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Non-Prog CD Reviews

John Taglieri

Wide Awake & Dreaming

Review by Gary Hill

The music on this disc is competent. There are a couple moments of brilliance. For the most part nothing is exceptional – either in terms of being extremely good or extremely bad. It’s just a little too generic and at times it seems too monolithic. That means this is a good album. It’s just far from being a great one. It’s certainly worth putting on for a day of doing things around the house – or for a drive in the car. It’s just not something that’s suited for serious listening. Consider this pop rock that’s quite adequate from artist who shows that he’s got the potential to be great.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2009  Volume 2 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Starring Role
 The opening crescendo makes you think you may have put in a new hard rocking disc. Instead, though, this moves to a catchy pop rock journey that’s catchy and rather like alternative rock meets Beatles-like pop. It’s a good tune, but not overly exceptional.
Falling Through
More high energy than the opener, this is fun, but perhaps even more generic. That said, you can’t argue with successful pop rock like this.
Wide Awake & Dreaming
The main motif hasn’t been altered here, but when it’s not broken, why fix it. What we get is more inspired and powerful arrangement on the same basic musical themes. This is the strongest cut we’ve heard so far. The only thing is, this format is starting to show signs of wear by being a bit overused.
Waiting for Me
Taglieri changes things up a bit here. This starts as a ballad and maintains that format for a time. Eventually it moves out to a more powered up approach, but even then it seems to have more of a classic rock texture. It was good timing to make some alterations because this would have started to drag pretty badly without the diversity. This has an exceptionally tasty guitar solo. 
No Uncertain Terms
The more classic rock sound remains here. It keeps this from getting old too fast. It’s a good track, but nothing extraordinary – and that’s the curse of this whole album. 
Wing & a Prayer
This sounds like something from Bon Jovi to me. It’s got a more straightahead 1980’s rock arrangement, but it just really feels like that form of anthemic rock. It’s actually one of the better cuts here. 
Corner of My Eye
We’re back into territory more like the opening songs. This has a Beatles-like hook and is pretty powerful and the excursion into other areas helps to keep this fresh. 
Place in Line
A 1980’s power ballad style makes up this cut. It’s OK, but one of the weak pieces here. 
Along the Way
Here’s where the formula comes crashing down. This is a decent cut – in fact it’s a step up from the last one, but by this point it’s all starting to seem too similar. 
La Pregunta De Corazon
Now, this is what we need. It’s a pretty, Latin styled instrumental. This is gentle and tasty. It’s just too short. 
Tell Me If
The Latin sounds from the previous cut continue here and this is another strong piece. It’s another touch of variety and lends to lifting this disc up. This is actually one of the best – perhaps the best – cuts on show here and goes a long way to giving an impression of what Taglieri can do if he sets his mind to it. 
Wake Up!
This short little bit is the alarm clock going off followed by “oh man!” It creates the introduction to the lyrical theme for the next number. 
Think of You
Here we get Green Day-like emo. This is incredibly average and forgettable. It’s the weakest cut on show here – by a long shot. Personally it was very hard to resist the urge to hit “skip.” Sure, it’s a change, but having a drill cutting into your head is a change from a hammer pounding it – it’s not necessarily a good thing, though. There’s a couplet here that says “There must be a better way / To get through this crappy day.” I hear it as “There must be a better way / To get me through this crappy song.” 
While You Sleep
Taglieri pulls it together for the closer. This starts as a pretty piano ballad. As strings enter the arrangement is a little over the top, but it’s still a strong piece. There is a cool little full classical treatment as a reprise at the end. 
Bonus tracks
After about 20 seconds of silence we get this. It’s a rough demo with voice cracking and a stripped down arrangement. Basically it’s one of a series of little blooper takes. Personally I think you really should leave this kind of stuff off. It leads people to question your talent. This is just weird and someone should have had the sense to say, “dude, what are you doing? Leave that stuff in the garbage can.”
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