Monday, August 28, 2017

Sam Baker - Land Of Doubt

Sam Baker - Land Of Doubt

Following a European tour behind his new album, Land Of Doubt, Sam Baker is turning his attention to creative projects in 2017: Opening his first-ever exhibition as a visual artist, staging an original play and filming a documentary. As you may know, Sam has limited hearing after being on a bus that exploded during a 1986 terrorist attack in Peru, but he’s from Texas, now living in Austin. This album brings the world up to date on his current activities and sets the tone for the future which brings a lot of new territory into the mix for him, of which some of the songs get vastly described here. There are fifteen tracks, so it’s quite a lot to take in, let alone put down to words about. To begin with this is Americana music of the traditional folk variety. “Summer Wind” kicks it off with what is essentially a guitar-driven piece with some piano backing. It’s a haunting track with a nice mid-section which displays some good guitar chops. It’s not a bad opener but things get more serious on “Some Kind Of Blue” with a better vocal delivery to get a better perspective of his voice. It’s more than a pleasing follow up to the opener and sets the rest up with a better example of his talents. It’s all about staying alive.

The next track “Margret” is followed by a 48 second instrumental called “The Silvered Moon.” They pass by a little faster than the previous two but “Margaret” explores some great arranging, for the love song that it is. “Love Is Patient” is less of a song but it does pick up a little half-way through. The guitar and piano are what really impress the most on this track. “Song Of Sunrise Birds” is a lovely instrumental that leads into “The Feast Of Saint Valentine” which is one of the most brooding tracks and shows the dramatic side of Sam Baker to its fullest extent on this album, and comes off the most serious in the process. “Moses In The Reeds” is a lot more playful than any previous tracks and it helps pick up the pace a little, so it’s a welcoming track for the most part. There is much to like about the arrangement here as well. Bob Dylan almost meets the Beatles, if that is anyway to describe it which is never as easy a job as it might seem. Another track that bodes the same way is “Sunken City Roses” which is led by a complex string arrangement, but it loses a point for being too short as another instrumental piece that could use a few minutes extension at the very least. It still compels either way.

“Peace Out” is one of the highlights with a video of footage of the Sand Diego coastline. It’s one of the most sublime moments on the album and serves to get Sam Baker under the skin by showing what a good songwriter he is. It deals with letting it all go and washing your troubles away. And “Where Fallen Angels Dwell” is a nice relaxing mellow piece to go with the final cut which is the title track. It must be a trend lately to do that. “Land Of Doubt” is an outdoorsy western of sorts that carries a haunting melody and earns its title with an excellent way to end a fine record. 

bd Gottfried

bd Gottfried 

In 2017 - bd Gottfried is an edgy, uncompromised writer releasing his 8th solo album entitled: Through The Dog’s Eyes - produced by Juno Winner Siegfried Meier. With airplay in over a dozen countries he continues to work in an unrestricted style with lyrical depth that will always take you on a journey. Having a varied working background as a touring musician and session player. Working in the past with a vast array of artists such as Pino Palladino (Pete Townsend, John Mayer Trio). Breen Laboeuf (Celine Dion, April Wine). Greg Dechert (Bad Company, David Gilmour), to name a few.

That is just the short bio version of what this artist is all about. TTDY is a concept album of sorts if you put the words together, but they all play like huge individual pieces of their own. So, if you don’t know what it’s about, you still get an enjoyable album’s worth of great tracks. Some of them more serious than others, but that comes with the ups and downs of any story based-music. Kicking off with “Something You Weren’t” gives an instant chance to see how he cleverly combines all-of the styles he brings to the table in one song. This works remarkably well to start with, as makes you want to go the distance with the rest.

The next track, “Crosshairs” isn’t quite as interesting, but you hear some of his musical heroes laced through it. It drags on in a couple of places and doesn’t quite meet the standard of the opener. But this is rectified on one of the upper-cuts of the disc with “Blame It On The Money” and the former is easily forgotten for any flaws. This song makes up for it where anything dips, as it fights for the best track on offer. You can’t say enough about a song like this, it’s as good as he seems to get. It’s strategically arranged in the right spot to give it the limelight too. This should stand at the top of his catalog.
The contrast of “Eye Of Time,” while not too stark, adds some differences to make it hold up well enough to follow such a good track. The up-front singing is world class, and that drives this one all the way home. If you let yourself take it all in, you’ll find a singing job that won’t be easy to forget. This is a sublime album and track that makes a mark by laying on a hypnotic vocal. The same cannot be said for the likes of “Frequencies” but it comes at the right time as it brings the tempo down to a whisper after such a blazing two tracks. The cream all lies right here on this part of the album, and this track helps reset the vibes.

The bluesy sounds of “Breakaway” also make for some pretty-cool stuff with a Chris Rea sounding vocal on the first half that just works. But anyone could get lost or found listening to such a record. It has some huge moments but also some small, less inspiring moments to experience. It all comes out in the wash, and tracks like “Do We Have Love” contain a little of both levels of quality on display. But it’s not a patch on the closing majesty of “SOS with an IOU” with its clearly better effort put forth. It ends what is essentially a fine 8th release, even if you have never heard bd Gottfried. Start here and delve into him.

Seconds Before Landing – 'Now That I have Your Attention'

Seconds Before Landing – 'Now That I have Your Attention'
There is a new genre of rock that is slowly getting so much buzz from rock lovers and musicians now. Progressive rock has a cool style that has a huge classical influence, using percussions, keyboard instruments and long compositions and sultry vocals. Picture a rock sound that finds a place in a symphony. It sometimes is called classical rock and some artistes even give it a jazzy treatment.
John Crispino is the brain and voice behind Seconds Before Landing and “Now That I Have Your Attention”’ and you can tell that there is a maturity behind this third studio album. What “Now That I have Your Attention” does is a wonderful mix of eclectic sounds that make the twelve tracks on the album a diverse listen. John Crispino’s writing style is distinct, you can hear the message in each song clearly through the lyrics, others are elaborate compositions that are amazing listening experience. If we take out the Intro and the Outro, there are just 10 full songs so it comes a bit short in terms of actual music content.
There are some songs on the albums that epitomize the diversity of John Crispino and his band. 4 A.M opens the album after the intro and is a mellow sound backed by soulful melodies from the ground. Track 5 is Head Down Low is a mid-paced ballad supported by classical flutes, drums and keyboards. It is a perfect description of S.B.L’s type of music. The vocals are reminiscent of a church choir with varying ranges of pitch. The result though is intense melody that you can shake a bit to, not in the regular rock kind of way, more like a Kenny G song.
One of most interesting things about the album that you would enjoy is the smooth transition from one song to the other. Great lyrics and beautiful compositions befitting of any stage. You may not have the head banging that you’d find in traditional rock but this works wonderfully. There is only one guest appearance on the album and even that does not distract from the sound of the album. Track 6 “Things” is another great song that shows off the entire group’s talent. All the instruments come to fore and are backed by another strong vocal performance by Crispino. The song talks about the different things that run through our minds and determine what we do. Compared to S.B.L’s earlier albums, it’s easy to see that the group is finding its voice and making music their own way.
This would have been a five-star album except for a few reasons. I would have liked to see a bit more diversity in the paces of the songs. Feels Good is one of the few songs that gives a different flavor and so it stands out with a distinctively punk rock sound, under the heavy influence of electrosynth and the guitar.
Now That I Have Your Attention does exactly what it says; it catches your attention from the intro and takes you into a journey into the world of Seconds Before Landing. Have a glass of your favorite drink ready and enjoy!
Jimmy Testa

Thursday, August 10, 2017

John Elderkin and ¡Moonbeams No Mas!

John Elderkin and ¡Moonbeams No Mas!

The seventeen track opus The Fall and Rise of John Elderkin and ¡Moonbeams No Mas! 

hails from a different place in popular music’s history when daring performers stood committed to breaking the well established forms of pop music and imposing artistic considerations on their work that the art form was supposedly too limited to ever accommodate. Elderkin is one of the best songwriters in America today – no joke. His album combines deceptively simple musical arrangements with lyrical depth that doesn’t much more than acknowledge his artistic and musical debts. His personality and experiences emerge fully formed from this release while his love for the form lights up the collection with a surfeit of inspiration reaching far beyond what many of his contemporaries release or aspire to. The Fall and Rise of John Elderkin and ¡Moonbeams No Mas! is quite unlike anything else you’ll encounter in 2017 and, more than likely, for years to come.  
It begins on a relatively sedate note. “We Waited Five Years” comes across, in some ways, as a post-modern folk song and finds firm footing in the singer/songwriter genre, but Elderkin’s sensibility is such that he can’t resist tweaking our expectations with some unusual variations of texture and sound, particularly on the song’s second half.. “The Message” shows Elderkin moving in much more distant, experimental territory. There are no vocals in the traditional sense, only an assortment of chant like voices moving over a keyboard laced backing track. It has a vaguely spiritual air that listeners aren’t likely to pin down to one particular place. “Song for David Bowie” starts off as an acoustic track coupled with Elderkin’s vocal and gradually transitions into a more assertive arrangement during the second half. “Don’t Look Right at the Sun” moves through a number of different moods and tempos before concluding with a guitar-laden final section that brings everything to an explosive conclusion. The vocal is especially rugged and passionate – Elderkin’s versatility in attacking the softer and more rambunctious numbers alike is well worth noting.  
“Get Back in the Van” is a slice of life from the struggles of a touring indie band. There’s plenty of humor in this piece, one of the album’s more underrated virtues, and the lyrically mix of concrete detail with suggestiveness makes it quite a memorable ride. Elderkin  takes a much more sensitive turn with the piano driven arrangement and a singing performance from Elderkin that covers all possible bases. “Fat Levon on Acid” is an outright freakout and sound s sort of incongruous placed along side the earlier tracks, but it’s some good fun regardless. The ragged march pushing “Megaphone on the Moon” has a ragged but right quality about ot that slowly draws you in. The Fall and Rise of John Elderkin and ¡Moonbeams No Mas! is a first class operation of powerhouse musicians and superior songwriting talent and this album represents a quantum shift in how Elderkin will be perceived from this point forward. 

Scott Wigley