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Non-Prog CD Reviews

Eamonn McCrystal

When in Nashville

Review by Gary Hill

The type of music presented on this album fits under the heading of “adult contemporary music.” That said, in the 1970s this would have probably been called “pop rock.” It’s not that different from a lot of the music Elton John did. That’s not saying McCrystal’s vocals or arrangements are like Elton John’s. It’s just that the two occupy similar musical territory a lot of the time. However it’s sliced, though, this is a great disc that’s likely to be a regular guest in many CD players.

One complaint that could be made about the disc is that there are no original compositions. The thing is, McCrystal and the musicians make all the tracks into something very different from their original recordings. In fact, it’s likely that most won’t even be recognized except by the most hardcore fans. Really, if an artist is going to do covers, they should be remade in a new style. Also, it should be noted that some of the tracks might have been written specifically for this disc, but McCrystal isn’t credited as writing them.

Eamonn McCrystal has a strong voice and the music presented here is just about top-notch. Some might consider it too mellow, but it is a very effective set. It’s a real tribute to all the musicians and the producers, along with McCrystal. This disc never seems to lag or falter or feel repetitive. It could be said that it lingers a bit too much on the sad end of the emotional spectrum, but it’s not entirely one sided.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2011  Volume 5 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Baby Can I Hold You

“Baby Can I Hold You” opens this. It’s a cover of a Tracy Chapman song. The vocal delivery here seems more expressive than the type of performance associated with Chapman. It’s a strong piece of music that has a lot of that Chapman folk sort of sound, but mixed with other elements. It seems to rock out a bit more than Chapman generally does. There are some nice bits of country guitar laced into the arrangement, too.

No Vacancy

This is an even more evocative piece, but it has a lot of energy. It’s a tasty piece that works very well. It’s arguably one of the highlights of the set.

Holding up the World

This combines pop rock with classic rock sounds in a mix that’s quite effective. There is some tasty retro keyboard work included mid-track.

Where Does the Time Go?

 While much of the disc features guitar heavy arrangements, “Where Does the Time Go?has a lot of piano at the center of its musical puzzle. It’s pretty and bittersweet. It’s also powerful and beautiful.

If the Lights Go Out

This provides a rocking alternative to the extremely mellow sounds presented on “Where Does the Time Go?” It’s one of the most rock oriented pieces on the CD.

Songbird

“Songbird” is a cover of a Christine McVie penned Fleetwood Mac tune. Whereas the original was based on a piano arrangement, the rendition here is more of a country ballad, guitar based tune. Honestly, this version might surpass the Fleetwood Mac rendition. It’s quite effective.

Sun Went Out Today

“Sun Went Out Today” features a soft rock motif. It’s catchy and potent. The arrangement has some intriguing overlayers and the cut is amongst the most effective of the set.

Closest Thing to Crazy

This is a piano based tune that feels a bit like some of the more balladic of Queen’s sounds. Elton John is surely a reference on the piece, too. The string arrangement on the cut threatens to wander to “over the top” territory, but never really does.

If It’s Gonna Rain

“If It’s Gonna Rain” opens with strings and seems like it might be an over-the-top, emotionally manipulative piece. That said, once it drops back to just piano and vocals for the verse, all worries of that kind of sound are gone. It’s another effective ballad. It’s pretty and poignant and works quite well. It gets some rockier treatments as it continues.

Things We Said Today

A cover of The Beatles’ “Things We Said Today” really doesn’t feel like The Beatles at all. It’s a rather modern treatment with some hints of retro rock like The Beatles and even Chris Isaak. It’s one of the highlights of the set.

To Make Me Feel My Love

From The Beatles, McCrystal turns to Bob Dylan with “To Make Me Feel My Love.” It’s a mellower arrangement that serves as nice counterbalance to the previous piece. It’s quite pretty and sedate.

You Raise Me Up

This starts with piano and the vocals come in with only that accompaniment. It calls to mind Simon and Garfunkel somehow. This is the one number produced in Los Angeles by a different producer. It really doesn’t feel out of place here, though. It’s another potent cut that’s quite evocative. It serves as a great closer to a strong set. The arrangement gets quite powerful and involved as it continues.

 
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