at the 1:05 point and it’s a rousing, sing-along refrain that lifts the compositional mood to new heights – catchy and memorable. Following round #2 of both verse and chorus, at 2:42 Damm gets to stretch out on a cinematic guitar lead that’s equal parts country rock and epic roots-groove (some fans and reviewers have taken to pegging The Brevet as “Alt-Americana” pioneers) before the song grinds to an assertive halt at 3:16.

Lyrically, the track would seem to be pondering life in the digital age and how to navigate between desires and ephemeral rewards. As the band shared when “Shapeshifter” first dropped, “The entire meaning of the song is about the search for meaning in life and being fearful of the unknown. During this search we can sometimes lose our way and focus on material things like money, greed, fame, etc. and ‘shapeshift’ into something we didn’t set out to become.”

Wide-open, dreamlike, and ambitious, “Shapeshifter” offers a kaleidoscopic soundscape of thundering drums, airy vocals, and guitars that are both “retro” and futuristic at the same time. Get ready to add a new favorite to your playlist!

You may not be aware that you’ve heard Gerry Rafferty’s 1978 global smash, “Baker Street,” but trust me: you have. At the very least you’ve encountered the track’s signature saxophone line, deemed by many observers to be amongst the most – if not *the* most – recognizable and widely played in music history. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves…

From Rafferty’s second solo album, City to City, “Baker Street” is a skillfully arranged rock number with flourishes of the type of sound that emerged as a money-making genre in the mid- to late-‘70s, connecting with large groups of fans on both sides of the Atlantic (and beyond). Interestingly, this curious and enduring drive-time staple found Scottish singer-songwriter Rafferty ascending to the top of the charts while the U.K. was in apex “punk mode” – and “Baker Street,” with its carefully charted parts, prominent wind instrument placement, and high-concept instrumentation, would seem at first glance to be quite the *opposite* of all that was (and is) punk. And yet… what could be truly more “punk” than having the chutzpah to release a saxophone-heavy, complex, and “adult” track to the British masses while London was burning (in song-form, at least) and the streets were teaming with sneering, spiky haired truants advocating for anarchy? Food for thought, that.

Anyway, on to the music.

Following a gentle intro that’s all Latin-feel percussion and tasteful guitar swells, at 22 seconds in, the drums intensify and then, three seconds later, the listener is treated to THAT sax riff – haunting, gut-wrenching, and irresistible – over bass and piano. Precisely one minute into “Baker Street,” Rafferty’s voice enters the picture for the first verse. It’s a clean, confident instrument that effortlessly carries the inviting melody, as well as some deceptively complex and dark lyrics (more on that later). The clever use of “slash chords” – where the guitar plays a certain chord (in this case A) while employing a different “bass” note (in this case D) – allows for both the piano and guitar to mirror the same walking bass line, creating a sense of travel and motion that fits perfectly with the lyrical content (I swear we’ll get to that!). At 1:33 the song reaches the extensive pre-chorus section, characterized by a slight uptick in gravitas and emotional energy, before we reach the chorus at 2:04 – a “chorus,” which is completely that iconic saxophone line, performed with aplomb by session ace Raphael Ravenscroft. Having a soft-rock cut (outwardly, anyways) in 1978 U.K. where the chorus, itself, is not a vocal line, but rather an instrument more commonly associated with jazz combos, big band numbers, and old timey rock and roll? That’s a none-more-punk move right there, my friends! From there, “Baker Street” revisits the established verse and sax solo/chorus a number of times before, at 4:22, returning to the structure of the single’s intro and then dovetailing into a searingly gorgeous guitar lead at 4:49. Replete glorious string-bends, singing vibrato, and enhanced by well-placed slide guitar overdubs, Hugh Burns’ guitar solo has been cited by numerous prominent six-string heroes in subsequent years as a major source of inspiration (go ahead – look it up) – and I’m not talking only jazzers or AOR rockers. Were it not for the undeniable saxophone part, *this* would be the instrumental element of “Baker Street” that folks still think of first, all these many years later.

Now for those lyrics: It’s a song about a misfit loner, hoping to rise above his demons and find his place and comfort in this world. 

Luxuriously textured, beautiful, and bittersweet “Baker Street” is a triumph from start to finish that absolutely resonates as deeply today as it did in 1978. If you already know this masterwork, re-listen with eyes and ears wide open; If the single truly is new to you, prepare to be amazed.

The Brevet “Shapeshifter” and Gerry Rafferty “Baker Street” are now available as DLC. Both can now be yours for $1.99 each.

  • The Brevet – “Shapeshifter”
  • Gerry Rafferty – “Baker Street”

VIDEO: Rock Band 4 DLC Week of 12/21: The Brevet “Shapeshifter” and Gerry Rafferty “Baker Street”



*Please note that this week’s DLC tracks will be available for purchase on Thursday, December 21st.