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Seed on the Prairie
Seed on the Prairie
Price: $16.41
15 used & new from $1.95

5.0 out of 5 stars Planting a SEED, April 25, 2015
This review is from: Seed on the Prairie (Audio CD)
I've posted before that Magpie is one folk act that unabashedly preserves a genuine '60s folk spirit. To me that's refreshing--and not at all dated, but I admit their music won't be everyone's cup of herb tea. SEED ON THE PRAIRIE is an excellent slice of Americana (of the progressive variety), one that is consistently tuneful but provocative all the while. Magpie (Greg Artztner and Terry Leonino) wear their political and environmental activism on their sleeves, but they add occasional bits of humor for a leavening touch. And oh, those gorgeous harmonies. Much of the record explores First Nation themes, and some like the a cappella "Yellow Metal" might send you off to do further research (Gold expeditions that led to the destruction of entire Indian tribes, but (here's the kicker) in 1993??!! OK, a quick Google search reveals that this "all-American" sounding record has at least ONE song whose narrative is set in SOUTH America, where just such an event did happen in that year. But it's evocative of the History of ALL the Americas, when you get right down to it. Any record that can actually prompt its listener to do something close to actual research has to have something going for it.. The fact that it's also well-crafted, intelligent and masterfully performed music is icing on the proverbial cake.


After The War
After The War
Price: $13.39
21 used & new from $1.35

5.0 out of 5 stars New MacDonald, January 16, 2015
This review is from: After The War (Audio CD)
If you've written songs as great as "American Jerusalem" or "Every Little Thing," I'd say you're entitled to re-record them every twenty years or so. These two classic Rod MacDonald tunes date back a few decades, but how many people ever heard them in the first place? They deserve to be (re)discovered by newbies and old fans alike. As a die-hard fan, in fact, I like studying the differences is phrasing and overall delivery. When he was a bit younger sounded uncannily like Scott McKenzie, an achingly beautiful voice to be sure, but I like the somewhat more "lived-in" vocals of his more current recordings even better. Still a beautiful instrument, but even more expressive.

Rod MacDonald is one of those rare songwriters whose social consciousness informs the majority of his work, but who is never heavy handed or preachy. He also quite capable of writing a beautiful romantic ballad or heartbreak tune (check out "The Coming of the Snow," "Ballerina" or "Half Heaven, Half Heartache." But I'm especially partial to his near-epics like "White Buffalo" or the aforementioned "American Jerusalem." An expert tunesmith, MacDonald is also a grade-A storyteller. In another era (namely the 60's "Folk Scare"), he could have been a folk rock star. As it is, he is a greatly respected, much loved acoustic artist, with a loyal and substantial following. He's doing fine, but he deserves an even wider audience. Do yourself a favor and become part of that audience. You'll find music of substance and heart. A very special artist.


Who's Sorry Now
Who's Sorry Now
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Price: $7.99
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4.0 out of 5 stars Early Dean Martin: A Sampling, September 13, 2014
This review is from: Who's Sorry Now (Audio CD)
A quick listen to this"specially priced" Dutch compilation of early Dean Martin tracks might give the listener the impression that Martin was likely the King of Novelty Tracks back then. The album is lousy with them...which is not to say that it's a LOUSY album. It's kinda good...of kind. But actually, in the Post-War years, novelty records reigned in general. It was hardly just Dean Martin. Look at poor Rosemary Clooney, a truly gifted and often subtle singer, who was forced (by Mitch Miller) to put out catchy, but insubstantial novelty tunes like "Botch-a-Me," "Mambo Italiano" and "Come-on-a My House"). Martin had gotten his big break doing a novelty night club act (with Jerry Lewis), so it was hardly surprising that a fair number of this own hits were gag numbers. And, yes, they ARE catchy, the original "ear worms." If you give this record at least a couple of spins, you'll likely find that you can get tunes like "The Way You Kiss Goonight," "The Money Song" (with an uncredited--at least on this release--duet vocal by none other than Jerry Lewis) and a couple of cute bits of fluff recorded with a fully credited Margaret Whiting. A fascinating bit of WWII musical propaganda is the morale building "Hot Time In The Town of Berlin"--also done by Bing and Frank--a swinging little number that tells us how our "boys" are going to "change that 'Heil!" to "What'cha know, Joe?"

Dean Martin's breezy, ironic style lent itself readily to the novelty stuff, it appears, and he actually seems more comfortable on the jokey numbers than he does on ballads like "If," "Which Way Did My Heart Go." Where he really sounds at his best however is any number with more of a Big Band accompaniment. That includes the title track "Who's Sorry Now," which in Martin's capable hands (or vocal chords) comes off more as a somewhat detached observation with little of the melodramatic flair and sense of teenaged angst that Connie Francis would bring to her famous version a few years later. The Big Band arrangement of this and other tracks is playful, but complex, and Martin sounds both amused and assured. It's a good reading with truly interesting accompaniment. That can also be said of such tracks as "You Must Have Been A Beautiful Baby," "You And Your Beautiful Eyes," and "Baby, Obey Me," all of which could be classified as novelty numbers in terms of theme and vocal delivery, but which all hold up musically. Once you get into more "Hit Parade" material, the novelty is pretty much laid on with a trowel, the arrangements and back up vocals can be cloyingly cute, and the Dino's own irony-laced stylings start to seem a parody of themselves.

It's fun stuff for the most part, and quite listenable--for the most part. Dean Martin's strengths and limitations are all on display here. I always liked the guy, liked his style, humor and panache. It's all in evidence here and it's certainly worth the price. On the other hand, it can't be denied true greatness eluded Dean Margtin--in a way it didn't elude Sinatra.


Their Satanic Majesties Request
Their Satanic Majesties Request
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars By REQUEST, September 4, 2014
You could read every review, positive, negative or indifferent, and find SOMETHING to agree with in all of them. Back when I was 16, I got my first copy of SATANIC MAJESTIES as a cast-off from a friend who was much more of a Stones fan than I was. I think I gave him a couple of bucks for it, and he was glad to get rid of it, telling me straight out, "It stinks out loud." But I was known for liking weird stuff, and this, the Stones' sole foray into psychedelia, certainly filled that billed.

I saw MAJESTIES as an extension of some of the tentative experimentalism of BETWEEN THE BUTTONS and FLOWERS (a compilation, really, of odds and ends but experimental enough in its way). Like BUTTONS, it closes out with an ironic music hall style ditty, which seems to suggest that nothing preceding it really needs to be taken all that seriously. But in reality, the Stones were breaking new ground all the while, growing in spurts and stops, but always provocative, always with an edge, a certain ironic flair (which differentiated them from true "flower children"--as was true of all the best groups of the era). If the paranoia, alternately menacing and satirical, of "The Citadel" and "2000 Man" don't drive that home to you, there's no convincing you that at the core, this is authentic Stones music, refracted in a funhouse mirror maybe, but definitely the Stones.

At the time, I didn't realize how much of the Stones' experimentalism was due to Brian Jones' influence. He was, it turns out, the most restless spirit among them, and the most musically adventurous. And maybe it was inevitable that-- soon after SATANIC MAJESTIES--he would have had to move on; he'd gone as far as he could go with the group. His contributions to BEGGARS BANQUET were not as significant, and it was clear that the power in the group had clearly shifted. I don't know what new territories he might have explored (if any) had he lived, but if he influenced the sound on AFTERMATH and BETWEEN THE BUTTONS, he truly shaped it on MAJESTIES, for good and/or ill. (How you feel about the psychedelic Stones will largely be reflective of how you feel about Brian Jones--at least, the Brian Jones of 1967-'68). I used to say, the album was worth it just for "Citadel," (and how wise it was to place the rockiest song so early in the roster), "She's A Rainbow," and "2000 Light Years From Home." But then, as now, I find myself getting lost in the textures of "Gomper" and, yes, even "Sing This All Together (See What Happens)."

Nearly every band worth their salt pushed the envelope to the point of ripping in '67-'68 (whether you're talking the Beatles, the Stones, the Airplane or the Velvet Underground). And then they retreated, at least somewhat. Even the most die-hard of each group's fans seemed to realize that and pretty much breathed a collective sigh of relief when the perceived excesses of psychedelia were abandoned. But it was fun while it lasted, and the music holds up better than many expected it would. No, I'm not saying SATANIC MAJESTIES REQUEST is for everyone. But it is an integral part of the Stones catalog, and their legacy.

So I AM saying it might be worth a rehear! You may not discover " where we all come from, but that was always a conditional phrase anyway. You may, like me, find the Orwellian foreboding of the aformentioned "Citadel" truer to the Stones' vision. Or you may just say "On With the Show...good health to you" and have done with it.


Their Satanic Majesties Request
Their Satanic Majesties Request
Offered by cdgiveaways
Price: $14.82
64 used & new from $9.11

4.0 out of 5 stars By REQUEST, September 2, 2014
You could read every review, positive, negative or indifferent, and find SOMETHING to agree with in all of them. Back when I was 16, I got my first copy of SATANIC MAJESTIES as a cast-off from a friend who was much more of a Stones fan than I was. I think I gave him a couple of bucks for it, and he was glad to get rid of it, telling me straight out, "It stinks out loud." But I was known for liking weird stuff, and this, the Stones' sole foray into psychedelia, certainly filled that billed.

I saw MAJESTIES as an extension of some of the tentative experimentalism of BETWEEN THE BUTTONS and FLOWERS (a compilation, really, of odds and ends but experimental enough in its way). Like BUTTONS, it closes out with an ironic music hall style ditty, which seems to suggest that nothing preceding it really needs to be taken all that seriously. But in reality, the Stones were breaking new ground all the while, growing in spurts and stops, but always provocative, always with an edge, a certain ironic flair (which differentiated them from true "flower children"--as was true of all the best groups of the era). If the paranoia, alternately menacing and satirical, of "The Citadel" and "2000 Man" don't drive that home to you, there's no convincing you that at the core, this is authentic Stones music, refracted in a funhouse mirror maybe, but definitely the Stones.

At the time, I didn't realize how much of the Stones' experimentalism was due to Brian Jones' influence. He was, it turns out, the most restless spirit among them, and the most musically adventurous. And maybe it was inevitable that-- soon after SATANIC MAJESTIES--he would have had to move on; he'd gone as far as he could go with the group. His contributions to BEGGARS BANQUET were not as significant, and it was clear that the power in the group had clearly shifted. I don't know what new territories he might have explored (if any) had he lived, but if he influenced the sound on AFTERMATH and BETWEEN THE BUTTONS, he truly shaped it on MAJESTIES, for good and/or ill. (How you feel about the psychedelic Stones will largely be reflective of how you feel about Brian Jones--at least, the Brian Jones of 1967-'68). I used to say, the album was worth it just for "Citadel," (and how wise it was to place the rockiest song so early in the roster), "She's A Rainbow," and "2000 Light Years From Home." But then, as now, I find myself getting lost in the textures of "Gomper" and, yes, even "Sing This All Together (See What Happens)."

Nearly every band worth their salt pushed the envelope to the point of ripping in '67-'68 (whether you're talking the Beatles, the Stones, the Airplane or the Velvet Underground). And then they retreated, at least somewhat. Even the most die-hard of each group's fans seemed to realize that and pretty much breathed a collective sigh of relief when the perceived excesses of psychedelia were abandoned. But it was fun while it lasted, and the music holds up better than many expected it would. No, I'm not saying SATANIC MAJESTIES REQUEST is for everyone. But it is an integral part of the Stones catalog, and their legacy.

So I AM saying it might be worth a rehear! You may not discover " where we all come from, but that was always a conditional phrase anyway. You may, like me, find the Orwellian foreboding of the aformentioned "Citadel" truer to the Stones' vision. Or you may just say "On With the Show...good health to you" and have done with it.


Out Here
Out Here
Price: $18.15
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5.0 out of 5 stars OUT HERE And Back Again, September 1, 2014
This review is from: Out Here (Audio CD)
I'm lucky to live in an area (New York's Mid-Hudson Valley) with a very active local music scene. It's so extensive, in fact, that there are acts that I've heard about for years that I'm only just now catching up with. Don Lowe--I'm almost embarrassed to say--was one of those until quite recently. People had been telling me about this great singer-songwriter, who had opened for a number of acclaimed national acts and who had released a couple of top-notch CDs that I really needed to hear. I was intrigued, and checked out a number of his videos. But I kept missing him live. Finally, it occurred to me to see if I might be able to book him for a concert series I run myself at the library where I work. We have a nice little room with good acoustics and it seemed like it might just be a good fit. Don said yes, almost immediately. And it turned out, I was right for once: the evening proved to be one of the highlights of the season.

One reason the evening was such a success, I'd say, is that Don Lowe is just a natural performer. His joy in being on stage was real--and infectious. He does have a background in theater, which certainly might explain his ease and comfort before an audience. And it also explains his why one of the most effective numbers that night was the partially spoken word "Last Call," a memoir-in-song that I'm sure he's performed more times than he can count but still was able make fresh and new for an audience that was unfamiliar with it. That takes considerable skill--and artistic conviction. And it's something that theatrical actors have to learn to do on a nightly basis.

I won't be surprised to see Don Lowe performing the same tune--with the same level of conviction--in five, ten or twenty years.

"Last Call" is also a featured track on OUT HERE (and a line from the chorus actually inspired the CD's title). If I were Don's PR man, I don't know which of the album's several great cuts I'd be promoting to radio stations. I'm never sure whether it's faint praise to say, "there's not a bad cut" on the record, since ideally there never SHOULD be (and I said IDEALLY, not 'realistically'). But there as it happens, this is ALL good stuff. And it's also the album I've ever heard that name-checked Elvis Presley in three separate songs (well, why NOT? it works every time). If I had to pick a favorite right this minute, I'd say it'd be a toss-up between the aforementioned "Last Call" and the heart-tugging closer "Fools."

When Don played here, his opening act was another regional favorite (a fellow named Bill Buttner, who I hope and pray gets to do a studio album of his own soon) who was delighted to open for one of HIS favorite artists. A friend commented afterwards that the entire show was effective and that Bill had her crying, while Don had her laughing. Initially, I agreed, wholeheartedly, since I had pretty much chortled all the way through some of Don's wittiest numbers (like "Last Call" or the sly bromide against fundamentalism that is the catchy "Dinosaur Bones"). But then I thought a bit better of it, because Bill's tunes had plenty of lighter moments, and Don's tunes had passages that could break your heart--sometimes even as you chuckling about the human absurdities he was detailing. And isn't that the mark of true artistry? You laugh, you cry, you laugh again. Well, I think so. At least, that's my story, and I'm sticking to it.

Don Lowe is a true artist, by just about anyone's definition.


Tone
Tone
Price: $8.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Something Old, Something New..., September 1, 2014
This review is from: Tone (MP3 Music)
I saw Tom (or TW) Doyle and Sandy Cory do a library program on the life and music of Les Paul and Mary Ford. It was a first-rate presenation and pretty much made me a fan for life. Tom Doyle's connection to Les Paul was a direct one; he used to make customized instruments for the guitar icon. He had also played with Les on different occasions, and refurbished/rebuilt the instruments that Les would have (as Tom's own website puts it) "would have chopped...to pieces in pursuit of that mad sound in his head." The sound is apparently well ensconced in Tom's own head and his tribute show to his idol was as authentic and as truly educational as you could hope for.

The Les Paul/Chet Atkins influence can be heard throughout this 2010 release, and fans of either artist should welcome TW Doyle's contribution. He is truly an heir to the tradition, one that is still revered by discerning audiences and budding instrumentalists alike, but ideally should be better known and understood by the general public. As Tom and Sandy pointed out in their presentation, Les Paul and Mary Ford were THE best-selling recording artists of their era, selling more than six million records in 1951 alone.

Most guitarists I've known revered Les Paul. They understood his legacy and that he was more than a "brand name." But while they may have incorporated elements of the Les Paul and/or Chet Atkins style(s) into their own, most were busily absorbing every other conceivable influence (mostly blues-rock and picking folk styles). I've always loved the lightness and playfulness of Paul's playing. Players like Paul, Atkins and--now--TW Doyle may make it look easy and it's certainly easy on the ears (not to be confused with"easy listening," however), but the complexity and necessary skill it requires is readily evident, even to the relatively uninitiated.

Tom has found the perfect musical partner in Sandy Cory. A former star student of his, she eventually became his collaborator (and life partner), and it would seem to be a musical pairing made in the stars. Her cool, jazz-inspired stylings are a perfect complement to Tom's languid, lyrical guitar lines. And if at times she makes for a perfect Mary Ford to Tom's Les Paul, it should also be stressed that both are accomplished songwriters and original performers in their own right. Indeed Tom's self-penned instrumentals and Sandy's witty and wise "Common Ground Blues" are among the highlights of the album. But they also have a way with standards that is as close to sublime as any contemporary performers are likely to offer. TONE is a tasty sampler of styles indeeds, your classic melange of "something old, something new, something borrowed, something BLUES-Y."

I guess there are any number of Tom Doyles making music these days (or at least it appears that way when you do a Google search), so that may explain the "TW" billing. However, he's billed--live or on record--Tom Doyle and Sandy Cory are well worth checking out. LIke I say, they're worthy heirs to a fine tradition, one that definitely merits preserving. We should all thank them for their efforts--AND for some fine musi.


Golddust Magic
Golddust Magic
Price: $13.66
15 used & new from $1.46

5.0 out of 5 stars MAGIC Indeed, August 31, 2014
This review is from: Golddust Magic (Audio CD)
I guess you could say I'm going backwards here. I recently reviewed Thomas Earl's EP, IT'S NEVER TOO LATE, which I was playing obsessively for a time. This full-length CD was released a few years before that release and also shows Mr. Earl at the top of his game. I'm starting to doubt Thomas Earl is even capable of writing a bad song. Every song on both releases is a gem. And now both are in high rotation on my CD player.

If I had listened this one first, however, I would have known for sure some ot the things that I pretty much surmised from listening to the EP. According to the liner notes, Thomas--like so many other singer-songwriters I've come to know and love--did have a bit of a rock'n'roll past, and had a few minor successes with a couple of his bands . On this record, there is actually more of a full band sound than on than on the later record, with some tasty electric lead supplied by Scott Sherrard and percussion accompaniment throughout. It's still very much a contemporary singer-songwriter record, but the textures added by Mr.Sherrard's (who is, I gather, Thomas Earl's son) and by the other contributing musicians add a richness that embellishes the songs, without ever overpowering them.

And that's not always easy. I can't count the number of artists I've encountered whose work in a live acoustic setting who have succumbed to studio overkill when they had the opportunity to take advantage of all those multitracking options. Thomas Earl's records are streamlined affairs, perhaps a bit more elaborate instrumentally than he can offer live, but whatever add-ons are added on are all tasteful and just what they should be. No cowbells or whistles.

When you read the liner notes and see who Thomas Earl shared the stage with in his younger days, you're likely to be impressed, but you're just as likely to wonder about the arbitrary nature of commercial success. I'm not sure how musically mature Thomas Earl was in his 20's, but he certainly must have been a promising talent. But the breaks didn't break for him (as they don't for MOST artists really) and the music world's loss was the corporate world's gain apparently.

But not entirely! Unlike so many people whose artistic hopes may have been initially dashed, Thomas Earl apparently never stopped writing or playing and, in the past several years, has returned to making music (and marketing it independently). He's re-emerged as your classic "triple threat" (which is to say that he sings, writes AND plays brilliantly). Since he's artist enough to know that it's really all about the WORK and not the hoopla, I'm sure he's derived plenty of satisfaction from having created TWO near-perfect recordings somewhat later in life. Of course, I'm sure he wouldn't refuse any additional attention he might receive in the meantime. And I for one am only to happy to do what I can to spread the word about this great talent.


Time Has Come
Time Has Come
Price: $4.99
30 used & new from $2.52

5.0 out of 5 stars "Psychedelicized Soul" --And Much More!, August 30, 2014
This review is from: Time Has Come (Audio CD)
If CDs go the way of technology, I'm going to miss all the bonus tracks (and don't even get me started on the special features on DVDs--what a loss that will be for us dyed-in-the-wool media freaks). But to return to the topic at hand, I have a couple of SONY products with kind of off-the-wall bonus additions. The weirdest has to be the Byrds' FIFTH DIMENSION which comes with one of those pre-recorded radio interviews with just the artists' responses to unuttered questions (a script of which was supplied to DJ's who could then pretend they were interviewing the performers in their local studio). Bizarre.

Not quite as outre is the very authentic sounding radio ad that closes out the re-issue of the Chambers Brothers' classic THE TIME HAS COME TODAY. I suppose it's not that much different than including actual movie trailers as special features on DVD releases, but those you OPT to view. With CDs, well, I'm just old fashioned enough to listen to the durn thing straight through, so after several plays, it just gets a little old--and a tad weird to hear the an old ad telling you should buy a recording you obviously already have. I suppose you can come up with all kinds of post-modern arguments about self-referentialism to justify its inclusion. But this is the Chambers Brothers, doing their thing...not Cage or Stockhausen or something.

Actually, I'm funning here a bit. I don't mind the radio ad all that much, and it DOES serve as a reminder that the PR department at Columbia did indeed get behind this release and that in 1967, this record was a pretty big deal. Which begs the question, why was this pretty much the SOLE Chambers release to get that kind of backing. Did the Brothers fall victim to that old "novelty hit record" curse, by which they'd be forever linked to one HIT that was not necessarily all that indicative of what they could do. I mean, it's hard NOT to love the "psychedelicized soul" of the title track, replete with that distinctive cowbell and a "talk vocal" that anticipated the rap revolution to come but still to this day just screams "LATE SIXTIES."

But the rest of the record was the Chambers' real specialty, tight gospel-inspired harmonies sung with considerable power and grace: some originals, some dang good covers and a whole lotta soul. So it should've just begged for more, right? And the Brothers (both biological and "honorary") SHOULD have had a long and storied career on Columbia, which was one of the more progressive labels of the era.

Reading up a litttle bit on the group, I was heartened to learn that they never totally gave up the ghost and continued to perform and record (on smaller labels) for several years to come. Their time didn't just come...and go, really. If you knew where to look. Still after this initial splash, you would have thought some marketing genius at Columbia might have had an idea or two as to how to effectively promote the group. Their one hit album proved them to be versatile soul interpreters, hardly one-trick ANYTHING.

I do recall having some doubts at the time about a FEW of the covers. If there's an already "definitive" version of a tune out there--like Wilson Pickett's classic take on "Midnight Hour"--isn't another cover risky at best (and unnecessary at worst). And one could opine the same about "People Get Ready." But you know, that was when I was young and foolish and thought there was such a thing as a "definitive version" of a great song (and, by implication, that no one else could touch it). I had thought that their take on "Midnight Hour" was a bit too ambling-shambling, but now I have to credit Peter Knobler for coming up with just the right term for the track: it's a loose, fun "party version" of a classic R&B number. And there's nothing wrong with that.

There is actually little wrong with the record as a whole. I imagine there will be listeners who'll find the Brian Keenan penned bonus track, "Love Me Like the Rain" a bit dated. I'm feeling generous toward the sentiment expressed and the era itself these days, so, yeah, I think it's kinda sweet actually. I'm not a huge fan of the "single version one" of the title track, but it works as a kind of curio. And if I had ever thought that their take on "What the World Needs Now" was a bit overwrought, I take it all back now. It's true that the song almost begs for a simple, straightforward version, but there are plenty of those out there. The Brothers' gospeled-up take is inventive and quite effective in its own terms.

My new favorite track though has to be "I'm So Tired," a tune I pretty much overlooked at age 16. This is soul balladeering at its best, phrased beautifully and precisely, with echoing soul harmonies that floor me just about every time. Textbook. As is so much of the rest of the record.

Knobler's liner notes make the point I guess I've been hinting at all this while. He writes, "'Time Has Come Today' pigeonholed the Chambers Brothers as psychedelic soulmen, not entirely to their benefit. They were all that and more." True dat. But it's never too late to find out all this great vocal group had to offer. Their time may yet come again.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 16, 2015 7:32 AM PST


It's Never Too Late
It's Never Too Late
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5.0 out of 5 stars Proof Positive that IT'S NEVER TOO LATE, August 19, 2014
This review is from: It's Never Too Late (Audio CD)
Artistic comparisons can be useful, and if I were a PR man by trade, well, I'd certainly be trading in them. Lord knows this site (among others) make considerable hay--and a healthy profit--by pointing its customers in the direction of "similar artists." Sometimes though, it's just nice to discover a performer's music on its own terms. I caught singer-songwriter Thomas Earl in concert recently, and I suppose that, if pressed to, I could have come up with comparisons to several artists. But it scarcely occurred to me. My thoughts that night ran more along the lines of "Damn this guy is GOOD." In other words, I became pretty much became an instant fan. So when I went on his website and saw that he'd been compared to James Taylor, Gordon Lightfoot, Tom Rush and "acoustic" Neil Young, I thought, "Well, yeah, I can see that...now that you mention it." But even if I'd been on a desert island for the past 45 years and had never heard of any of these great artists, I'd still love Thomas Earl's music. He's that good.

But now that we're playing the comparison game, how's about I throw out another couple of names at you for your consideration? Thomas does do some straight-up 60s style folk, such as the lyrical "We Have Found Our Home," and so yeah, I'd say the Tom Rush/Gordon Lightfoot comparison is an apt one. But Thomas also demonstrates a jazz and even an occasional samba feel on some tracks, which now that I think of it, reminds me of no one so much late, great Kenny Rankin. His masterful guitar stylings are also evocative of Rankin--and John Martyn as well.

So I guess I can come up with my own artistic points of reference for Thomas Earl's music, but I do want to stress that his IS a unique voice. And a refreshing one. His lyrics are sensitive without being sentimental, poetic without being artsy. His vocals are inventive and demonstrate excellent technique (again with very little flash). It all flows beautifully. There's even a bit of edginess on the more driving "You're Going Down," and the opening track, "Send It My Way," shows chops that suggest he may have been a something of a rocker in the not too distant past.

The two instrumentals ("In The Canyon" and "Low Tide") offer further proof of Thomas's guitar mastery. I know some will insist that it's just the power of suggestion (rather than something inherent in the music), but for this listener anyway, these tracks really do evoke the land- and seascapes their titles suggest.

According to his website, Thomas Earl "cut his teeth back in the 1960's playing coffee-houses in Michigan alongside such artists at Jim Kweskin, Joni Mitchell and John Hammond, Jr. ," and those roots certainly show. Life then took him in a different direction, it seems, and he entered the corporate world for a time. We can be grateful that he is once again making some really beautiful music. As the lovely title track reminds us, "it's never too late." And it's certainly not too late for you to discover this remarkable talent.


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