Music Review: Indie Music Songwriter Jeff Copperthite’s “Greenlight”

Originally posted 2008-04-22 23:54:17. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

By Jim Fusco:

You know, I’ve been putting this off for some time now, but I’ve been thinking of EXACTLY what I wanted to say since the first time I heard Jeff’s new album. When I saw Chris’ review, I really wanted to read it, but I chose not to before I wrote my own, as not to be swayed by his opinions, although 99% of the time we’ll disagree, at least a little bit.

What can I say about Jeff’s album that will put it into a light that those who don’t know him will understand. Well, I’ve already covered THREE songs off of it for the Laptop Sessions series- on two separate occasions, I’ve given up my opportunity to play an original song I’ve written in favor of a song from this album. And that chance only comes once every three weeks for me. That’s the respect I’ve given this album.

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. But, I listened to Jeff’s album 11 times, according to iTunes (I use my iPod in the car), and I’ve always found my iTunes play counts to represent only about half the times I’ve actually listened to something (probably because I’m turning the iPod on and off when I get in and out of the car). Actually, I find myself returning to “Greenlight” very often, even after it’s had its initial run in the car stereo.

Yes, I designed the album covers and put the whole thing together. Yes, I made the website for it and did the writeup. But, I still got to listen to this album and experience it like I haven’t done for many years now. Chris and I, in our better days, used to be true companions when it came to creative projects. There wasn’t a thing either of us could do without the other having a hand in it. It was a fruitful time that I know I’ll never get back. That’s the problem when other people, wanted or unwanted, enter your friends lives.

I never thought I’d get the opportunity to share an album with someone again. I thought, as with all of my projects in the last two to three years, any independent project I was a part of would be kept a total secret until “release day”. Not so with Jeff’s album, though. He brought his songs to me at every step of the journey, asking for advice and looking for some friendly words of both laud and criticism. I was happy to be that person, especially because I know that in many other situations, I’ve been replaced as that person. So, here’s a great toast out to Jeff’s wife, Sherry- always support Jeff in all his creative works, but thank you very much for not having a clue about music! :-)

So, you would think that this review (I promise, it’s coming) is going to be nothing but a sales pitch with no criticisms. Well, I’m going to be truthful- I’m not putting in criticisms just for the sake of it, but I want to give my honest interpretation of Jeff’s album, “Greenlight”, and here it is.

I cannot comment on the track listing, ie. order of songs. I actually chose the order they should go in, so if there’s any criticism here, you gotta problem with me! :-) But, seriously, the track listing was chosen as a way to present Jeff’s great songs in front, his good songs in the middle, and ending with another great set. Of course, with an album of nine songs, there isn’t much of a cross-section to work with in those three categories. Take my word for it: the “good” section isn’t very long.

The album starts with “Shadows of Your Dreams”, a fast number that fades in (which I enjoy as an album-opener) and then gets it beat. This song is perfect at slot Number One (okay, one comment) because to me, it sounds the most like a song off Quilt’s (Jeff’s band) last album, “Expressions”, where Jeff wrote every song.

The production on the album is simply astounding. The clarity in both the vocals and instruments is nothing less than impressive. Jeff’s talents at ALL the instruments he plays is clearly apparent, as well. He plays some great guitar solos throughout and each song tends to have so much more than just a couple rhythm guitar tracks- he comes up with a different melody all together.

The only problems I have with the sound are minor, but I think are important to point out. I’m not sure if it’s an effect, but some (and “Greenlight” has MUCH less of this than previous efforts) songs have this odd Barenaked Ladies “Gordon” album vocals effect to them. You can hear it clearly on “Home” and it sounds like a fake double-tracking. It almost makes the album sound more dated than it needs to be. I don’t hate the effect, but sometimes I wonder what it might sound like without it.

The second beef I have with the sound is the dated sound of Jeff’s Roland Electronic drum kit. The sound isn’t bad, but some of the toms and cymbals sound very “late 90s”. One other problem I’ve noticed in some songs (most apparent in “What Not To Do”) is the fact that Jeff uses a metronome to keep time in his songs. There’s nothing wrong with that- kids, you should always use one in recording. I don’t, and my songs tend to speed up. But, Jeff is a bass player and a piano player both first and second. He’s a drummer third, at best. So, at various points in the album, I notice him coming in a bit too early or too late on some drum beats. The tempo of certain songs tends to plod, as well, when the metronome is used, as it doesn’t sound as dynamic as it could be. Now, don’t get me wrong- it is INCREDIBLY difficult to play to a metronome- why do you think I don’t use one? But, if you’re going to use one, it has to be correct, or the mistakes will be very apparent.

Now, moving on to more songs:

“Home” is not only my favorite song on this album, but stands as one of my all-time favorites. It has a GREAT tune and a great message about a man who loves nothing more than to come home to that special someone. The backing vocals are spot-on (something Jeff’s struggled with in the past) and the combination of percussion and a great bass line make this a standout track on ANY album. I have nothing but positive things to say about this song.

I also love the title track, “Greenlight”. It’s a bit slower, but I just LOVED it when Jeff played it in Fusco-Moore Studios. The song also tells of a man that is happy where he is, but realizes that there might be something more. The line, “What good have I done, for those that I know” is poignant and I love the way he sings. The middle 8 is a great change from the rest of the song and I only wish there were a high harmony on the “for me, for you” lines. The solo simply rocks on this song- the addition of the reverb makes it sit well in the mix. Jeff also busts out a piano solo in this song, which is also both well-played and fitting. The ONLY qualm I have with this song is the addition of the percussion on the chorus. I loved the way it sounded without the shaker track. The chorus had this great beat that I just gravitated to. The shaker takes that away for me and makes the song “faster” than it’s supposed to be.

That brings me to another thing I wanted to point out. Jeff is trying REALLY hard on this album. He’s trying to make these both great songs and great recordings. He tried, and succeeded, to stay in perfect pitch throughout the album. He also tried to make these songs sound fully-produced. That said, he may have tried a bit too hard on songs like “Greenlight” with addition of shakers that really didn’t need to be there. I can’t fault him too much because most of his efforts only helped the overall feel of the album and made it sound so professional.

Next, we have an instrumental that I’ve known for years, called “Jam Session”. I can’t say much about the content because, well, it’s an instrumental, but Jeff simply rocks this song. He is a great, professional musician. He plays the life out that guitar and piano, while the rhythm tracks add to the spontaneity of the song.

Next, is the best song ever written. Okay, fine- I’m biased- I WROTE IT! :-) I wrote “What Not To Do” because I was struggling with the idea that even though I don’t want my friends to fall into the same pitfalls I’ve fallen into, they’ll do it anyway because people usually learn from other’s mistakes. Jeff turned my song into a great production. That little guitar riff he plays during the opening chords is very R.E.M.-like and the production is great. If you ever get a chance to listen to the backing track to this song, you’ll realize how much work went into this song.

Another point I want to mention is a tricky one because I don’t want it to come across the wrong way. Jeff’s vocals, in prior albums, have always a bit “lackluster”. He sang the songs “flat”. I’m not saying he sang the NOTES flat- I’m saying that it was a weird combination of being on-key, but sounding a bit monotone. He tends to sing louder, as well, when he’s unsure of notes or having trouble hitting them. I bring this point up to explain how much progress Jeff has made with “Greenlight”. The feeling he puts into the vocals here is great and his voice has a softer quality to it now. Again, he really tried to make this album great, and with respect to the vocals, he definitely delivered.

“$500” is the weakest song on the album, in my opinion. But, I still enjoy it. The palm-muted guitars are great- he got a great sound out of his Fender. But, the bridge (before the chorus) harmonies are a tad bit off. I can’t really put my finger on it. However, the harmonies on the chorus have the same thing going on, but it WORKS! That “you know that I’m not rich” harmony is stuck in my head more than it should be. I love the guitar work on this song, from the acoustic in the background of the verses (great and unexpected) and the little back-and-forth strumming pattern before the “rock out” sections is really cool. Plus, you gotta love the slide at the end of the solo.

Jeff, in previous albums, always had a bit of trouble expressing his feelings in “mainstream-sounding” lyrics. For instance, in one song off of Quilt’s “Expressions”, Jeff explains to a girl that she’s “like a beaver in the heat”. It’s been like five years and I still don’t know what that’s supposed to mean. And the only conclusions I come to are dirty, at best. That said, Jeff really worked hard to make the songs on this album have great lyrics. They never sound awkward (maybe a bit on “$500”) and all are insightful and on-topic.

“Aware” is my second-favorite song on the album because of its great tune, fast pace, and great message about being unable to “see what goes on without me”. It has superb guitar playing and I love how Jeff’s voice shows so much emotion on the last “Oh, I’m not able to see” line. This song really defines the album for me.

“Searcher” is a song that showcases Jeff’s amazing talents on guitar and piano. Not only does he play great solos again, but the sounds he produces for the rhythm electric and piano are so interesting. I usually don’t like instrumentals all that much, but the sound is so captivating, I can never skip by it.

“Easy” is a great song. Not only does the song have a great story, but the chorus is infectious. It’s almost like two different songs, the way the instrument sounds change from the verse to the chorus. I love the “epic” sound to this track and that’s why it was chosen to end the album.

Jeff could charge whatever he wanted for this album because of how solid and impressive it is. As Chris said, “It’s pretty amazing when Jeff Copperthite and Jack Johnson come out with an album in the same week and I’m listening to Jeff”. So true. “Greenlight” makes a real case to case independent musicians seriously and I hope Jeff will continue to be prolific and continue with this amazing progression from album to album.

Buy Jeff’s album by clicking HERE!

The Weekend Review: February 2012 Report

Originally posted 2012-05-28 12:24:57. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

Go Fly A Kite (Ben Kweller)

Released: February 7, 2012

Rating: 4 / 5 stars

Top Two Tracks: “Jealous Girl” & “Mean to Me”

When I saw Ben Kweller open for the Barenaked Ladies a couple years ago, I was floored by this performer who managed to blend a wide variety of influences and crossed the genre lines while maintaining a coherent, high adrenaline rock show.  For months afterward, as I picked up his albums, I struggled and largely failed to find anything to match what I had experienced live.  Now, with Go Fly A Kite, Kweller has finally recorded an album that properly expresses all his strengths, alternating between electric rockers and softer acoustic tracks, all the while maintaining a power pop energy that works to his strengths.  Mainstream music critics will largely ignore this album.  Nicholas Moffitt of VZ Magazine went so far as to call it “likeable,” but not before qualifying even this statement with “fans of Kweller and power pop.”  Is Go Fly A Kite the next great rock album?  I’m not arguing that, but it is one of the few albums in recent memory that relies only upon instrumentation and vocals for its energy.  There are no computer tricks employed here: only good, old-fashioned human performance.  There isn’t a clunker in the bunch, and the track listing steadily unfolds larger ideas and themes (not to mention the diorama-style CD packaging, which is one of the most imaginative I’ve seen).  Forget Moffitt’s qualification: if you’re a fan of rock and upbeat, energetic music, Ben Kweller’s latest is a must-hear.

 

 

 

Kisses on the Bottom (Paul McCartney)

Producer: Tommy LiPuma

Released: February 7, 2012

Rating: 2 / 5 stars

Top Two Tracks: “My Valentine” & “I’m Gonna Sit Right Down and Write Myself a Letter”

A confession before I commence: I’m admittedly predisposed to a bad taste in the mouth upon hearing a well-established artist has decided to record an album of covers.  (I know, I know: I write reviews predominantly for a cover songs music video blog.  But, to be fair, we post them for free and for practice in between our regularly-scheduled albums of originals.)  A brief history of just a few of the cover albums that should compel a roll of the eyes: Michael McDonald’s Motown (2003) and the following year’s oh-so-creatively titled Motown Two, all five volumes of Rod Stewart’s The Great American Songbook series (2002-2005, 2010), and perhaps the most disappointing fall into the valley of covers: Eric Clapton’s Me and Mr. Johnson, a follow-up to 2001’s excellent Reptile album, followed in 2010 by a disappointing album of covers – Clapton – masquerading as his latest solo album.  So, when it comes to albums of this ilk, I approach with caution.  In this case, it is not so much that McCartney’s Kisses on the Bottom is a bad album.  It clearly is a very well-thought-out, passionately rendered record.  And yet, on the heels of a string of masterful solo releases – Chaos & Creation in the Backyard (2005) and Memory Almost Full (2007) being probably the best of his career – this collection of traditional pop could do little else than fall short after five years without a new McCartney album.  For what they are, the songs are really done quite well.  It is clear from interviews with McCartney and his producer Tommy LiPuma that this was a labor of love, and it was even revealed that he held off on this project out of desire to avoid any allegations of jumping on the covers train (he even referenced Stewart’s Songbook series).  In the end, the clear standout is “My Valentine,” which just so happens to be one of two McCartney originals on the record.  Coincidence?  I think not.  He has referenced his next album as being along the same vein as the Foo Fighters’ analog, garage rock Wasting Light (2011), so I and others like me can rest easy on that.

 

 

 

Deep Space [EP] (Eisley)

Producer: Eisley

Released: February 14, 2012

Rating:  2.5 / 5 stars

Top Two Tracks: “Lights Out” & “Laugh It Off”

This pretty much fits the archetype of the EP: not bad, not great, just a little something to fill the silence between records.  If you enjoyed last year’s outstanding The Valley, then you’ll most likely enjoy Deep Space [EP].  Or, you could save yourself the five bucks and return to The Valley for more songs and a more fulfilling experience.

 

 

 

 

Sounds from Nowheresville (The Ting Tings)

Producer: Jules De Martino

Released: February 24, 2012

Rating:  4 / 5 stars

Top Two Tracks: “Hang It Up” & “Guggenheim”

Don’t let the modern production qualities fool you: there is more here than the extensive list of “engineers” and “mixers” in the credits would have you believe.  The critics have called the Ting Tings out for this and any number of other criticisms: the album is too short, too frivolous, inane, etc.  What they have missed – and what most tracks on Sounds from Nowheresville have to offer – is energy and ambition, subtle touches in the harmonies beyond what is more readily apparent in the synthesized sounds, not to mention the centrality of Katie White’s guitar (yes, that is a real instrument in the mix and it is the female lead singer playing it; if only for that, I have reason to respect this album).  “Hit Me Down Sonny” and “Hang It Up” are as bright, cool, and catchy as you would expect, and yet other tracks like the passionately delivered “Guggenheim” and the tender, acoustic-based “Day to Day” and “Help” express the range the band has to offer.  While this is definitely not a development I would have expected, I have to admit that the Ting Tings have put out one of what will probably be the best albums of the year.

 

 

 

Rooms Filled With Light (Fanfarlo)

Released: February 28, 2012

Rating:  3.5 / 5 stars

Top Two Tracks: “Shiny Things” & “Lenslife”

On Rooms Filled With Light, Fanfarlo have done a nice job of bringing a certain bright quality to the domain of oft-introspective synthesized music.  Aside from channeling a bit too much Ric Ocasek in his vocals at times, Simon Balthazar and company have recorded and sequenced a cohesive and purposeful record that boasts elements of artistic intention while maintaining pop-ready hooks, riffs, and overall production quality.

The Wallflowers Live – Foxwoods, April 25th, 2008 (Set List & Review) – Songwriters on Vacation

Originally posted 2008-05-03 10:16:23. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

Set List:

1. Up From Under

2. Three Marlenas – Click HERE for the LAPTOP SESSION!

3. Here He Comes (Confessions of a Drunken Marionette)

4. Letters from the Wasteland

5. 6th Avenue Heartache – Click HERE for the LAPTOP SESSION!

6. When You’re On Top

7. Mourning Train

8. Invisible City

9. Sleepwalker – Click HERE for the LAPTOP SESSION!

10. If You Never Got Sick – Click HERE for the LAPTOP SESSION!

11. Closer to You

12. How Good It Can Get – Click HERE for the LAPTOP SESSION!

13. One Headlight – Click HERE for the LAPTOP SESSION!

14. God Don’t Make Lonely Girls

15. Everything I Need – Click HERE for the LAPTOP SESSIONS!

16. How Far We’ve Come – FALSE START

17. Josephine

18. Empire in My Mind – Click HERE for the LAPTOP SESSION!

19. Nearly Beloved

By Chris Moore:

The Wallflowers have long been one of my favorite bands. So, my first question as the curtains came up at Friday night’s Foxwoods concert was, where is Rami Jaffee? Aside from Jakob Dylan, he’s the only original Wallflower still with the band. Instead of the four-member crew I expected, there were only three — Dylan, bassist Greg Richling, and drummer Fred Eltringham. This set the tone for the night, as I was laughing and enjoying myself before they even played a song.

Actually, the tone was set before the curtain even went up, as the pre-concert background music (usually played at a reduced volume) was turned up for an Edgar Jones song called “Oh Man That’s Some Shit.” This title refrain was repeated with intermittent additions such as, “Oh, yes it is!” When the song finished, it was played again. By the third time it was played, Jim, Mike, and I began to wonder if they were stalling for time. It was now 9:15, and the show was scheduled for 9 sharp. More likely, this was Dylan’s sense of humor showing through. The three of us couldn’t keep from laughing and singing along with the layered harmonies of Jones’ “Oh Man That’s Some Shit.” Even as I write this, I’m singing it in my head…

Once I got over the initial shock of Jaffee’s absence, I was struck by the song selection. Opening with the Breach track “Up From Under,” continuing with “Three Marlenas,” and then playing “Here He Comes,” Dylan kicked off the show with three really great songs from three different albums. Still, he hadn’t quite rocked out yet…

…which changed as soon as he tore into “Letters from the Wasteland.” For “Letters,” Dylan really seemed to get into it, putting emotion and a sense of foreboding into the performance.

The highlights of the show for me were really when they played “When You’re On Top” — aside from changing the tune on the chorus, it was a great version and done acoustically to boot! — and the fact that they chose six tracks out of eighteen from the Red Letter Days album, one of my all-time favorite (and terribly underappreciated) albums. Other songs, such as “One Headlight” and “If You Never Got Sick” would have made the highlights, if not for Dylan forgetting the words and singing the first verses and chorus a bit oddly, respectively.

This was how the show went — one exciting moment followed by an odd or off moment. For instance, Dylan forgot the words to several tracks, including all but the first line to “How Far We’ve Come.” The most disappointing aspect of the concert really was the fact that the band lacked a soloing musician. There was no lead guitarist and no keyboard player, so instrumental sections were filled with Dylan’s fingerpicking or Richling’s bass playing. Having a fourth musician on stage probably would have taken this concert to the next level and made it perhaps one of my favorite concerts ever.

Actually, the most disappointing moment of the experience was learning from Fusco-Moore labelmate Jeff Copperthite that one of his friends at work had actually met Jakob Dylan! Not only did he meet him, but he met him before the concert while having dinner at the buffet… that we had been at an hour earlier! I’m also pretty sure I walked past Greg Richling while looking for a bathroom, but I wasn’t sure and just stood there staring at him until he was out of sight…

In the end, I had a great time at this show. After their two-year absence from touring, I had begun to believe I would never see the Wallflowers in concert. But now I have seen them, and Dylan’s voice was in great form, the song selection was incredible (and even a bit surprising, considering previous years), and I won’t soon forget the experience. It was interesting to see Greg Richling, who has been a Wallflower since the days of “One Headlight,” and Fred Eltringham, who I was initially uncertain about, but who really warmed up and earned my respect over the hour and a half he was on stage.

Back at home, I learned that Jaffee left the band late last year and is currently on the road with the Foo Fighters. What does this mean? I don’t mean to blow his exit from the band out of proportion, but it marks for me a new era for the Wallflowers. With new concert dates planned for the Wallflowers and the imminent release of Jakob Dylan’s solo album, Seeing Things, the future is promising.

I suppose I’ll just have to be patient about the next Wallflowers album — whatever and whenever it will be…

The Weekend Review: February 2013 Report

Originally posted 2013-04-06 05:00:05. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

By Chris Moore:

 

Spirits of the Western Sky (Justin Hayward)

Producer: Justin Hayward & Alberto Parodi

Released: February 26, 2013

Rating: 4 / 5 stars

Top Two Tracks: “In Your Blue Eyes” & “One Day, Someday”

 

For Moody Blues fans, it has been a long stretch indeed since the band last released a studio album of all-new material: since 1999’s Strange Times to be specific.  With the release of this latest Justin Hayward solo album, his first since 1996, it would be difficult not to see this as the most exciting Moody Blues-related recording of the past decade and a half.  (No pressure, right?)  Whether you are a glass-half-full person who sees any new Moodies-related music as a win or a glass-half-empty person who feels his/her expectations impossible to meet after all this time, Spirits of the Western Sky has something to offer, though it may be less than a new Moodies album would offer.  From the signature Hayward opening track “In Your Blue Eyes” to the soaring “One Day, Someday” and the beautiful, expansive “The Western Sky,” Spirits gets off to a strong start.  “The Eastern Sun” is well-rendered, if a bit underwhelming, but the pacing is promptly reinvigorated by the rollicking “On The Road To Love,” a track vaguely reminiscent of a late sixties rock-paced album track.  The pace again slows down for the aptly titled “Lazy Afternoon,” though this track offers many more subtle layers and charms for repeated listens.  “In the Beginning” follows, offering up one of the mid-album gems that have practically become expected on Moody Blues albums since the sixties.  The following three songs form a suite of country/bluegrass tracks, only one of which is previously unreleased.  (Ironically, at least one Spirits  review has referred to these songs as a new direction for Hayward.)  Fans will quickly recognize Present alum “It’s Cold Outside of Your Heart,” as well as his solo track “Broken Dream” that was first released as track two on The View from the Hill (1996).  “What You Resist Persists” is the clear standout here, and not only because it is the only new effort.  The album proper concludes with “Captivated By You,” a fittingly dynamic ending to a strong solo effort.  What follows – an alternate, extended version of “One Day, Someday,” the hiccup of “Rising,” and two progressively worse remixes of “Out There Somewhere” – is a bit baffling, especially considering that it is not separated from the core tracks by so much as an extra space on the back of the album.  All told, with a couple exceptions, Spirits of the Western Sky is what you would expect from a Justin Hayward solo album and should only serve to fan the flames of desire burning in the hearts of Moody Blues fans for another release from what is perhaps the greatest, most ambitious studio band in the history of rock music.  For now, Spirits will have to do; and, to be fair, it is clearly a labor of love that is equal parts soaring energy and careful production, evidence that Justin Hayward’s smooth vocals and expert guitar work are as strong as ever, and a reminder that time and age have not removed or diminished the ambition and vision of this Moody Blue.