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M. C. Tolen "MC Tolen" RSS Feed (Tulsa, OK)

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Turn Blue
Turn Blue
Price: $9.99
64 used & new from $5.99

7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Think of this as the "Morning-After Hangover Album" to El Camino, May 14, 2014
This review is from: Turn Blue (Audio CD)
Do you know how after you've been rocking out one night to one tune after another, having a great time and some drinks, until it gets late and you're ready to turn it down and chill for a bit?? Maybe get a little serious and introspective? That's basically this album. I loved El Camino and applauded the Black Keys for showing all their new found fans after Brothers (which was great, but a bit overstuffed with slower tunes) that the Black Keys were still a hard hitting, who needs ballads?, take no prisoners ROCK band. You can only rock so long until your ready to dim the lights, maybe turn on the lava lamp and chill. That's where this album fits in perfectly. The first track "Weight of Love" is a killer tune every fan must have and sets the tone for the whole album. Though not a high energy album like El Camino, it keeps a good consistant groove throughout that's never dull. The last 3 tracks are especially great and finally the Black Keys cut loose on the last track "Gotta Get Away" which is just a great fun rock song sure to be a fan favorite which not only , rewards the patient listener and gives the album some needed levity, but also brings the Keys full circle to what they do best...ROCK OUT!! Hopefully it's also signifies that the Black Keys got this interesting and well done detour out of there system and are ready to rock more in the next chapter. I also hope that this will bring to a close Danger Mouse's heavy involvement with the band. Though I have really enjoyed his collaborations with The Black Keys, Portugal.The Man and U2's recent songs, his tried and true formula is really starting to show and get repetitive. I feel like we've heard all his production tricks and have creatively exhausted the collaboration. Here's hoping for new and interesting collaborations on the next album, or even better, just a self produced bare-bones bluesy, but fully matured, Black Keys to rock to!

Price: $11.88
77 used & new from $4.56

24 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars From Dyed-in-the Wool Folkie to Tie-Dyed...But It's Still Ray!, May 5, 2014
This review is from: Supernova (Audio CD)
One thing music has taught me is that if at the very core of the song there is a great melody, then it doesn't matter how you dress it up, experiment with it, change the style, lay the production on thick or completely stip it down...if you've got a great melody, you've got a great song. And people will keep listening. Case in point, the Beatles, Radiohead, REM, Wilco, Iron & Wine...despite the collidescope of changing sounds, experimentation, reinvention and influences used to color their songs, at the heart of those songs are still simple, great melodies. And Supernova is FULL of great melodies. Albeit painted with new and very different colors (psychedelic colors in this case). Sure, when I first heard the single Supernova, I felt the same way as many of the harsh reviewers here did. I mean, come on! A sunny and poppy Ray LaMontagne song with hand claps and cutesy bells?!! Ahhh! But dang, that's a catchy melody! Thinking (hoping) it was a fluke, I heard Lavender and it was less poppy but more of the same. Yet again, I loved that wicked acoustic guitar lick and the melody despite everything else and kept listening to it. Now, upon hearing the whole album, I gotta say that this is CLASSIC Ray and brilliantly done. This is an album best heard with headphones (in a room with black lights and a lava lamp). Each time I listen to it I hear different sounds and textures going on in each song. Despite Lavendar's psychedelic sound I also hear pedal steel guitar all based upon that folkie acoustic guitar riff. All these songs could have easily been recorded with just Ray and the acoustic guitar...and everyone would have loved it! But ultimately it would leave no sense of discovery and wouldn't challenge Ray or his fans. Ray had pretty much perfected that dusty folk and blue-eyed soul sound. With this album Ray breaks that ceiling and shows that he can do anything. I think what people love most about Ray is his voice and his melodic gifts. Frankly, I was turned off a bit at first with the last album "God Willing and the Creek Don't Rise" because of its heavy country lilt. Yet his amazing voice and melodies drew me into the songs. It's no different with Supernova. It's all there, just in a different presentation. This is a ROCK record. If, like me, you loved Ray but secretly wished he would rock out a bit more...then you have to get this album. If you're an old fan but hesitant or even completely turned off by the new sound...keep listening. I actually think Ray took such fans to heart in the way he tempered the track list. Each more experimental song seems to be shortly followed by one more accessible and familiar. I find it hard to accept that old fans won't soon come to love songs like Airwaves, No Other Way, Ojai (which could have been on "God Willing") or Drive-in Movies. Some of my long time favorite albums were ones that initially disappointed and frustrated me, but I kept listening. Slowly but surely I came to love those albums for those very reasons. They challenged me and forced me to listen to my beloved artist in a new way. Now when I listen to albums like that I can't see why I didn't immediately recognize how great they were. Those are the best kind of albums!
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jun 26, 2014 12:26 PM PDT

El Camino
El Camino
Price: $9.00
132 used & new from $3.98

13 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars You're a BLACK KEY If You Don't Buy This Album!!!!, December 8, 2011
This review is from: El Camino (Audio CD)
This album ROCKS(period)!! That said, while "Brothers" was a bit overstuffed with slow-burning soul songs, this "El Camino" is a fuel injected, revved up, pedal-to-the-metal, tire squeeling lean and mean rock feast! In fact, I think this album is best to listen to while driving because you will find it impossible to avoid slapping your thumbs to the drums on your steering wheel, kick drumming your feet and pounding your console! Now THAT is the sign of a great rock album! Sure it may take 2-3 listens to break it in like a new pair of skinny jeans, but ignore all that hipster holier-than-thou sellout crap, kick back and just enjoy the ride. This album is their quick victory lap for making it on their own terms after years of hard work and great songs. I fell in love with Rubber Factory and the earlier stuff too, but personally I think this album is more true to their earlier spirit than the last couple of albums. Because what always struck me about those early albums was how they managed to play the same hard blues based songs one after another and I wouldn't get tired of it...ballad's?? Who needs 'em?! Acoustic guitar/bass?? Why bother?! Over the course of those albums they flat-out perfected that sound, and you can't build on perfection. Thus we got the experimentation of Attack & Release and Brothers. I immediately LOVED about half of Brothers (the rockin' half) and the other half I grew to enjoy over time. Regardless, I still best like my Black Keys playing full on rock all the way through. And that's what you get with El Camino.
The first five songs are nearly flawless with the highlight being "Little Black Submarines" which ironically starts out acoustic before erupting into a total guitar drum meltdown that should make Jimmy Page piss his pants. I think it's easily their best song since the Rubber Factory days and should forever be a highlight of their live show. The last half of the album took a little extra listening before I truly loved it, but it didn't take long. Again, like many of you, I love that purist early sound too and can't help but to furrow my brow a little when I hear a bass guitar or organ part. However, these songs are so tight and infectious that you'll get over that pretty quick. Just lean back and let Dan and Pat do the driving and you'll have a blast listening to this album. Finally, I seriously can't believe some people don't get the El Camino title with a minivan on the cover!! First of all, it's really more a subjective reference to their early days on "the road" in a van. Secondly, it's classic Black Keys humor! I couldn't help but laugh when I first saw the cover!
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 22, 2011 7:56 AM PST

Mylo Xyloto
Mylo Xyloto
Offered by NO1122
Price: $10.90
119 used & new from $2.20

37 of 49 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointed and Suckered by Hope and Hype, October 25, 2011
This review is from: Mylo Xyloto (Audio CD)
OUCH!! I haven't felt the sting of buying an album this disappointing in a LONG time! Although I wouldn't count Coldplay among my favorite bands, I keep following them and I'm interested to see what they do, but each album I've eventually bought since "A Rush of Blood.." leaves me a bit disappointed and underwhelmed. Sure there were some nice songs and some interesting moments that hinted at a band that could forego the industry hype and the "next U2" mantle they seem to have so willingly snatched and tried to shoulder. It was enough to keep me listening and hopeful...until NOW.
From the start, this album just reeks of a rock band desperately trying to stay relevant by investing in overloaded pop hooks, guest vocals and sickenly sweet songs pandering to a mainstream pop audience. In addition, Coldplay has followed the U2 playbook to a "T" and know that its a new decade and they need to reinvent their sound and make a juggernaut of an album much like U2 did with Actung Baby. In fact the attempts to do so are shameless...from the street graffiti patchwork style album cover, odd foreign name for the album and more club oriented rock songs. Sadly, these comparisons only reveal how much better of a band U2 were on Actung Baby than Coldplay. Where Actung Baby was bold, risky and edgy this album is so glossy and smooth the record execs themselves couldn't have designed a more sugar coated album for mass consumption.
The first song, isn't even a song, but instead a tiny little snippet of intro music that does nothing for the song or album (by the way, there's two or three more of those between songs that inexplicably given separate song titles). Hurts Like Heaven hurts the ears in its attempt to slam you into its wall of electro-pop/rock which along with Chris Martin's annoyingly distorted and buried vocals after WAYYYYY too much sugar and caffeine. Over and Over throughout this album Coldplay keeps playing that same card of a short bit of pointless atmospheric music followed by a BOOM of electric noise and bass. I've figured out that the reason Chris Martin's vocals are so buried is that he's not saying anything of substance and the vocal melodies just aren't that strong on most of the songs. So what do you do? Pile on more production of course!
The sound of the album does work on a few of the songs. Adding to my disappointment is that "Every Teardrop.." was the first Coldplay song that really grabbed me since "In My Place." Every Coldplay album seems to have this one defining song and this or possibly "Paradise" is it. It works perfectly as a blend of a great dance/rock beat, effective synth chords and good innovative guitar playing. Paradise is another song that works well and sounds much better on the album when you can really hear that booming electonic bass sound. I also like Major Minus with its edgier acoustic guitar riff. That's about the only interesting high points of this album. Coldplay tries to strip a few of the songs down to their old simple acoustic sound on a few ballads. However, lyrics and melodies are so overly poppy and sweet they could have been written by Disney for Miley Cirus or Kelly Clarkson to sing.
I have kept the hope alive to hear something truly creatively and artistically on par with "A Rush of Blood..." Not Coldplay constantly trying to be U2. Only U2 can be U2, so just be Coldplay! Stop the hero worship! Brian Eno's production with U2 was great, but that was 20 years ago! Find your own producer, your own "Eno" that makes Coldplay shine!
I just watched the Pearl Jam 20 documentary the other night which puts even more prospective on this album. Pearl Jam consciously shunned pop radio, the big productions and trying to be the biggest band in the world and they've come out the other side with their intergrity as one of the most respected and loyaly followed bands still going today. Unfortunately, Mylo Xyloto shows that Coldplay has invested in the ever fickle pop audience. Although many fans may initially be seduced by the pop rush of this album, its substance that really sticks with fans and makes a great album. I certainly don't see this album still resonating and being talked about 20 years from now and given all the rerelease fanfare like Actung Baby is right now. Unless Coldplay someday decides to stand on their own, they will remain only in the shadows of greater bands and have at least one less fan in me.
Comment Comments (11) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 30, 2011 9:22 AM PST

Collapse into Now
Collapse into Now
Price: $10.82
95 used & new from $0.53

8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Old Adventures in Hi-Fi, but Best Album Since New Adventures, March 9, 2011
This review is from: Collapse into Now (Audio CD)
Remember when REM made Monster in an attempt to sound vital and shake off the mandolin malaise of the previous albums? At the time it was probably a necessary break for the band, despite the mixed results and sounding like they were trying too hard to rock out. Luckily, at that time, they settled back in their comfortable skin and made one of their best albums "New Adventures in Hi-Fi" combining REM's newer sound with the folkier elements that they do best.
Well, 15 years later, they've done it again. I enjoyed Accelerate for the mere fact that "MY GOD, REM has a PULSE AGAIN!" Like Monster, however, REM wears the full tilt rock band clothes uncomfortably (and with the guys in their 50's its even more uncomfortable). I thought for about half of Accelerate they nailed it perfectly, but the rest was forgettable and again, REM just trying too hard to prove something. Now they've taken the best elements from Accelerate, added the folkier elements of mandolin and piano to make a better album that more appropriately defines REM.
Collapse Into Now, kicks off right where Accelerate left off with "Discoverer" (a truly great REM rock song) and "All the Best." From there, it shifts gears into more typical REM midtempo mandolin/acoustic inflected territory with Uberlin, Oh My Heart and It Happened Today. All enjoyable songs that still maintain a viable energy largely absent on Up, Reveal and Around the Sun. Especially "It Happened Today" with its strong and much missed dose of high harmonies from Mike Mills, Stipe and even Eddie Vedder. "Every Day is Yours to Win" is just OK as a slower number that respectably closes out the first half of the album before revving up with the catchy rocker "Mine Smell Like Honey" (funny that with older bands you still get a clear sense of a "Side 1 and Side 2"). "Walk it Back" is a lovely piano based ballad in the vein of Nightswimming or Electrolite. Albeit not as good, but it holds its own, has a great message and could really grow on fans. The next two tracks are back in "Accelerate" mode. They both operate more or less as "good filler" rock songs that operate to keep the album as a whole more upbeat and rock oriented. However, I think they're both better, more fun and far catchier than anything on the last half of Accelerate. "Me, Marlon Brando.." is one that still needs a few listens to see how well I like it. I'm trying to figure out if its as interesting as the title would suggest. Regardless, its an enjoyable enough song. Finally, Blue does a brilliant job of closing out the album. It truly is a kind of "Frankenstein" of several earlier REM songs (intentionally or not?), but they pull it off really well making it all edgy enough, cool and fresh again. Which pretty much reflects the album as a whole. Sure its a lot of the same sounds we've heard from REM before and done better, but it still sounds great and vital once again. IMO, New Adventures in Hi-Fi was an instant classic REM album that was woefully underrated at the time. Collapse into Now maybe somewhat overrated as a true "return to form" but what the hell, they've come a loooong ways and deserve it.
P.S: My biggest beef with this album is definitely the production quality. You know the sound of earphones BEFORE you actually put them on your ears and its all high pitched crackly noise?! That's what this whole album sounds like! It's OK if its already a loud rocker, but the other songs could have sounded so much better if they were allowed some space, depth and dynamics to give them a warmer richer quality. REM albums were notoriously great sounding records. Bring back Scott Litt!! Stop using producer's that Bono thinks are cool for a day!

Fixin to Die
Fixin to Die
Price: $8.81
58 used & new from $2.38

16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars G. Love...hold the Special Sauce with a Side of Avett Brothers, February 23, 2011
This review is from: Fixin to Die (Audio CD)
Some things taste so good they don't need sauce. This is G. Love, served up raw, no sauce, just the bare ingredients and a few fixin's courtesy of the Avett Brothers. If you're a longtime fan and always wished G. Love did more of his rootsy stripped down acoustic blues numbers, then this is the album you've been waiting for. On the other hand, if you prefer the rappin' grooves with lots of sauce, you're gonna have to sit this one out. The full focus here is roots music - blues and americana. The Avett Brothers produced the album, also providing backing vocals and instrumentation (that means a good dose of banjo) on nearly every track. They complement each other perfectly and the mutual respect and love of making and playing roots music together really shines through. Despite the clear presence of the Avett Brothers, this is still very much a G.Love album with roots and blues filtered through his unique vision and style.
The title track and "You've got to Die" are blues covers from 1940 but could easily pass as G.Love originals. He also covers Paul Simon's "50 Ways to Leave Your Lover" adding that typical G.Love backbeat groove and a banjo jam that brilliantly makes it sound contemporary, classic and old timey all at once. The Lou Reed/Velvet Underground classic "Pale Blue Eyes" at the end similarly ties the whole album and genres together in a soulful way. That still leaves a full album's worth of G.Love originals. "Katie Miss" is a very sweet tune and "Milk and Sugar" is a fun rootsy stomper about coffee. To me, the album really hits its stride in the latter half. There's great slide guitar (You've got to Die), "Just Fine" a medtempo number most akin to G.Love's hip-hop vocal stylings, "Walk On" and "Get Goin'" are both great driving songs, energetic and raucous. Ma Mere, Heaven and Home, are more personal and touching songs. Heaven is a real standout traditional style blues song with just G. Love on guitar and harmonica. It may be a more subdued album in some ways without the usual G.Love party and patio tunes. However, it's far from mellow and maintains a great raw, rough and tumble kind of energy throughout. It's also likely G.Love's most reflective and thematically artistic album touching on the lonely and weary side of life on the road, lost loves and family members, new love and a longing for home and to be with those most precious to your in life. It also reflects a sense of not only acknowledging your roots, but putting down your own roots, settling down and finding something deeper in life. No songs about partys, booty calls, cookin' out or weed here(not that there's anything wrong with that!) I'm sure "the Sauce" will be back. In the meantime, this album is a great compliment to the rest of G.Love's music and I'm excited to hear more.

Take a Seat: One Man, One Tandem And Twenty Thousand Miles Of Possibilities
Take a Seat: One Man, One Tandem And Twenty Thousand Miles Of Possibilities
by Dominic Gill
Edition: Paperback
Price: $12.23
98 used & new from $0.01

10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Would've Been a Better Trip...If Not for All the Whining!!, February 10, 2011
When I 1st read the description for this book, I was very excited. I loved the idea of inviting others to ride on a tandem bicycle with the author on his journey from Alaska to Patagonia, Chile. I looked forward to hearing about all the interesting people from different cultures that the author would meet along the way. Unfortunately, you learn very little about the people that he encounters and instead are forced to read the authors incessant whining and moaning most of the journey.
First of all, as great of an idea as it was, the idea actually came not from the author but was suggested by his publisher. So it seems a bit contrived from the start. Secondly, its ultimately not a very practical idea since the author is on a one way trip. So unless the tandem rider just happens to be needing a ride in the same direction it's difficult finding volunteers. Most of those who rode with the author only go as far as they can and then simply have to take a bus back home. As you can imagine, the author finds it difficult to get takers and a great deal of the book is the author riding by himself.
It's frustrating for both the author and reader. However, worse is hearing the author complain all the time about not having a rider, pulling the load himself and the loneliness he experiences. Yet, when he finds someone kind enough to ride with him, he goes on and on complaining that they aren't pulling their weight, causing him to have to do more work pedaling with their extra weight and wishing he was alone again. Then, once the rider has had enough of the bicycle, the author (who admits to his foul moods) or both, he quickly reverts to complaining again about going at it alone. The downfall and complaint of nearly every rider seems to be not the pedaling, but how ridiculously uncomfortable the seat is, which seems to greatly put out the author. Despite these universal complaints, even by those experienced in riding, it never dawns on the author to get a much more comfortable seat for his riders.
Equally frustrating is that despite having approximately 275 people ride with the author during his journey, the reader hardly gets to know anything about the people who ride with him. Many times all you learn is a name and a one sentence description of where they're from and how he met them. Very little of their personal lives, background or culture is learned. Certainly you would think that while crossing a country on a tandem bicycle with someone you would learn and share more about them. Even "Adam" who seems to be the author's favorite rider and probably rode with him the most, is left largely unknown to the reader. The author, in a diary like fashion, tells us many times how much of a character Adam is and how funny he is, but doesn't share much about the funny things actually said or done. The reader gets everything 2nd hand like a journal, personal only to the writer. Therefore, as a reader I never quite felt like I was "right there" with the author and felt no personal relationship or really care about any of the people he met along the way.
At the end of the journey, the author, much like the reader feels unfulfilled. I have no doubt as to how difficult the journey was and certainly there will be many frustrations and things that go wrong. At times there are flashes of great writing and the better side of the author's personality shows through. However, somewhere along the way, the thrill of adventure and the sense that even the worst day of such an adventure still beats working at a desk, got lost. For those of us, still tethered to our desks and office life, an opportunity to live vicarously through such an author's adventure is an opportunity largely missed in this instance.

Come Around Sundown
Come Around Sundown
Price: $7.00
111 used & new from $0.01

9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An Unbiased, No B.S., No Baggage Review, October 26, 2010
This review is from: Come Around Sundown (Audio CD)
I'm not a diehard KOL fan. Although I've been aware of KOL ever since they came onto the scene with their debut and before they blew up, despite a few songs that sparked, they just never caught fire with me. Therefore, I'm not biased or carrying the torch for the sound of their early albums and the baggage that goes along with it when a band starts to evolve. I'm not even biased towards the sound of their last album. Honestly, when they started to get all that buzz for "Sex on Fire" and "Use Somebody" I thought, OK, time to give them another listen. For me, the first half of OBTN was the making of a classic, but the second half fell flat and kept me ambivalent about KOL. Upon my first listen halfway through "Come Around Sundown" I felt I had again fallen prey to the buzz. The first half seemed clearly tailored for fans picked up by the last album, but, except for Radioactive, sounded like leftover B-Sides. However, I kept listening. The new album really didn't get interesting to me until the second half kicks off with "Back Down South." I think its the best song on the album and most successfully combines their early southern rootsy sound to their recent arena-ready sound. I love how "Back Down South" would be a total front porch southern jam with its fiddle and slide guitar if not for the U2 BAD-esque bass and drum part thumping in the background. Speaking of U2, let me be the first to say that if I hear one more band being touted as "the next U2" I'm going to let out an arena-sized scream! Let U2 be U2 and KOL, or any other band, find their own sound without the weight and hype of the U2 tag. Luckily, unlike Coldplay, KOL doesn't jump at the chance to take on the U2 mantle and be something they're not. Sure, there are flashes of U2 and some Edge-like guitar playing here and there. However, I hear more of a marriage of KOL's southern twang and influences of Johnny Greenwood (Radiohead)and the Pixies on this album. The second half of the album really comes together and rocks and simmers right to the end. The rhythms and melodys are really tight while still giving the songs room to breathe and space so you can really hear the intruments and vocals playing off each other. The songs have a looseness and classic laid-back feel that flows well. This album seems to be more of a lesson in subtlety (something U2 has lacked since The Joshua Tree) as compared with their previous albums which I believe is more interesting and rewarding with each listen. Also, with subsequent listens I have come to enjoy the contrasts of the first half of the album as well. "Radioactive" is the best rocker on the album and "Mary" is a lot of fun with its doo-wop vocals and overdriven guitars reminding me of Teenage Fanclub from years ago. The only song that really falls flat and stalls the album for me is "The Face" which seems like a dumbed down couples-skate power ballad, forced and calculated to elicit high school makeouts and slow mirrorball dancing(It will probably be the biggest single). There may not be a song as classic as "Use Somebody" or "Sex on Fire" that screams to be heard and breaks down the barriers to rock music being heard on pop radio stations these days. But that's OK, I'm burned out on those songs anyway! As a whole, I think this is a better album then their last. It challenges fans both old and new. Taken alone, as I essentially took it, its a good, maybe even great rock album and that's OK in my book. P.S. I wouldn't spring for the "Deluxe Version." Unless you're a diehard fan, save your money. You're not missing out on anything.

Easy Wonderful
Easy Wonderful
Price: $9.97
44 used & new from $0.05

3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This is Guster's Masterpiece - Don't Let Anyone Tell You Differently, October 21, 2010
This review is from: Easy Wonderful (Audio CD)
I truly felt compelled to write my own review because I am STUNNED to see some of the negative reviews given here for Guster's new album. THIS IS GUSTER AT THEIR BEST!! A true pop MASTERPIECE and nothing less!! Believe me, I am a longtime fan since the bongo days, seen them live many times and have all their albums. However, I am by no means some diehard fan who blindly thinks everything they do is great. Actually, in recent years I had really lost interest, moved on and began to dismiss Guster. I mean really, making fans always wait 3-4 years between albums (only 2 previous albums in 11 years by my count) who do they think they are, U2?? I had begrudgingly accepted that the bongo and acoustic guitars only days were in the past. However, I still felt with the last album "Ganging Up on the Sun" that Guster had really lost direction and started to run out of steam. It seemed they were trying too hard to be something they were not in an attempt to forever shake their quirky past. Trying to be experimental like Wilco instead of building on there greatest strenghts and accepting what they do best - make great pop songs. Where "Ganging up on the Sun" felt difficult, joyless, glum and painstakingly awkward (Sorry, but dabbling in epic psychadelic songs are NOT Guster's strong suit), "Easy Wonderful" is bursting with joy, optimism and brilliant creative energy that sounds easy and effortless. Maybe Guster was having growing pains and "Ganging Up on the Sun" may go down as their equivalent of REM's Fables of the Reconstruction(which is a compliment).
Regardless, if its darkest before the dawn, then dawn has truly arrived for Guster. This album is a jubilant celebration of every great pop music trick in the book, from handclaps to background woo-hoos and "hallelujah's" along with a seemingly infinite well of creative ideas busting at the seams. From beginning to end the album is consistantly upbeat musically and emotionally, but not without some darker and more introspective moments. "Stay With Me Jesus" is a very clever song with a good twist to it and has been misconstrued by many to be Guster going Christian Rock (laughable given Guster's Jewish background). If one actually pays attention to the lyrics, I believe the character in the song is ultimately a religious zealot to be feared and begs the question why good people die while others are spared and hints at the self-righteousness and hipocrisy found all too much in religion. It's also a great pop song with an almost home-demo sounding vocal and acoustic guitar throughout until breaking into the bright "hallelujah" chorus, providing a wonderful and artistically effective contrast. "Bad,Bad World" is quintessential Guster and one the best songs they've ever done. Both uplifting and full of optimism, it will have you singing along half way through the first listen. There is a fantastic variety of songs, "This Could all Be Yours" is another classic, inspiring and full of positivity with a pulsing beat and playful acoustic guitar interplay. Later you have "This is how it feels to have a broken heart" which almost sounds like a lost New Order song with its synth and drum machine break midway through and a dash of disco. That song, along with the synthesizers used to great effect in "Do Want You Want" clearly show Guster's love for 80's synth pop without being cheesy. You also get some fun ukelelee in "What You Call Love" before it dives into a more drum and guitar heavy wall of sound and even some marriachi-like horns. Next comes "That's no way to get to heaven" with its irrisistable laid back melody and gentle acoustic strumming that has the catcy feel of a Rogers & Hammerstein tune and will surely make your head bob and put a smile on your face. IMO, there's not a bad song in the bunch or even what I would consider to be filler.
I would definitely recommend springing for the deluxe version with its three (four on iTunes version) extra tracks. Its one of those rare times where the extra songs are so good you wonder why they didn't make it onto the official album. Included in them is "Jonah" with Adam on lead vocals which should help appease any fan who was wishing for more Adam on the album. You also get the acoustic "Well" sung by Joe which is nothing earth shattering, but is endearing in its homespun simplicity. The other two bonus songs are sung by Ryan and are both good upbeat tunes that would have fit in perfectly on the album. Especially "Okayalright" which is my favorite of the bonus tunes and is available only with the iTunes Deluxe Version, but can still be purchased separately for those that bought the CD like I did.
Seriously, this is the album Guster has always been working towards, a pop masterpiece filled with everything that makes Guster great. To the oldschool fan, there's very little bongo action, but for the first time it isn't missed. All the melody's are among their strongest and most consistent yet; jam packed with great instrumentation from their trademark acoustic guitars and innovative use of percussion to electric and slide guitars, ukelelee's and even some 80's style synthesizers. I honestly find it impossible for any Guster fan to dislike this album. However, its encouraging to know that as Guster has evolved, so has its fanbase and there will probably always be those fans devout to the early era or even the sound of Ganging up on the Sun. As for me, I simply believe that this album reflects all that has come before, but takes Guster to a whole new level and should be recognized as the pop music masterpiece it truly is.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Nov 1, 2010 8:34 PM PDT

God Willin' & The Creek Don't Rise
God Willin' & The Creek Don't Rise
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars God Willin' Ray Will Keep Making Music This Good, August 17, 2010
Pure and simple...this is great classic music from beginning to end. This may be Ray's most consistently good album he's made yet, at least since Trouble. Whereas previous albums had their standout tracks along with others that took awhile to catch on for me, each song on this album takes hold of you, demanding you to listen until before you know it you've listened to the whole album over and over without skipping a track. Right from the start Ray kicks it off with a funky groovy track like nothing else he's done before called "Repo Man." With the Pariah Dogs giving more of a band feel than a producer's influence, you can totally visualize how Repo Man came into being with Ray likely sitting in a room with the Pariah Dogs, sharing that groove on the acoustic guitar and each member jumping into the jam and adding their own parts to make a great rock song. Like most of Rays songs they would probably be just as good or better if it was just Ray and his acoustic. But here, I think the Pariah Dogs really earn their billing without taking away from the essence of the song or overshadowing it. Some of the songs do have a more country lilt to them and normally I cringe over pedal steel guitar (too honky tonk for me) but here its very tastefully done and, dare I say, lovely. The production is great and doesn't stray much from the straight forward band lineup or still stripping it down to Ray and his guitar like on "Rock & Roll Radio." I won't knock Ethan Johns production hand in previous releases. He's a great producer and I'm sure he was a big part in casting Ray with horns in some of his soul songs or in more jazzy and pastoral soundscapes. However, I think there was a bit too much production on the last release and overall this album feels more vital, immediate and passionate. Sure there may not be a single song as perfect as "Trouble" or as catchy as "You are the Best Thing." And yes, I always wish Ray would rock out a bit more. But all in all I think this is among Ray's strongest batch of great melodies, songwriting and classic sound. Definitely one you'll want to listen over and over from beginning to end for a long time to come.

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