Thee Holy Brothers – My Name Is Sparkle
Label: Regional Records
Release date: November 27, 2020
Thee Holy Brothers, singer-songwriter Marvin Etzioni (aka “Buddy Holy”) and singer/multi-instrumentalist Willie Aron (aka “Johnny B. Holy”) have crafted a deeply compelling debut album. American Songwriter’s senior editor Paul Zollo described the album’s title track as “a miracle of a song”, before going on to enthuse, “This is serious songwriting and record-making, but not without a healthy amount of holy humour.”
My Name Is Sparkle is an ambitious experiment integrating the secular and spiritual, as Marvin elaborates…
“My Name Is Sparkle is about an androgynous character named Sparkle who is “looking for God.” The album is a two act play and on the digital format we are including the original closing track “The End of Suffering.” I had spoken to Paul Buckmaster about writing the string quartet arrangement. Unfortunately, it didn’t happen, but our direct to two-track record he heard is included on the digital release.
Sparkle travels to Jerusalem, the spiritual capitol of the world, only to find Elvis. Sparkle contemplates suicide, but ultimately keeps on his search.
In a key song, “If God Let Go,” Sparkle asks the ultimate question of the play. “what would happen…if God let go of everything? Would it all fall apart? Would it always be dark?” Perhaps in a disconnected yet ultimately connected world, the questions Sparkle asks are more relevant now than ever.
Sparkle concludes his journey singing, “if it is you God, keep crushing me” in the song “Keep Crushing Me.” Perhaps this is where we are on our journey as a human race as hundreds of thousands of people die due to COVID caused by human error or is it divine intervention that is forcing us to shut down and reconsider how we inch our way forward towards the 22nd century?
At the end of the play, Sparkle is at peace knowing “the end of suffering is in your heart.” As difficult as life can be, Sparkle chooses to live. My hope is that each of us makes the same choice. To live while we are alive.
Credits include drummer James Gadson (Marvin Gaye, Bill Withers, Beck), co-produced by Jeff Peters (Beach Boys) and mastered by Sean Magee (The Beatles) at Abbey Road Studios.
Coachella Valley Weekly music critic Eleni P. Austin states, “Thee Holy Brothers have fashioned an impressive, ambitious album that truly echoes devotional touchstones like George Harrison’s All Things Must Pass and Pete Townshend’s Who Came First.”
“Whenever we sing these songs together, it’s as if another voice besides the two of us enters – almost as if a third entity emerges,” says Marvin. Willie adds, “We are really drawn to the power and intimacy of our two voices as the ideal vehicle for the yearning nature of these songs.”
Marvin and Willie met decades ago at Aron’s Records in Los Angeles, when Willie was a high school student and Marvin worked behind the counter as a sales clerk. A mutual admiration of The Who bonded them. Within a few years, Marvin was co-founder of cowpunk pioneers Lone Justice, while Willie was a founding member of folk-rock innovators The Balancing Act.
Marvin is a singer, Grammy-nominated songwriter and Grammy-winning record producer, collaborating with such iconic artists as Counting Crows, Peter Case, Voice of the Beehive, and many others.
Willie has emerged as an award-winning composer of film and television shows and is a session musician/producer for the likes of Victoria Williams, Syd Straw, Peter Himmelman and Rickie Lee Jones. Willie portrays a member of the famed Wrecking Crew in the biopic Love and Mercy about Beach Boys founder Brian Wilson.
Marvin and Willie never really contemplated recording an album together until their rabbi referred to them as the Holy Brothers at a temple service. “The” was changed to “Thee” and rehearsals soon followed.
At their first show, Thee Holy Brothers received great encouragement and support from none other than Leonard Cohen, their friend and fellow temple member. Marvin and Willie tested many of the songs from the album in the L.A. clubs. They also played in coveted spots at the Calgary Folk Festival in Canada. The Calgary Herald wrote, “Thee Holy Brothers… [was] one of the more rewarding treats of the festival.”
Following a prolonged gestation over several years, owing to the dual tragedy of family loss and serious illness, My Name Is Sparkle is finally scheduled for digital release on November 27 2020 on Regional Records, and a CD and possible vinyl release will hopefully follow next year. Recording for its follow-up is already complete and scheduled for a 2021 release, while writing is already well underway for a third.