By Jeff Copperthite:
Wait a minute…who is this?
Why yes it’s Jeff! I hope you missed me. I for one have missed my contributions to the web site, but I am back to post a review – a review of Jim Fusco’s incredible album Those Around Us.
As one of many eager fans of Jim Fusco (and as a good friend), I was thrilled as always to hear that he was releasing a new album. I have been among the people that are privileged enough to have heard the evolution of Jim’s work – from Walkin’ in the Dark to Halfway There. He went from using a MIDI program to track his music to dedicating space in his own home strictly for the incredible collection of instruments, microphones, recorders, drum sets, and of course his guitars.
So naturally when his CD release party came about for Those Around Us, I was the fifth person to purchase the CD. I was hoping for a limited edition numbering on it, but that’s ok. I’ll just get it from his next album Three Quarters There.
I don’t write reviews often, but I’m required to use a set up. Now for the album review.
Those Around Us is an album that continues to make me say “How does Jim top himself?” Every time Jim comes out with another collection of his work and recording, he manages to raise his own level in such a stunning way. Jim has really pulled off an incredible collection of songs that showcase his songwriting ability, sound engineering, and instrumentation. I always joke with Jim when I listen to a new album “How did you get all those guys to sound like you?”
The starting track is called “Run My Way” and starts off with a soft opening acoustic guitar. Then in kicks the lead guitar riff, followed by a drum fill. The album kicks off with this great song with a super catchy chorus. Jim manages to work in the right effect at all parts of the song – whether it be the phased electric during the verse, or the stereo panned vocal track. The song even tosses in a whammy bar. The outro to the song is like the intro – gradually reducing the instrumentation until it’s just the acoustic guitar. It is a great opening track – something Jim has a knack for.
The next song “Choose Your Words (carefully)” is another equally strong track. Jim is putting more effort into making his guitar sound stand out, yet work perfectly in the background of his songs. In this song, everything blends so well. The chorus of the song stands out a bit more than the rest of the song – not a flaw by any means. Just like the previous track, very catchy. I like how the pre-chorus lead guitar changes ever so slightly to lead perfectly into the “You say those words…” line.
“Don’t Give Up” is an interesting track because Jim has made the song sound full, but there are some typical elements missing – again, not a flaw. Jim uses only one vocal track for this song, and throws in some delayed vocals during the verse. The chorus is once again quite catchy. One minor blip is during the instrument break – the song seems to lose its drive. The chorus in the song is another catchy one as well. The line “Don’t stop don’t ever give up on me girl” is complemented nicely by the instrumentation. The 12-string guitar also stands out in this song.
Jim’s first fast track is “Opportunities”. This song reminds me of another song from Masters of the Universe called “Only a Dream” during the chorus. The bass in this song really pops to me (as a bassist). Jim effectively displays his vocal prowess superbly in this song. He mixes oohs in during the chorus, and double tracks his vocals during most of the song. The instrument break is absolutely incredible in this song. It really should be considered a vocal break as it gradually builds to the end. A really terrific song in the clean-up spot.
“Good Enough” is the next song. Jim succeeds in having the music blend perfectly with his vocals. The builds leading into the chorus are spot on. He lets his voice do most of the work in this song. The guitar solo is very strong in this song.
Jim typically does not do very many down tempo songs in his albums. “Chameleon” is very unique in Jim’s repertoire. The song works so well that it makes me wonder why he hasn’t written other songs in a similar vein. The xylophone and electric piano make a very solid chorus riff and build into the nice backing vocals. I love the electric guitar work in this song as well – the offbeat strumming that Jim does make the song work quite well. The fade out seems a bit quick on the song, however. I think it would’ve benefited from a good 15-20 seconds in that department.
I think my 2nd favorite song in the album is the next track “Look Around”. I almost don’t want to write too much about this song. The vocals work so superbly at all points, the bass punches, the guitar work is incredible, and the percussion pushes the song forward. Jim manages to work in a guitar slide to a few tracks, and a lap steel guitar to boot – including the guitar solo. This song is so impressive – a clear standout.
“Anything for Love” is another “fast” song. I am a big fan of the bass line of this song. Jim’s vocal work stands out in this song. The pitch range in the chorus may sound a bit odd at first, but it catches on really quick. This one you’ll find yourself singing in the car. The guitars work solidly in the background, but given the vocals, they seem like they’re there simply to let Jim know what notes belong to the backing vocals. They work very well in the song. Again, the bass line makes a great hook.
“Helpless” is my favorite song lyric-wise. As a fellow married man, I share the feeling of the song. Jim’s vocal work is at it again making beautiful harmonies during the chorus and echoes. The guitar tracks are wonderfully played – even though at times there’s a lot going on, it works very well.
“In Your Head” is the third “fast” song on the album. The chorus is catchy and the instrumentation drives the song very well. In the interlude after the 2nd chorus, there is something about the vocals that seems out of place to me. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but it is after the line “up front with me”. The song’s ending is great, but the way it ends makes it seem like there should be more. It’s probably the music theorist in me. It actually works as a great way to lead in the next song, however.
“Follow You Home” is the next song on the album. This song reminds me most of “classic” Jim – a driven quarter note piano track that is constant in the entire song. His vocal work is great. I absolutely love the chorus and the interlude he places in the chorus. The guitar in the background complements the song quite well.
My favorite song on the album – as has been the case for the last four albums – is again the last track. Again, everything just works together so well. Jim’s multitracked lyrics are perfect, as is the electric keyboard that reminds me so much of The Doobie Brothers. The distorted guitar lead is another great compliment. I think the catchy outro is what makes the song for me. Having everything come together and lead the album out just ends the album on such a high note. This you’ll find yourself singing along to even on the first listen.
To summarize, Those Around Us is an incredible work by Jim Fusco. How he continues to top himself is an attestation to his ability to improve his own standards and methods. What amazes me continually is how I say “Wow this album is the best I’ve heard” and then the next one is even better. Jim has succeeded in what he does best – creating a great rock album that sounds great at any volume with enough hooks and catches to keep you listening to the entire album over and over again. Jim has really outperformed himself. You will not be disappointed in this album.
If you are curious, my life has treated me well since my last session despite the loss of my Youtube channel. Due to a variety of copyright flags I was forced to close my account. Jim can attest to the annoyance that was. What I will do in the meantime is re-upload some of my old videos and re-publish the pages when I do so. Hopefully in the future I will begin to post new videos – if my daughter will actually let me do so!
Until then, buy Those Around Us and enjoy it! My daughter loves it and can sing along to 4 of the songs already. Maybe Jim will let me cover a song from the album…
Click to go to the Those Around Us page and buy the album for $10 with Free Shipping!