Review: Alex Hirsch “Naturally”

Alex Hirsch “Naturally”

12 Nov, 2010 Bob Felberg

Alex Hirsch is an extremely versatile fellow. The son of legendary actor Judd Hirsh, Alex wears as many creative hats. Songwriter, singer, music and video producer, band member and, in the case of Naturally, solo performer. He has worked with Elliot Randall, Too Short, Ice-T, Griffen BIONIK and Black Silver to name a few. Alex recently was signed to Key Wins productions, an online record store and record label. Hirsch tackles the impressive feat of playing and singing 95% of the parts on Naturally!  Produced by BIONIK and Bayb Ruth, the record is clean and crisp sounding and well conceived in a forward looking sound while holding to a classic rock and jazz presentation.  Ranging from “Structure’,” his instrumental jazz fusion homage to major influences Miles Davis and John Coltrane, to the deeply personal title track, we travel through Hirsch’s world, making stops all over the musical map.

“Martians Advance” is a wonderful opener. The military beat and persistent two chord musical backdrop give the feeling of movement and marching. Just as the song grows using keyboards, running bass guitar and sustained power chords create a feeling of apprehension.  Hirsch throws in a little lyrical wrench with “tell me if it’s music/in between us/it is motion/its rhythm to me/what’s it to you/Its rhythm to me/tell me what’s it to you.”  As the fade comes, it sounds as if the Martian hordes have passed and everything becomes calm. If there was ever a song that painted an image, “Martians Advance” does!
“One Confession” nearly defies a category box.  One could best term it “spy-prog.” The base of the song is heavy riffing ala King Crimson, but it is interlaced with 007 reverb-y guitar chords. Hirsh’s layered vocals are at once menacing and alluring, and the little scat tags at the end of the verses give a solid transition.  Gully Weiss’ lead guitar playing spirals and snakes between the verses taking the song several rungs higher. This track works well on all levels.  “I Speak the Truth” was recorded at an impromptu 3:00 AM session in one take. It offers a lovely acoustic guitar background, but is wordy and the seesaw melody is repetitive.
Hirsch cites the Grateful Dead was one of his major influences, and there are shots of Jerry’s vocals and the band’s harmonies and song structure on “5755,” “The Day,” and “Christine.” That Dead-like quality is also represented by the spacey, trance-like quality that ties much of the album together. “Martians Advance,” “Time and Space,” and “Swami” are all washed in phased vocals, rebounds of echo and extended keyboard washes making for a generally ethereal sound to the project. One of the more beautiful songs on Naturally is “Girlfriend.”  A late night steamy alto sax solo by Jimmy D. sweeps us into this personal statement reflecting on a relationship. With very simple, adoring lyrics, Hirsch struggles to adequately describe this woman. In the end he sums it all up by saying: “really I/I just want to get to know her” with that alto sax tumbling along with us to end the song.  Very effective.
“Naturally” features one of Hirsch’s most plaintive vocals and lyrically continues the theme of questioning. He sets out by saying that life is fine, then comes the ubiquitous “but,” and ends with a question “memories make me cry, I don’t know why/maybe it just comes naturally.”  The album closer “Lennon” is a highlight. Lyrically packed with comments and questions John Lennon fans have asked over the years, there is sarcastic, even caustic, edge here, too, when Hirsch asked Lennon’s widow, Yoko Ono: “what it is like to be impossible.” It is a most apt tribute that offers a heart wrenching chorus:
Nobody knew better what was going on/than the man who called his friend the walrus/he used to sing about freedom, acid trips and windy ships/ and imagine that we all lived as one.”  The song showcases a most lovely musical tag that asks the question “won’t anyone stop the rains” over a musical collage that wraps up with an orchestral crescendo akin to “A Day In The Life” on The Beatles Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album.  A very fitting end to this most emotionally charged, eclectic musical triptych. Get on board.

Review By Bob Felberg
Rating: 4 stars (out of 5)