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Non-Prog CD Reviews

Project Charlie

These Days

Review by Gary Hill

This is an extremely unique disc. For one thing, these guys seem to refuse to be tied down to one musical style. They are all over the soundscape from punk rock to roots rock and roll, prog and jazz. It’s all done with a rather unique (slightly awkward) garage sensibility. I’d have to say that one of my favorite aspects of the music is the lead guitar soloing which isn’t content to sit in one little pocket of a song, instead preferring to show up here and there throughout. That’s something I’ve always loved in music and you really see it less and less these days. While I wouldn’t say that I’m “in love” with everything on this album, I would say that it never fails to entertain and that it’s got a great sense of originality and adventure. I’d definitely recommend it to fans of classic rock and alternative rock – with the disclaimer that it feels a bit garagey at times.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2007 Volume 6 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Be
The riff that opens this really reminds me of Cheap Trick’s take on “Ain’t That a Shame.” When they turn out into the verse section, though, it feels more like a stripped down punk rock, though. The chorus has a bit of a Black Crowes feel to it with an accessible, if a bit quirky, arrangement. This is a catchy track that shows off quite a few different textures, making it rather hard to pin down. We even get some Beatles-like vocal sections.
Complications
Far more punk oriented, this one’s a little weird. It doesn’t work as well as the previous piece, but definitely has its moments. It has quite a bit of garage band chic.
Cool Ryder
Here the group really show off their diversity. This track has a slow groove that calls to mind classic 1970’s styled rock quite a bit. It can’t place a certain band or song, but this definitely has that sort of texture. There’s also bits of Stiv Bators on the vocal delivery.

Holy Roller
An acoustic based jam with a bouncy sort of old school rock and roll texture is the order of the day here. This one is actually one of my favorite cuts on the disc. It’s still quirky, but just seems to work a bit better to me. There’s even an intriguing, jazzy sort of segment later in the number.
Everybody Needs Something
In some ways this one doesn’t differ a lot from the other music on the disc. On the other hand the high profile usage of piano and the more sedate arrangement give it a fresh and unique flavor.
Rumors of War
Symphonic instrumentation lead this off for a major change of pace, then the group launch into a stirring wah-guitar take on “When Johnny Comes Marching Home.” The vocals come over in a distorted, angry way. After the verse they work this out into a more mellow motif that carries the chorus. They include a great progressive rock oriented section later and this is without question my favorite track on show here. This is a smoking tour de force as it works its way through reiterations and reworkings of its various motifs.
Higher Ground
Here we get another high energy introduction. This has less of a punk and more of an alternative rock feeling to it. They pull in a few changes and twists on this arrangement, too. It’s another that has some minor Beatles leanings from time to time.
Queen of Spades
This hard rocker is another highlight of the disc. It has a great retro texture with elements of modern alternative rock thrown in for good measure.
Baby Steps
The acoustic guitar flourish that starts this off reminds me a bit of Steve Howe, but they quickly shift out into a more hard rocking sound for a short time. Then we get sounds that are mellower and feel just a tiny bit like Pink Floyd. This track is dramatic and powerful in an understated way and is another standout on the CD.
Pura Vida
This is a mellower, bouncy sort of cut that’s interesting and a good change of pace, but not really a standout. It’s a bit jazzy in an acoustic way.
All In My Head
This hard rocker is one of the punkier tracks on show here. It’s also one of the cooler ones. I like this one a lot.
Closer
First off, what a great (if obvious) title that is for the final cut on the CD. This is also one of the highlights of the disc. It has less of that awkwardness that shows up on some of the other songs. It’s a killer, nearly prog rock oriented, excursion that alternates between mellow jazz, jam band and other sounds in an enchanting journey that serves as a great conclusion to the disc. At almost five and a half minutes this is the longest cut on show here.
 
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