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alchalant “Grad Song”

08 May, 2012 Rhonda Readence

alchalant, hailing from Detroit Rock City, is made up of Alex Matijow on vocals and guitar, Todd Errion on bass and vocals, and Chris Hobbs on drums. Their single “Grad Song” is a nostalgic piece of music that laments the innocent and care-free life of youth. The track is lyrically sound and extremely well-written. Anyone with a sense of youth that has passed will relate to the thoughtful lyrics and look back wistfully at happier times.

Vocally, the piece could use some work. Matijow is not always in tune and he is occasionally pitchy. He delivers with confidence though, and the lyrics are easy to understand. Instrumentally, “Grad Song” is executed well and these musicians have a solid grasp on the composition of music. However, there are moments of discord within the track when the rhythm section seems to be off the barest beat. This tends to add to the charm of the song, but for those few seconds, listeners may have to take a step back and reassess what they are hearing. As for the sound quality, it is not terrible, but the drums sound tinny at times and the vocals tend to override everything else. A thorough re-mixing is suggested.

Overall, “Grad Song” is a solid piece of music with exceptional lyrics and a catchy rhythm; however it does need some attention. Alchalant is a band with talent, which is obvious while listening to this single, and “The Grad Song” is a good indication of what they can do. The lyrics are great and the composition of the piece is good as well, but Alchalant simply need to focus a bit more on the overall quality throughout and add a bit of polish to the sound.

Reviewed by Rhonda Readence
Rating: 2.5 stars (out of 5)

Mu-Theory “Until We Lose It”

15 Feb, 2012 Rhonda Readence

Mu-Theory is a five piece jazz/blues/rock band out of Melbourne, Australia.  Tony Brewin on vocals and acoustic guitar is joined by Ian Rutherford on keyboards, Stuart Naylor on drums, Chris Birchall on lead guitar and Ivan Bader on bass.  Their debut album Until We Lose It is a smooth and pleasing 9-song endeavor that will be sure to leave music aficionados smiling.  With crystal clear production and engineering, exceptional musicianship and sound lyrical content, there is nothing lacking within this album.

Most tracks on Until We Lose It carry influences of the 70’s coupled nicely with Mu Jazz and dashes of rock.  The album title track, which is also the lead in piece, is a good indication of what listeners can expect.  A catchy rhythm and skilled instrumentation pave the way for the smooth vocals of Tony Brewin.  Mu-Theory proves right off the bat that their skill as musicians is extraordinary, particularly with their flawless vocal harmonizing.  “Praying For The Future” and “Don’t You Ever Say Goodbye” pick up the pace a bit, adding more of a rock flavor.  The guitar work in the latter offering is worth making note of, as it is light and graceful and still able to bring elements of rock to an otherwise mellow piece.

Mu-Theory has a knack for their songwriting and offerings like “Cold Dark Night” and “New Place” are love songs with heartfelt and honest lyrics.   “Cold Dark Night” is more uplifting and carries an essence of hope, whereas “New Place” tends to have an air of deep sadness to it amid the graceful acoustic guitar work.  The electric guitar work is also done exceptionally well and this track is perhaps the most beautiful on the album.  Showcasing the elegant keyboarding work of Ian Rutherford, “Lonely Life” is a thought provoking piece dealing with addiction and the darker side of human nature that highlights the strong songwriting skills of Mu-Theory.

Artistic creativity runs rampant in “Miracles,” a slow guitar-driven piece that is the very epitome of Mu-Theory music.  Chris Birchall shows off his extraordinary skills with the six string, the rhythm section is tight, and each member of the band gets his chance to shine during the course of this epic masterpiece.  If there is one song on the album that will be a fan favorite, this is surely it.  “Ten A Penny” picks up the pace again and this track has elements of blues and rock intermingled with the classic sound of Mu-Theory jazz that we have come to know and love.

Until We Lose It closes with “Ode To Richie,” which is perhaps the jazziest piece on the album, and certainly the one with the most attitude.  Mu-Theory has a wonderful knack for mixing elements of jazz, blues and rock into a smooth blend of original and unique music that is performed with abundant skill.  Add to this the fact that the sound quality is phenomenal and the songwriting is strong, and you have winner all the way around.  This album is a testament to the talent, creative diversity and artistic vision of Mu-Theory and listeners will not be disappointed.

Review by Rhonda Readence
Rating: 5 stars (out of 5)

Dwight Townsend “Hello Again – The Best of Dwight Townsend”

15 Feb, 2012 Rhonda Readence

Accompanied by members of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, Dwight Townsend brings back the golden age of music with his 40-song double album Hello Again – The Best of Dwight Townsend.  His rich baritone voice is on par with the likes of Frank Sinatra, Perry Como and Dean Martin.  Elegant instrumentation throughout lends this double album a sense of romance and nostalgia for the good old days.

The title track, a cover of Neil Diamond’s “Hello Again,” starts things off with graceful piano playing and Townsend’s classic operatic vocals.  His music is simply classic and tracks like “I Can’t Believe I’m Losing You” and “I Have Dreamed” seem to come right out of a musical.  Townsend also does a stunning rendition of “Some Enchanted Evening” that rivals the original in skill and grace.

One of the highlights on Hello Again – The Best of Dwight Townsend is his take on the timeless “Unchained Melody.”  Townsend slows the pace down a bit and croons his way through it with confidence.  This is a voice that will melt butter and his version of this wonderful piece of music will send chills down the spine.  Another of Townsend’s attributes is his ability to create songs with vivid imagery in the lyrics.  Offerings like “Once Upon A Time” and “Wrinkles” contain such descriptive lyrics that the listener will be able to imagine the scenes with total clarity.

Most of the tracks on this double album are from a long gone era of powerful show tunes that seem familiar, even though many of the songs are Dwight Townsend originals.  Tracks such as “Paper Moon” and “When I Take My Sugar To Tea” carry a jazzy swing vibe that will get the feet tapping.  The instrumentation throughout the album is extraordinary, particularly during the latter piece.

Townsend is gifted with the ability to use his rich baritone voice in slow songs such as “I’m Old Fashioned” and “All At Once You Love Her” while on the same token, he can sing upbeat numbers like “If I Didn’t Have You” with equal ease and skill.  Another standout piece on the album is “I’m Beginning To See The Light,” which is a jazzy number with an upbeat tempo that is done with perfection.  The musicianship is absolutely stellar and the sound quality is crisp.

Hello Again – The Best of Dwight Townsend is, quite simply, one of the most extraordinary double albums to grace the music world.  Townsend has brought back a bygone age of show tunes and smooth jazzy pieces that are energetic.  Townsend also has his share of classically romantic offerings that are made even more so by his seductive voice.  With help from members of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, Dwight Townsend has created a masterpiece that is musically intricate and lyrically impressive.  He has made sure the golden age of music is remembered and he has done it with grace and charm.

Review by Rhonda Readence
Rating:  5 stars (out of 5)

Steve Lieberman “The Rabbi Is Dead”

16 Nov, 2011 Rhonda Readence

Steve Lieberman, otherwise known as The Gangsta Rabbi, proclaims himself The King of Jewish Punk.  His style of music is not for everyone, and listeners will know whether it’s for them or not in fairly short order.  The sound quality leaves much to be desired and the musicianship itself is nothing to write home about.  Lieberman’s style is geared more towards garage punk fans, as these qualities are, quite frankly, part of the art of the genre. 

Lieberman’s atonal and nasally vocals remain constant throughout his album The Rabbi Is Dead and the pace of the songs rarely change.  It becomes difficult to differentiate between tracks at times, and although another reviewer stated his music is “captures topics of the fall of commercial radio, unfair payroll taxes, puppies, racial prejudice, zoftic ladies, Jewish holidays and STDs,” listeners will likely never know this since most of the vocals are completely unintelligible.

The art of garage punk embraces the chaotic and reckless side of music.  There is an air of abandon about Lieberman’s music that will call out to music lovers familiar with the genre, but for those not in the know, his music will likely offend and frighten.  This being said, Lieberman does pull off the garage punk sound exceptionally well.  A muddy sound, indistinguishable vocals and a hodgepodge of soundscapes are what defines this artist, and tracks like “MCTMT,” “A Dove Flies Over Baghdad,” “Copeland, Summers & Stink” and “I’m No Freddie Mercury” are only the beginnings of Lieberman’s arsenal. 

The first few songs of the album are basically the same, with only minor variances in the sound and tempo. Lieberman broadens his musical horizons a bit with the album’s title track, “The Rabbi is Dead,” which carries some sort of melody that catches the attention because it breaks up the pace of the hectic, high energy preceding tracks.  The vocals are still abrasive, but upon listening to this piece, there is some hope that not all of Lieberman’s work is full of pure chaos and poorly produced noise.  The artist does show a flair of creativity here with a variety of sounds and tempos within the track, and this is perhaps when listeners will better appreciate the little bit of talent that Lieberman possesses.

The album continues in this vein throughout the duration, with flashes of creativity in the midst of mediocrity. One such flash occurs during “What Do I Get,” which is one of the few songs that have decipherable lyrics.  This track is the epitome of garage punk and the vocals actually aren’t bad compared to other offerings on the album. The rhythm is oddly addictive, and overall, this is perhaps the most promising track on the album.  Lieberman’s sense of humor is predominant throughout, particularly on tracks like “I Got The Crabs” and “Plus Size Girls (Rock My World)”.

One gets the impression that Lieberman doesn’t care if he’s good or not, or if people like him or not; he is just happy to play his music.  And that must be respected.  The Gangsta Rabbi is most definitely not for everyone, but those who get it will be delighted with the humorous garage punk offerings on The Rabbi Is Dead and they will flock like lemmings to watch Lieberman perform.  Whether he is good or not is all up to individual interpretation and Lieberman likely doesn’t care much one way or the other.  He is not asking for your approval, and this is why Lieberman can get away with making the most raucous, atonal garage punk ever heard and still gain a substantial following.  It’s not about the music.  It’s about the lifestyle.

Review by Rhonda Readence

Tim-Ryan O’Kane “The Monster’s Kiss”

08 Sep, 2011 Rhonda Readence

Tim-Ryan O’Kane is a self-taught pianist who attended the prestigious Alexander W. Dreyfoos School of the Arts in West Palm Beach, FL. Currently residing in Brooklyn, NY, O’Kane thinks of creating music as art. “It’s like a painter with a canvas. You get to create the sonic brushstrokes – just layer upon layer… To me, that’s the art of the thing.” Well, Tim-Ryan O’Kane has succeeded in creating a visionary artistic offering with his album The Monster’s Kiss. A concept album with a chilling storyline about a serial killer named Buddy Olson Rowley who kills a prostitute named Rachel, this electro pop alternative creation will enthrall and entertain.

The opening track, “Lullaby,” is a melodic piece with undertones of darkness. The lyrics are simple with the line And when you wake/You’ll be beautiful/So beautiful as you are repeating as the track reaches a crescendo of psychedelic guitar work that is reminiscent of early Pink Floyd. The sound quality is exceptionally well done and the composition is simple and alluring. The second track, “R.E.M. I: Running from the Swarm,” has a slow rhythm with traces of Alice In Chains abounding. O’Kane’s vocals are well delivered and his voice caresses the ears like liquid silk. The essence of this piece is disturbing, with the sound of flies buzzing and lyrics tainted with dementia. O’Kane adds an evil laugh into this piece that speaks volumes of dark secrets and hidden rooms. The instrumentation is performed with skill, particularly the blazing guitar solo and the tribal-esque drums.

“R.E.M. II: Teeth Fall Out” has more of an electronica vibe and the rhythm is smooth and flows gracefully. Excellent guitar work enhances this track and the sound quality is spectacular. The disturbing essence of the album continues in this song with lyrics that evoke vivid and disquieting imagery of teeth falling like rain. O’Kane’s lyric I reach for pearls in the drain/Try to put the back whence they came solidifies the image, and the sound of hideous screaming at the end of the track seals the deal. “R.E.M. III: Trying to Fly” has a slower tempo and elegant piano work coupled with electronic sound effects that give this piece a slightly industrial feel. O’Kane’s vocals are extraordinary as he hits the high notes effortlessly. This track can best be described as Nine Inch Nails meets Radiohead, which is quite the artistic endeavor to complete successfully as O’Kane has done.

“R.E.M. IV: Dis(re)membered” is perhaps the most intricate track on the album with regards to a variety of sounds and composition. The harmonies within this piece are professionally executed and the sound is ethereal and addictive. Each note is heard with perfect clarity and the layers are indeed painted as an artist would paint a canvas. Brushstroke upon brushstroke until the vision is formed. “R.E.M. V: Driving with a Stranger” is the album’s closing song and O’Kane wraps up his concept album with style. The rhythm of this song hints of a tribal vision with elements of electronica and alternative pop. In short, this piece encompasses each of O’Kane’s diverse talents into a six minute masterpiece of unrivaled artistic creativity. The vocal harmonizing is exquisite, the sound is divine and the powerful guitar work lends a sense of foreboding to this brilliant composition. With the concept album The Monster’s Kiss, Tim-Ryan O’Kane has indeed proved himself as a creative artist, painting music onto the canvas of our minds.

Review by Rhonda Readence
Rating: 4 stars (out of 5)