Halfway There: A Look Back at Ten (Officially Released) Jim Fusco Rarities – PART ONE

Originally posted 2009-03-22 08:00:33. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

By Chris Moore:

It will be difficult for 2009 to compete with last year’s music output, both here and abroad (so to speak).  Not only did 2008 see the release of incredible albums from bigtime artists (REM, Counting Crows, Coldplay…), but also saw the release of FMP artist Jeff Copperthite’s solo debut.  There were so many new albums released last year that I could hardly keep the release dates straight, and it really was a great year for new music.  Not all of it was amazing, but much of it was extremely enjoyable.

So, here comes 2009…

Thus far, there have been only a few notable releases in the new rock music world.  Bruce Springsteen started the year off strong with Working On A Dream.  Dan Auerbach’s debut solo release Keep It Hid was solid.  Recently, U2’s No Line On The Horizon drew a five-star rating from Rolling Stone (and questions marks from me…).  On the horizon, we now have Bob Dylan’s Together Through Life to look forward to, leaving the question: what do we new music fans have to do in the meantime?

That’s simple: look forward to the April 7th release of Jim Fusco‘s Halfway There!

The press release promises, “Halfway There may just be the best piece of music you purchase this year,” citing Fusco’s “attention to detail,” “organic effects,” and “warm sound.”  As there haven’t yet been any tracks leaked onto the web — either on Fusco’s offical site or by, um, other means 😉 — there is only one thing to do in the next two weeks as we wait for the official release…

Listen back to his previous albums!  [EDITOR’S NOTE: The new songs are now streaming online – click here.]

He has been quite a prolific artist, self-producing and self-releasing all of his previous albums.  There have been enough to merit a “best of” release in 2004.  Still, there are a lot of great tracks that have been overlooked by The Best of Jim Fusco, Vol. 1.  Thus, I’d like to share my top ten favorite (officially released) Jim Fusco rarities.

In no particular order, here goes…

Ten (Officially Released) Jim Fusco Rarities

1)  “It Makes Life Interesting” – A great song with a slow start, just drums and lead vocals.  The heartbeat of the rolling bass line makes it an instantly likeable song.  In private interviews, Fusco has made mention of a mentality that shaped his early high school through college years — namely, his response to the things he chose to do or situations he found himself in was “it makes life interesting.”  In a way, this song is a personal statement, carved out in a catchy, vocal-drenched three-minute song, ending appropriately as he sings, “And that is all that I’m going to say about that.”  Enough said, I suppose.

2)  “Mold Me” – I never understood why this track didn’t make it to the “best of.”  Privately, Jim admitted a degree of embarrassment with this track, but I immediately fell in love with it.  Fast-paced, distortion guitars, simple two-part vocals — it’s the perfect little rock package!  The song starts out at a breakneck pace, sounding like it may fly apart at any moment, and ends perfectly with a sudden stop and a fade into distortion.  It gets me going every time…

3)  “This Side Up” – Another album starter that became an instant favorite of mine, yet failed to make it to the “best of.”  For a long time, the lyrics to this song were posted on my door, next to my mirror.  I would see them in the morning as I combed my hair, and there was always something about the words that I found simple and optimistic, but very real.  And, as if the lyrics were not enough, this song features one of my favorite Fusco electric guitar solos.  Whatever he had experimented with while working on My Other Half had become fully realized by the recording of That’s All Jim — that much is apparent on this song.

4)  “I’m Gonna Find Out (About You)” – It’s built on a steady, driving beat, decorated nicely with keyboards and lush vocals.  What really stands out about this track is its combination of early Jim Fusco sound and an extended drum solo.  It’s not all that often that you find a Fusco track laced with an extended instrumental solo of any kind, and I’ve always been a fan of this one.  The structure of the song works well with the lyrics, as the instrumental portion of the song is almost 1/3 of the total running time of the song, which is perfect for a song about what happens “when I’m not around you.”

5)  “Ode to K” – The two disc album My Other Half was all about experimenting with sound and structure, as well as the overall artistry of the album — this much is apparent in the wide range of effects and vocal arrangements, as well as the cover art and booklet design.  “Ode to K” is a gem, one of only two times (both on this album) that Fusco used spoken word as the centerpiece of a song.  In this song (as opposed to “Here I Go Again,” the spoken-word album opener), he incorporates spoken word over traditional singing and a great musical arrangement.  It’s pure, very sincere, and I love it.

To Be Continued…

Click here for an exclusive sneak-peak at the album, now streaming online!

“Keep On Going” (Original Wednesday Acoustic Song)

Originally posted 2009-04-29 20:32:23. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

By Chris Moore:

And welcome one, welcome all to my Laptop Session for this very special Original Wednesday here at your source for the best acoustic cover and original song music videos available on the internet today!  (That’s a mouthful…)

You may be wondering, why is this day so special?

Well, for one, this is the birthday of Laptop Sessions series creator Jim Fusco.  On behalf of the other contributors and the loyal viewers of this blog, I’d like to wish him a very happy 25th birthday!  Only a quarter century in, and he’s accumulated quite a back catalog of music, writing, and side projects.  If you haven’t already, you should head on over to jimfusco.com.

Take it from me: the best gift you can get Jim this year is to spend a measely $10 on his brand new album Halfway There.  Go ahead, check out the album in streaming audio at his official website, or use the search function at the top of this page to listen to Laptop Sessions of many of the Halfway There tracks, read a full review (another one from Jeff coming soon…), and see the beautiful, custom artwork he used for the cover.

Okay, that’s enough plugging for one post.

Tonight’s session is based on a song that I never recorded for an album.  “Keep On Going” is an early track, as you will most likely be able to tell!  Although the words are straightforward and the chord progression is simple, I’ve always liked this little tune.  I originally wrote this song as a direct statement to my best friend (Jim, if you haven’t made the connection yet), assuring him after a rough week that things really will turn out all right, even though people — particularly high school aged people — can be cruel.  I hope he’s seen that to be true, as he’s moved on to college, made many lifelong friends, and become engaged to Becky Daly.  For all you former Pine Loft faithfuls: yes, this is indeed the same Becky Daly of Chris, Jim, and Becky fame!

I still sing “Keep On Going” when I feel stressed out or begin to think something — a relationship, a professional endeavor, etc. — won’t work out.  I hope you like it.

As a final note, stepping back into the present, I just started listening to the new Bob Dylan album, Together Through Life.  In case you’re questioning my devotion, there’s only one reason why I didn’t start listening yesterday: I pre-ordered the album on Amazon.com and didn’t spring for any more than Free Super Saver Shipping.  So, I’m cheap.  What do you want???  :-)

Did I mention I’m loving the album?  As I type, it’s blaring through my room and probably throughout the condo complex.  I may even get a letter in the mail from the condo association condemning me for noise pollution or disturbing the peace or some other such nonsense, but it will be worth it!  I spent the day at school today wearing the Best Buy exclusive Together Through Life t-shirt that Mike so graciously passed along to me from his purchase of the album (thanks again, Fusc!!).  I made certain to wear a white button down shirt today and a narrow tie, so as to have the Dylan t-shirt show through.  Thanks to at least one inquisitive student in each class I taught, I got to talk about the new album at least once every 82 minutes today!

I’ll save my commentary on Together Through Life for the review that will most certainly come, but allow me to share a couple comments.  First, this is not what I was expecting after Love & Theft and Modern Times.  Then again, that’s pretty much what Dylan himself suggested, so I’m not really surprised.  My favorite line thus far is the chorus to track three: “Hell is my wife’s home town.”  As if there’s any question as to whether Dylan’s dry sense of humor is still intact, just listen for his chuckling — yes, his chuckling — in the outro of that song.  Finally, although it’s a slow album to start, just wait for “Jolene” and “Shake Shake Mama” to really get your foot tapping.

And, with that taste of this new Dylan album, I’ll emphatically suggest you need to buy both Halfway There and Together Through Life and be on my merry way.

See you next session!

The Other Half: A Look Back at Ten (Officially Released) Jim Fusco Rarities – PART TWO

Originally posted 2009-03-29 22:52:45. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

By Chris Moore:

Last week, I brought you the first five in a list of ten Jim Fusco rarities in preparation for the release of his new album Halfway There this “new music Tuesday,” April 7th, 2009.  After all, there’s no better way to anticipate an upcoming release than to go back and enjoy all previous releases in a series.

In the case of Fusco, there has been quite a variety of musical projects over the course of the past eight years.  There have been six solo studio albums, three band albums, four releases (of 20 tracks each) in the Laptop Sessions acoustic mp3 series, a single, a greatest hits disc (with accompanying music video DVD compilation), and assorted demos, covers, and other tracks.  Now that I’ve officially finished listening to all the Bob Dylan tracks in my collection (almost 700!), I’ve embarked on my “Jim Fusco Catalog” playlist.

Clocking in at “only” eleven hours or so, this should be much easier to tackle than my Bob Dylan playlist!

For those of you Jim Fusco faithfuls, I hope you’ll enjoy the final five tracks on this second installment of “A Look Back at Ten (Officially Released) Jim Fusco Rarities” worth remembering…

A Look Back at Five More (Officially Released) Jim Fusco Rarities…

6)  “The Red, White, and Blues” – This is yet another album starter that I love.  It is Fusco’s first foray into direct protest songwriting.  Indeed, his March 2008 Laptop Sessions version stirred up some controversy in the form of comments left on the site.  It was nice to see that at least some people listen to the lyrics, even if they misread and/or disagreed with their message.  As he wrote in the blog post, this was the first and last “protest” type song of its kind.

7)  “The Second Time” – All I have to say is: this better be at the wedding reception!  In 2003, Jim recorded and released Formula, an album whose material was clearly inspired by his now-fiance Becky Daly.  She joins him near the end of this track, offering up a preview of 2/3 of the Chris, Jim, and Becky trio that would go on to perform around the state and release a “live in the studio” album.  While this isn’t necessarily one of my favorite Jim Fusco songs, it’s always been one of my favorites from Formula and — if it’s not “best of” material, then — it’s “top ten rarities” material.

8)  “Sideshow” – There are so many different tracks that were up for inclusion on this list of rarities — there’s the simple, piano-based vulnerability of “My Angel” or the folky storytelling style of “Vision of Cobblestone Town,” to name just a couple.  “Sideshow” earns a spot in the top ten for its unique sound.  There’s something about this track that is controlled and yet sort of wild; it’s one of those songs whose sound truly meshes with and contributes to the meaning conveyed by the lyrics.  In addition, as the penultimate track on What About Today?, it’s truly the point at which the recurring instrumental section comes to a climax before the first chords of “Harmony” and the close of this concept album.

9)  “Never Taking Your Chances” – This is one of those songs that benefits from my memories surrounding its conception, recording, and release.  I vividly recall my conversations with Jim about the situation that resulted in the writing of this song, and I recall the then-groundbreaking recording methods that he was pioneering.  This is a clear example of early blending between vocals and distortion guitar.  With each album, Jim’s use of guitar effects has become more effective and more interesting, and I can’t wait to hear his latest leap forward on Halfway There.

10)  “Another Backwards Day” – Speaking of guitar effects, “Another Backwards Day” is a track that I always felt was left forgotten about, sandwiched between the live favorites “Can’t Count on Words” and “Sometimes.”  This song is every bit as upbeat and rocking as the other songs around it, and it boasts a Frampton-esque series of guitar solos and riffing.  If “She Waits” (another favorite and one that ALMOST made the list!) demonstrates Jim’s softer, piano-driven side, then “Another Backwards Day” pulls out the stops and allows him to flex his electric muscle.

Music Review: Jim Fusco’s “Halfway There”

Originally posted 2009-04-13 23:55:34. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

RATING:  4.5 / 5 stars

By Chris Moore:

When Jim Fusco released What About Today? in May 2005, his official website claimed that “this album will prove to be Jim’s best work to date.”  I didn’t think about it much at the time, but that tag of “to date” is key, particularly now — four years later — as he releases a new album.

Now, his website asserts that Halfway There is “his most professional and mature album to date.”

There is certainly something very appropriate about the title of this new release.  Careful listeners will certainly appreciate the conceptual and thematic connections.  In most places on the record, Fusco seems upbeat and generally optimistic, and yet there is a clear feeling of being stuck in a transition phase.  “You go on for miles then you stop,” he sings in “On For Miles,” possibly referring to his fiancee (now only months away from their wedding).  On “Exception,” he sings, “Why can’t we be an exception to the rule?”

Fusco is even more blunt on “I Got You,” as he wails, “I’ll always have you here and shouldn’t that be enough?”

Halfway There is truly unmatched — as promised — in Fusco’s catalog in terms of not only sound quality and “professionalism,” but also lyrical content and overall effect.  This is an album that should draw listeners in and make them feel something.  From the opening track, this is apparent, as much from the snarl of the verse as from the fed-up indifference of the chorus.  The guitar solo is emotive and supported with a classic Jim Fusco — no, better — bass riff.

Go on: I dare you not to get it stuck in your head.

The Best Indie Album of 2009!

The Best Indie Album of 2009!

“Go Back to Him” sets the tone for an album that does what great albums are supposed to do, leading you from highs to lows as you wind your way through its eleven tracks. Perhaps due to his experience with the recording process (and life in general) or an array of new equipment and instruments, Fusco’s vocals are warmer, his guitar effects are more unique and authentic, and the overall sound quality is higher.  The volume level is impressive — sometimes to0 much so, as I’ve had to turn down a couple tracks during pronounced, high-pitched guitar parts.

Indeed, longtime Jim Fusco fans will find traces of sounds here and there that are reminiscent of past work, but this time around there is sense of evolution and a clear progression.  “Our Love Doesn’t Translate” should clearly be the single, as catchy and pretty as it is, weaving a tale of two lovers who don’t always understand each other or see eye to eye.  “A Night Away” is the distortion-drenched track for this album, showcasing just one of many energetic guitar solos and — although he sings “I’d rather be ashamed than proud and angry” — some considerable resentment.

The standout track of the album is “I Got You.”  It is placed perfectly on the album, just past the halfway point.  It begins as a quiet song, just an electric guitar, then a bass, and finally a lead vocal.  When the drums shake and roll into place about a minute in, the song picks up speed and continues its slow assault until just over a minute and a half in when Fusco belts out the first chorus.  The lyrics are my favorite on the album; indeed, this would be the first song I would discuss with him if I were to sit down for an interview.

The album closer, “Ruins,” makes a final and interesting statement on the overall theme of the album.  Using the metaphor of ancient historic ruins for a relationship, Fusco sings, “There was a time when everyone had admired you from afar… But nature has a way of tearing apart what we’ve built, and if it stands, it’s eroded away.”  He leads up to the conclusion in the chorus, “I guess that’s what you call progress.”  The song itself is a dark, haunting number, and you won’t find a better mix anywhere on the album.

As “Ruins” fades, you are left with a momentary silence before a quiet hum fills the speakers.  Almost a minute later, a guitar fades in to the pop powerhouse that is “Winning You Over.”  Not officially included on the album, all I can say is that this song fits firmly into the company of such songs as America’s “Here and Now” and the Wallflowers “Empire In My Mind” — all quality tracks that make you wonder, “Why not include this on the album proper?”

Fusco has said the song was recorded much later than the other songs and didn’t really fit into the album as a whole, which does make sense.

Halfway There is easily his best, most accessible and enjoyable album to date — it is clearly a prime time for Fusco to attract new listeners while impressing his current fanbase.

In his review of Jeff Copperthite’s 2008 album Greenlight, Fusco wrote, “As an independent artist, I’ve found that people don’t take our music seriously. They won’t listen to it in the car like every other album they own. They won’t recommend it to their friends and write online reviews. It just doesn’t happen very often.”  Halfway There is an infectious record.  I’ve already listened to it a half dozen times in the car alone, not counting just as many iPod listens, and I don’t see a time coming when I will want to take it out.  (Well, maybe when the Dylan album is released later this month… :-))

Oddly — perhaps sadly — this level of mastery comes at a time when Fusco, for the first time, has eschewed all the frills, including music videos, enhancedCD content, and even his own original design for the album cover.

Fusco at work in the Meriden, CT-based FMP Studios

Fusco at work in the Meriden, CT-based FMP Studios

This is yet another visible sign of advancement — he brought in talented and accomplished painter Ben Quesnel to design and create an original work that would be used for the cover.  If you watch Fusco’s Laptop Session for “Our Love Doesn’t Translate,” you can see the painting in all its glory.

The album isn’t perfect, though.  The fourth track, “Write it All,” is both a writing collaboration and a rare duet — his first since My Other Half.  Fair warning: that second voice is disconcerting and may lead listeners to frisbee-toss their discs out the windows of moving cars.  (Actually, that second voice is me!)  In all seriousness, “Write it All” is perhaps my favorite collaboration I’ve ever written and performed — and there have been many — with Jim, and I think fans of MoU will especially appreciate this track.

Another notable collaboration showcased for the first time on this album is with longtime friend Alberto Distefano.  “Go Back to Him,” “Our Love Doesn’t Translate,” and “Ruins” were written while on vacation in Italy, and the influence of a new environment with a rich history and unique language is apparent in the writing.  His previous album may have been “purely Jim Fusco from top to bottom,” but the injection of a second perspective seems to have sparked new and different ideas and perhaps even a new era for this already established, accomplished songwriter.

If you’ve made it this far in reading my review, there really isn’t much more that can be communicated in words.  The bass is bassier.  The guitars are crisper, more jangly.  The vocals are as ambitious as ever.  Truly, this is an album that deserves your attention —  it’s only the second great album of 2009, in league with Bruce Springsteen’s Working On A Dream.

Click HERE to listen to the album for free!

Trust me, you’ll be glad you tuned in.