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Non-Prog CD Reviews

Tom Maxwell

Somebody

Review by Gary Hill

This is quite a strong release. In fact, it would be pretty difficult to find anything to fault here. The music is potent and all the performances are strong. The blend of musical styles presented is classic and yet fresh. It never seems redundant or slows down. This will likely find its way into some “best of 2012” lists.

Maxwell is a master at his craft and this album is surely proof of that fact. It has a great flow and serves up plenty of variety and contrast. Yet, nothing is weak by any means. In addition, this is the kind of music that should appeal to a wide range of listeners.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2012  Volume 6 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
I'm Ready Now

This starts things in sort of a folk rock motif. The vocals, though, have a real passion to them and a little bit of a country edge. Overall, though, it’s a strong singer songwriter tune with plenty of folk in the mix. Comparisons to John Mellencamp would be somewhat warranted, but comparisons to Elvis Costello wouldn’t be out of the question, either. A couple slide guitar solos add more of that country charm to the piece.

You Got Me Good
With the next tune, “You Got Me Good” it’s more of a soulful alterative rock sound that’s on display. Still, there is plenty of folk in the arrangement, too. While the vocals were strong on the opener, they are much more poignant on the follow-up. It includes some great use of backing vocals and has a catchy hook. At some points in this tune, the arrangement leans towards jazz.
Baby, I Will
While the first two songs were based on acoustic guitar motifs, “Baby, I Will” brings it into electrified territory. It’s got an old time rock and roll musical element, right down to the guitar soloing.
Just Gone
This overall is based in an acoustic guitar-driven, alternative pop rock meets folk and singer songwriter styles. Still, the slide guitar appearances bring more of that country element to the table. It’s another with a particularly noteworthy vocal arrangement.
Up in the Air
There’s more energy to this, but the arrangement is still dominated by acoustic guitar. There’s almost a Latin beat on the tune and the overall perception is something close to Elvis Costello. It’s another great change and while the overall musical concept fits with the rest of the set, it definitely brings some versatility to the set. It has another of those classic hooks and there are some jazzy changes. The electric guitar soloing on this is closer to jam bands like The Grateful Dead than any kind of country link. This is one of the highlights of the album.
Just Plain Bad

Based on the particular mix of sounds here, blues seemed a turn the set was likely to take. “Just Plain Bad” delivers on the concept. It’s a slow, balladic blues tune and the vocals really steal the show. There is some country in the mix, but really the two musical styles share a lot of territory.

Don’t You Know
With “Don't You Know” Maxwell revisits old time rock and roll and there’s some rockabilly in the mix. 
I Gotta Know
There is some seriously funky bass driving “I Gotta Know.” The tune combines a classic jazz sound with some modern alternative rock and pop sound. It’s another that has some great hooks. It’s also a tune that brings some further variety to the set. There is some blues in the mix here, but then again, you can have blues without jazz, but you can’t have jazz without blues. The electric guitar solo is one of the best on the album.
Three
Acoustic and stripped down, “Three” is every bit as much jazz as the previous tune. Still it provides yet more variety to the CD while still feeling that it belongs quite well. It’s also one of the tastiest pieces presented here.
Somebody
Folk music and alternative rock combine on the energetic, but acoustic based title track. It has one of the most effective vocal performances and (considering the rest of the stuff here) that says a lot. The instrumental section later (and also the recurring slide guitar) brings in some more of that country flavor.
I’ve Got Love
While alternative pop and folk rock dominate the disc’s closer, “I've Got Love,” guitar soloing showcases the country elements. The vocal performance is another that deserves particular notice and this is a great way to end the disc in style.
 
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