Music Review: Jim Fusco’s “Halfway There”

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.

“Halfway There” (Original song by Jim Fusco) – The Open Mic Sessions

By Jim Fusco:

Welcome again to the Open Mic Sessions with me, Jim Fusco!

Today, I bring you the title track to my 2009 album, “Halfway There”.  This is a very special video for me, as this original song live video was selected as one of the top three Instagram videos in the Sam Ash music store open mic video contest!  From there, it went on to win the national Open Mic video contest title!  I was given a $100 gift card to Sam Ash and I’m so glad an original song of mine got that kind of recognition.  It was even featured on Sam Ash’s homepage once it won!

“Halfway There” was a concept I had for an album.  Basically, I was growing up and had to come to terms with getting a job, getting married, and potentially giving up some of the lofty goals I had for myself in previous years.  So, a lot of that album has to do with that sentiment.

But, you know something?  I realized along the way that I’m pretty happy where things ended up.  I realized that I didn’t really want to spend all of my days and nights trying to get gigs, living in perpetual poverty, and holding down some menial job until I hit it big.  Now that I have a normal “day job”, it’s given me the flexibility to  have a nice home and to get some of the guitars that I’ve always wanted.  And, from everything I’ve heard and read, fame isn’t really all it’s cracked-up to be.  I hope to make a name for myself with these Laptop Sessions acoustic cover song music videos online (and maybe get recognized for it someday), but that’s something I can do in my free time.  Problem is, like everyone else that’s married and has a house, I don’t have much free time!

Anyway, I hope you enjoy what I’ve been able to do on my little free time lately.  Going to these open mic nights has brought me out of my comfort zone, but its also ignited my love for playing music again.  I’ve met some interesting people, too.  Stay tuned for more, as I continue to dig into my catalog of original songs and play at open mics around the state.



“Please Come Home For Christmas” by Jim Fusco – FREE mp3 Download! – Day 7 of 14

By Jim Fusco:

Halfway home, folks!  I can’t believe it’s been a full week of releasing these Christmas songs.  I’ll admit, I actually just finished recording the album a few minutes ago, as I still had some guitar work to do.  Just another session of mixing and everything will be complete.  But, it’s like teaching- as long as you’re one page ahead of the students…

I bring you “Please Come Home For Christmas” in the style of The Eagles today, by request from my mom.  She loves the Laptop Sessions version we did a few years ago.  Now, I have to toot my own horn here and say that this newly recorded studio version sounds almost exactly like the original!  I worked very hard to get the correct sounds on the guitar, including the chorus sound on the arpeggiated guitar.

Tomorrow, we start week number two, so please keep coming back to download your free copy of all of these songs!  I hope you like “Please Come Home For Christmas” and see you tomorrow!

“On Christmas Day” by Jim Fusco – FREE mp3 Download! – Day 10 of 14

By Jim Fusco:

Welcome to Day 10 of Jim Fusco’s 14 Days of Rock’n’Roll Christmas!  I can finally breathe a sigh of relief, as I’ve officially finished the album.  And only four days ahead of time!  I had to re-record some parts and mix down the last couple of songs, but I’m finally done.  Now, I can give my friends and family high quality versions on CD so they can import into their iTunes libraries.

Tonight’s song is another you probably haven’t heard of (don’t worry- this is the last one!), but it’s a really great song.  It’s called “On Christmas Day” and is written by Brian Wilson.  he recorded it and included it as a bonus track on his Christmas album from the mid-2000’s.  I love the video of the band making this song- it’s so cool seeing it come together in the studio.

An interesting thing to me is that this song really was done back in the 70’s and was called “Bells of Paris”.  Of course, the tune was slightly different, but it’s really the same song.  I’d be interested to find out what came first- Brian’s Christmas lyrics or the ones about Paris.  I know the Beach Boys had a failed Christmas album in the mid-70s and there’s actually a version called “Bells of Christmas” that replaces the lyrics with holiday-themed ones.  But, the version Brian re-tooled that eventually became “On Christmas Day” is by far my favorite and that’s why I had to make my own version!

I hope you like the song as much as I do.  Come back tomorrow (for a song you’ve heard of!) for Day 11 as we roll-on!