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Non-Prog CD Reviews

Teddy Geiger

Step Ladder EP

Review by Gary Hill

Just when I'd nearly given up on looking for any talent in any artist that had been picked up by the major pop idol making machine along comes Teddy Geiger. This guy is a 16-year-old musician songwriter who has a lot of talent. While he has a full CD on the way (due to be released in February) this six song EP shows much promise. He is (from the looks of things) about ready to be fully pulled into the hit making, pop-idol-constructing end of the music business. He has the looks for it, is about to star in a network television show and just did the opening slot on a huge pop concert tour. If you are like me, you generally don't expect to see a lot of talent in the artists who run that race. Geiger is certainly an exception to that rule. He has a great voice - no lip synching here, is a multi-instrumentalist and shows a natural gift for quality song writing. This guy is a legitimate, albeit not fully developed, talent.

Geiger's music seems to share a lot with the folk rock oriented ballad type music of the 1970's. That said, from his own admission he listens only to newer music - so those links must come secondhand through his interest in artists like Dave Matthews, Ben Folds and Jason Mraz - all of whom have strong ties to that older style Whatever the case may be this EP shows that Geiger can play and sing with the best of them, and while his songwriting is a bit derivative at this point, it shows a high degree of talent and maturity. What artist isn't at least a little derivative on their first couple releases, anyway? Most of the songs here are based on acoustic guitar, but a couple are constructed around piano - I did say he is a multi instrumentalist. All of them are entertaining slices of mellow pop rock, and they all show a certain musical integrity.

Bearing in mind the fact that Geiger has been snapped up by the media machine that is the big time music/media industry, I worry about his future. If he can stick to his guns and use his own musical insights and instincts, he should be able to have a long lasting and artistically viable career. However, my guess is that there are going to be a lot of handlers around him who are more interested in image and marketing than in musical integrity trying to get him to change his sound or look or lyrical content to sell a few more CD's. I hope he has the will power to resist them and stick with what he knows. This is a great start for a promising artist. I really hope he stays on his own path and holds tight on the reins of his artistic adventure. If it doesn't get watered down by the media machine it should be a bold and exciting one.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2005 Year Book Volume 3 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Try Too Hard
This comes in bouncy with an acoustic guitar - and feels a lot like the folk oriented songsters of the 1970's. Geiger's vocal performance gives it more of a John Mayer or even Dave Matthews approach. This one is catchy and rather understated, but very cool. The bridge has an intriguing texture - feeling almost a bit like a jazz trio sound. Geiger also adds in some cool guitar fills - they aren't big or flashy, but they add a lot of flavor and show his understanding of how to create a complete arrangement rather than just take the simple road.
Hallelujah
That '70's folk rock sound is back on this one. This ballad seems even a bit more complete in its construction than the last one. The song has a bit more of a catchy chorus, but feels even meatier in terms of songwriting than the last one. It is still a very stripped down musical approach, but there is more texture to the chord structure and vocal layers.
Confidence
This one has a more complete arrangement in terms of strings added to the mix and the overlayers. The lyrical structure is more mature than the last couple, but in many ways the basic premise is the same. This is just a more thought out and potent dosage of the same prescription. This one is very catchy, while still having some definite meat in the songwriting. It gains a bit of momentum later and also grows in intensity.
Look Where We Are Now
"Look Where We Are Now" is based on piano instead of guitar, and feels a bit more like Dave Matthews than the previous numbers did - along with perhaps a little Bruce Hornsby. There is a bit more a jazz texture, too - but only a little. The lyrics here are even more impressive than the last cut. This definitely shows another side of Geiger's songwriting and performance skills.
Love Is A Marathon
This one finds Geiger back in the acoustic guitar driven ballad structures. It has a bit less of the 1970's sounds, though - feeling more purely modern along the lines of Mayer and Matthews and Jason Mraz. This one also has some exceptionally clever lyrics and, like the rest of the disc shows quality songwriting. Geiger throws in some pretty cool acoustic guitar solo fills on this one. I think this cut might well be my favorite on show here.
A Million Years
Geiger is back to the piano this time, and this one has even more of that Hornsby vibe, perhaps with a touch of vintage - before the major pop big production era - Billy Joel and even a little Elton John here. I've got say, though; there is also a certain "male version of Tori Amos" thing going on here. This one is another standout track - and while the lyrics are not as clever as some of the others on show - the musical structure and vocal performance more than make up for it. He definitely knows how to end it on a strong note.
 
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