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Widely known as the ‘drummer dude’ in Comets on Fire, Utrillo Kushner’s musical talents range far beyond the drunken-master-style wailing he unleashes on any given night with the Comets. It’s his skills as a songwriter and bandleader that impress on the sentimental rock stylings of Acapulco Roughs. Having tickled the ivories for close to a decade, Kushner assumes command of the keys in Colossal Yes and steps it up as a full-fledged piano man. The songs on Acapulco Roughs have existed in Kushner’s mind for years, heard only by a few close friends on home demos or at one of a handful of solo shows. Far from their humble beginnings, these simple piano chords and melodies have morphed and developed over the years, reaching maximum clarity on the Acapulco sessions. Acapulco Roughs is so pure, so honest, that it risks a headlong dive into cheeseville. Kushner repeatedly urges his side men to ‘play how you think Mark Knopfler would play!’ and rallies his players with calls for ‘More Fozzie Bear!’ when the group loses focus. The risks are obvious, but the payoff is ever greater chooglin’. In fact, the two elements that should damn this album to lite-rock purgatory - unabashed sincerity and piano-playing - miraculously work to its advantage. Somehow, when untainted musicianship meets earnest presentation something happens, and the results are damn good. Maybe it’s just the joy of creation. If you haven’t guessed yet, this is the ‘70s. The idealized, mythological ‘70s, where you’re not sick of great songs because play-it-to-death AOR stations haven’t been invented yet. Think Badfinger, Spirit, Procol Harum, The Band. The true essence of rock, stripped to its essentials by virtue of its vainglorious indulgences, existing forever as the absolute articulation of the form. Colossal Yes is the greatest affirmation of them all, bigger than big, and there’s no joke behind the smiling.