Archive for the ‘Weekend Magazine’ Category

Review: Claire London – Like a Machine.

October 16th, 2011
Comments Off on Review: Claire London – Like a Machine.

The world of female singers these days is stuffed full of pretty girls on auto-tune. It becomes a frustrating experience trying to weed through more and more of the same old.

clairelondonalbumcoverThe first song I heard on Claire London’s Like a Machine was Basket Case, a song loaded with soulful blues and a rap bridge. First impression, pretty good. Second impression, rap? Yet Claire London had a rapping style that let her get away with it. Sexy and sultry, Basket Case is a dangerous sounding song.

But the album isn’t all rock/blue/soul in sexy voice. Every other song on the disk sounds like a compromise with the record company, just another generic song in a generic age.

When London breaks the shackles of what female singers are supposed to sound like in 2011, the album soars. It is musically diverse, and she is a singer of rare quality. The slow blues of Another Side, a Cat Stevens style acoustic song, complete with two part vocal counter-play with herself in the coda, super sexy Basket Case, reminiscent of Allanah Myles Black Velvet, with a rap where the guitar solo should go. What if we Started a Fire, another acoustic guitar piece that perfectly blends voice, lyric and guitar. Nowhere at All, London’s voice soars over a piano and cello, creating pure beauty. Their all dynamic songs graced with musicality and vocal prowess.

But Like a Machine has it’s share of weak songs: Color Me, more electronic than musical, Diary of a Mad Woman, Space Queen and Burning Daylight are attempts at a dance music that is nothing more than an average Beyonce or Madonna song, neither worthy of hearing twice.

The weak music in Like a Machine give it commercial potentiality, some street cred on a broken street. But there’s enough of the other to make Claire London’s debut album interesting and worth the listeners time.

In short, when she’s good, she’s very good, when she’s bad, she’s Madonna.

Review, Weekend Magazine ,

Music Review: Alec Gross, Strip the Lanterns.

September 15th, 2011
Comments Off on Music Review: Alec Gross, Strip the Lanterns.

Dancing Music, the first song on Alec Gross’ inaugural album, Strip The Lanterns, begins with a small classical guitar like intro: a Sor Etude perhaps, quickly morphing into Dan Fogelbergs Leader of the Band. Alec Gross hasn’t sung a line yet, and I’m hooked. This is gorgeous.

So put on dancing music, and I’ll lead soft and slow,
put on your mother’s necklace, the one you wear for show.
And I’ll put on a younger me, the one you used to know.
Tonight we will remember us, before we both grew old.

And while it is a beautiful piece, lyrically and musically it gives you pause to worry too. Is this it? Is it going to be an album of slow, pretty songs, nice to listen to, great to fall asleep too.

Dancing Music ends with a blast from a horn section, leading directly into If You Don’t Mind, and the worries disappear. More up-tempo, steel string acoustic, pedal steel slipping in underneath the fine vocals, a blues harp solo. No, boredom won’t be a problem with this album. And yet it ends with that bit of guitar again, that Sor, like a leitmotif, comes back into end the song. So, a concept album, then?

Gross himself calls his song-writing Cinematic Americana, and it is indeed a concept album – although if it has a leitmotif it should properly be called rock opera. The story of a fictional mid-western gas station attendant, Strip the Lantern is not a throwback, doesn’t sound like it came from the 70’s. Rather it is the best of modern albums, carrying the concept album tradition into the singer/songwriter genre with grace and fluidity.

It’s an album I hope they have released on LP: I can see myself curled up on the couch, side 1 playing, following along with the words, studying the liner notes for that little joke, reading what kind of guitars and harmonicas Alec Gross plays. It lends itself to an amount of study, seems like it would be worth the effort.

Whether it’s the up-tempo Just a Little Girl, with double stop lead guitar and is sing along melody, or So In Love With You, returning to the horns of If You Don’t Mind, and the leitmotif popping up in the piano, the Fender Rhodes sound in the Band-like Burning Grounds, Strip the Lanterns is a collection of good songs, weaved together in a lovely album.

It’s always a fools game to predict a career based on a debut album, but I’ll be watching for new Alec Gross with expectation in the future based solely on how much I like Strip the Lantern.

Review, Weekend Magazine ,