Fistful of Mercy’s “As I Call You Down” (2010) – Yes, No, or Maybe So

Originally posted 2010-11-29 10:06:54. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

Fistful of Mercy’s As I Call You Down (2010) – MAYBE SO

(October 5, 2010)

As I Call You Down (Fistful Of Mercy, 2010)

As I Call You Down (Fistful of Mercy, 2010)

Review:

Unexpectedly soulful, As I Call You Down is the standout acoustic release of the year; together, these three singer/songwriters (Dhani Harrison, Ben Harper, Joseph Arthur) have created some beautiful harmonies and thus developed their own unique sound, borrowing here and there from the Thorns’ playbook (and hopefully picking up the torch that the Thorns dropped after one release back in 2003).

Top Two Tracks:

“Father’s Son” & “Fistful of Mercy”

Ringo Starr’s “Y Not” (2010) – The Weekend Review

Originally posted 2010-01-17 22:46:39. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

By Chris Moore:

RATING:  2.5 / 5 stars

Although Ringo’s past several albums have been billed as solo records, they have actually been songwriting and performance collaborations with a core of talented singer/songwriters better known as the Roundheads.  They have been musically and lyrically interesting and, at times, even ambitious.

Well, there is no question that Y Not is a true Ringo Starr solo release.

Whereas the collaborations on his past records could be traced through the liner notes and behind-the-scenes documentaries, it is clear that any collaborative efforts on this album are directed by Ringo himself.  Ownership is the key word for Y Not, as his fifteenth studio album finds him producing his own material for the first time in his considerably decorated career.

The result?  This is a fun record, one that Ringo and his assorted guests obviously enjoyed recording.  As the title implies, there is a generally carefree attitude ringing forth from these tracks, an attitude which Ringo has carefully cultivated over a lifetime’s worth of recording and performing.  As early as “Peace Dream,” his positive worldview is sung with as much emotion and sincerity as ever before, followed by the blunt honesty and autobiography of “The Other Side of Liverpool.”  The latter is different from many of his previously autobiographical tracks — think: “Liverpool 8” — in that it covers some darker realms of his past, but it does so with that same air of confidence and cool attitude that we have come to know and expect from the famous drummer for the Beatles.

Ringo Starr's "Y Not" (2010)

Ringo Starr's "Y Not" (2010)

There are many positive comments to be made about Y Not, to be certain, and yet the unfortunate flip side of the “ownership” coin is that this most recent Ringo release comes across as somewhat flat compared to his previous albums.  Anyone who has heard his recent work — Ringo Rama (2003), Choose Love (2005), even as far back as Time Takes Time (1992) — will note the diminished effect of this record.

Even from the outside looking in, Y Not is a black and white, one-fold booklet release with a minimum of effort put into design and packaging.  The advertisement label, never mind the album cover, looks like something I could have designed on Windows 98 and printed out on an inkjet printer manufactured a decade ago.  The advertisement sticker itself seems like an afterthought, placed on the bottom rear of the CD case.

But these are only superficial observations; obviously, an album should be judged first and foremost on the quality of the material contained on the CD or downloaded from Internet.

And this is where the true inconsistencies of the album begin.

There are some truly outstanding songs — the funky, uplifting “Time” and the aforementioned “Peace Dream” to name two.  Then there are some fun if mediocre tracks like the repetitive “Everyone Wins,” the somewhat phoned-in (pun intended) “Fill in the Blanks,” and the title track, which frankly borders on annoying, especially by the time the Indian-influenced middle section arrives. “Walk With You” narrowly avoids falling into this category by virtue of the fact that Ringo’s duet with Paul McCartney elevates it to “gem” status.  There is a reason why these two men were members of what was arguably the best rock band of all time.

Finally, there is a track which will make you shake your head, and not in a good way.  Consider the album closer “Who’s Your Daddy” which is every bit as embarrassing as it sounds.  This is essentially a Joss Stone song with Ringo Starr guest-dueting on the chorus, laying down the anchor phrase “Who’s your daddy?” amidst her lead vocal.

The review essentially boils down to this: Y Not is a disappointment if you’re looking for material to compete with the best material of his career, or even his recent career.  (If you think too long about the title, that’s an oddity and perhaps a disappointment in and of itself — IM shorthand?  Really?)

If you’re simply looking for some fun rock and roll to kick off your 2010 soundtrack, then give this one a try.  Even for all my criticism, I’d be hard-pressed to recommend an artist or band who can so consistently provide such fun, upbeat, positive rock music as Ringo always has and continues to produce.  And, really, between the excellent and embarrassing songs, there are some wonderful tracks like the oh-so-obviously Richard Marx co-written song “Mystery of the Night” and the one Roundhead throw-back “Can’t Do It Wrong,” both of which are more than up to snuff, earning a place alongside some of Ringo’s best album tracks.

The final verdict is that I’m sad to see the Roundheads disband, but I’m happy to have Ringo carry on and take more personal responsibility for his music than ever before.

And yes, embarrassing as it may be, I’ll be singing along with Ringo on “Who’s Your Daddy” just about every time…

Addendum to the March 2011 Report: The Weekend Review

Originally posted 2011-07-16 04:30:59. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

By Chris Moore:

Well, I somehow missed a brand new album from one of my all-time favorite artists that was released in March.  And I also listened to Lupe Fiasco for the first time, specifically to his album that was released in March.

Thus, I give you the addendum to my March 2011 Weekend Review report.

FYI: The word online is that Beckley’s Unfortunate Casino is the precursor to a new America album to be released later this year or early in 2012.  As was the case with 2006’s Horizontal Fall and 2007’s Here and Now, it has been suggested that the songs that didn’t make the forthcoming America album are the ones that you’ll find on his solo disc.  If that is true, then we’re in for a real treat when the America record drops!

Unfortunate Casino
Gerry Beckley
Producer:

Released:
March 31, 2011

Rating:
4/5 stars

Top Two Tracks:
“Hello” & “Feel”

Despite mixed reviews by fans and critics alike, Unfortunate Casino – for all intents and purposes Gerry Beckley’s third studio album – retains some of the best qualities of Van Go Gan (1995) and Horizontal Fall (2006) in a more concise package while covering sonic ground not explored on the aforementioned discs.

How Unfortunate Casino received harsher criticism than 2000’s remix disc Go Man Go is beyond me.

Still, much of the criticism is understandable, as the relative brevity of Unfortunate Casino’s ten tracks fall short of the soaring electric solos and overall energy of Van Go Gan.  It would also be difficult to argue that this new release has the same expansive ambition and the track-by-track songwriting excellence that was evident on Horizontal Fall.  All in all, this album is strikingly different from its predecessors, if only for its reliance on stripped down, slower tracks to lead in the album.There is no individual song to match the power pop brilliance of “Emma.”  There are sparks in “Remembering” and the title track, yet in many ways, the album doesn’t really kick into high gear until the second half with the lively “Feel” and “Hello.”  Some have attacked the lyrics on this latest release as insipid, which is ridiculous, especially considering some of the nonsensical tracks Beckley has helped pen in the past.

For the careful listener, Unfortunate Casino explores the themes of chance and change, playing on the obvious casino metaphors with admirable restraint.  Nostalgia and regret are shirked in “Remembering,” just as the present and future are embraced in tracks like “Simpson Sky” and “Feel.”  What is expressed purely in “Always” is held up to question by the greyer lines of “Fortune Fells.”  Frustration is dealt with forebodingly in “Dark River,” which is balanced later by the positive levity of “Hello.”

Balance is perhaps the best modifier for Unfortunate Casino, along with concise – I’ll take its ten strong tracks over Van Go Gan’s eighteen of fluctuating quality.  It is not better or maybe even as strong as Horizontal Fall, but it is a good album and a worthy addition to Beckley’s catalog.

 

Lasers
Lupe FiascoProducer:
Lupe Fiasco, et alReleased:
March 8, 2011

Rating:
3.5/5 stars

Top Two Tracks:
“State Run Radio” & “Words I Never Said”

Politically-charged and clearly driven by anger, or at least angst, Lupe Fiasco’s Lasers is enigmatic for its simultaneous endorsement of disengaging from the system.  As a whole, Lasers is the only album I’ve ever listened to that both protests and subscribes to apathy, though the former seems to win out in the end with Fiasco’s consistent call for change and carefully placed qualifiers like the “wanna” in “I Don’t Wanna Care Right Now.”

Sonically, Lasers covers a range of sounds and draws textures from a variety of genres without resorting to the time-tested rap topics of drugs, hoes, and violence.  Fiasco’s modus operandi is to avoid the norm, to speak out against what he sees as the perpetuators and enablers of violence and corruption in society.  I have never understood listeners who bristle at the first sign of social commentary, and in fact, I’ve always found those who do so with artistry and a sense of balance to be the most interesting songwriters (i.e. Bob Dylan, John Lennon, George Harrison, Woody Guthrie, and the list goes on…).

Fiasco is successful on songs like “The Show Goes On” with its catchy melody and lyrical middle finger to abusive power or “All Black Everything,” a track that plays out like a blend between rap and Sinatra, imagining a world fundamentally changed as the conception of slavery is prevented; the effects resemble an exercise in imaginative butterfly effect theory.  Lyrically and sonically, “State Run Radio” is perhaps the strongest example of this type of song on the album, verging on being more of a pop/rock track than a rap song.  Still, with every politically-charged writer, there is the danger of going too far.

Even at the peak of the Dylan protest song era, on 1964’s The Times They Are A-Changin’, there was one thoughtful, lyrically nuanced song for every blatantly political track.  This is, however, not necessarily the case on Lasers.  For those who have followed his recent interactions with the press, it is what can only be referred to as the quasi-extremism of his espoused methodologies that most profoundly weakens the overall impact of his message.  For instance, verbally bashing President Barack Obama – with one liners in songs like “Words I Never Said” and in interviews, such as the most recent and severe when he claimed that Obama is the “biggest terrorist” – is certainly not the way to motivate people like myself to listen more closely.  The fact that his comments appear to be directed at all American presidents and all branches of the government, past and present, does little to blunt the impact of such statements.

Even still, though Fiasco is far from being a poet, I have found his music compelling and catchy, and I continue to return for the core messages, such as the frustration with the seemingly unalterable trends in big business and government policies in “Words I Never Said.”  Even though I cannot support a non-voting stance, I can deeply feel and, to a degree, relate to such lines as those that follow his declaration that he will not participate in politics: “I’m a part of the problem; my problem is I’m peaceful.” 

Lasers will inspire questions and thoughts and perhaps even action; for this, in addition to the more important aspects of the music itself, Fiasco remains an artist worth listening to, whether you consistently agree with him or not.