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Universal Honey “Gets the Record Straight” With Reissuance of Their Self-Titled Third Release

For Leslie Stanwyck and Johnny Sinclair, reissuing their third self-titled release from their Universal Honey catalog in 2021 provides a rare opportunity to “right a few commercial wrongs” that plagued initial distribution of this ambitious collection of music back in 1999.

This time around, the genre-hopping Universal Honey album is actually available for purchase on release day on the couple’s Honeytunes label as well as all streaming platforms, something that proved elusive the first time around.

“We had a distribution deal with start-up label called Oasis,” says Sinclair. “They went out of business the same week Universal Honey was released.”

With stores attempting to recoup money from Oasis Records, Universal Honey was off record store shelves almost as nearly as it arrived. That left Stanwyck and Sinclair in a worst-case commercial scenario and Universal Honey fans without the initial opportunity to hear music from the band’s exciting third phase – the beginning of their multi-year Do-It-Yourself era, where the two carefully hand-crafted many of these songs in their living room.

Stepping back from the pressure-packed years of back-to-back touring to support their first two releases and recording songs designed to be played before those concert audiences, Universal Honey provided Stanwyck and Sinclair time to take a breath, dive deeper dive into their musical influences, and work in a creative environment under their control.

“We have a free-flow joy of music,” says Stanwyck. “There were no rules. We didn’t have to make it sound like this or that. We were just a couple of kids having fun in the studio.”

Sinclair and Stanwyck produced Universal Honey at Iguana Sound, with assistance from Toronto-based talent, including Rob Bartolucci (production/engineering and lead guitars), Dale Penner (mixing), and Jim McGrath (keyboards/sampling). Other than those contributors and two guest drummers appearing at the sessions, Universal Honey is largely all Leslie Stanwyck and Johnny Sinclair.

“Those were some of the best sessions I have ever played on,” says Bartolucci. “The studio was very creative. I loved to work with John and Les.”

To further enhance the organic ‘70s audio vibes of the sessions, the band rented classic keyboard gear for Stanwyck to use on these recording’s including Hohner clavinet, Fender Rhodes, Wurlitzer piano, Farfisa organ and an assortment of vintage synth’s.

As a result, Universal Honey is an adventurous mix of commercial power pop singles (“Two Faces Have I”), keyboard-driven rock-funk excursions (“The Kitchen” and “Spin It Around”), brooding blues (“Gotta Gettaway From You”)

With Stanwyck and Sinclair still newly married during the time of the writing of these recordings, some tracks are simple testimonies of their happiness, including the aptly titled “I'm Better (With You in My Life)” and “Maybe I Love You”, as well as the album’s closer, “A Love Song.”  

Record company bankruptcies notwithstanding, these songs were too good not to get heard, with “Real World,” “Hit the Ground Running,” and “Big Mistake” all placed on television soundtracks. A sly movie-treatment video of “Hit the Ground Running” received airplay, and Stanwyck and Sinclair secured local Toronto session musicians to play a few select shows in support of the release. But with the first-ever digital issuance of Universal Honey, many fans of the collective projects of Stanwyck and Sinclair – whether UH, TPOH, or Loud Factory, as well as current-day alt country-rocking Tucker Lane – get to hear these diverse tracks for the first time, all carefully sequenced across an hour-plus of Canadian Rock excellence. With this release, UH fans also get a chance to hear an earlier version of Gotta Getaway from You, with a young Hawksley Workman on drums and production from Matt DeMatteo (Big Wreck).

Universal Honey plans for 2021 include additional re-releases from their catalog, continuing to record new music in following up their UH EP 2020 release, and performing virtually across their social platforms.

- Tim Boutin, Boston MA, January 20, 2021

Just when you thought 2020 couldn’t get any stranger… Toronto’s alt-pop rockers Universal Honey Release New Music for first time in 15 years with UH EP 2020.

In making honey during this challenging musical period, Leslie Stanwyck and Johnny Sinclair are releasing their first new music in over a decade with UH EP 2020. 

Re-energized by global activities in these last few months, Universal Honey principals Stanwyck (lead vocals, guitars, keyboards, production) and Sinclair (bass, vocals, production) co-wrote the six songs on UH EP 2020 in a creative burst. The couple’s trademark melodic power pop is in ample evidence across these fresh tracks. The first single, Rolling Back Time, lyrically is of the time – it’s all about looking forward and not getting caught in the trappings of past ideals.

Joined on these recording by two Canadian rock veterans, guitarist Kurt Schefter (Alannah Myles) and drummer Don Kerr (Ron Sexsmith, Rheostatics), the six tracks on UH EP 2020 extend the distinct “ear candy” sound Stanwyck and Sinclair created across seven earlier Universal Honey releases. Universal Honey’s distinct blend of melodic vocals, punchy guitars, and “can’t get it out of your head” hooks and choruses are in abundance here.

UH EP 2020 is being digitally released October 19th to all streaming sites, with compact disc format to follow.

Stay tuned, as Universal Honey continues to release the remainder of its largely unavailable catalog to streaming sites into 2021.

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