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Non-Prog CD Reviews

Joshua Worden

Always This

Review by Gary Hill

Blame it on the whole “download one song you like” movement. Blame it on the lack of a lot of real professional producers. Wherever one places the blame, though, album construction seems to be a dying art. This set really suffers from that problem. I mean, there’s not a weak song here. One would expect that this would be a great album. Unfortunately, it’s a collection of very good songs that plays as a moderately successful album. That’s because there isn’t a lot of variety. Everything is in a similar tempo and a moody, understated delivery. That makes it really hard for songs (even though they are great) to stand apart from the sea of similar music. In many cases here that’s a shame because there are some great tunes, if you take them by themselves. As an album, though, this is rather boring. It often feels like one long song. That makes this overall a good album, but far from great.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2013  Volume 4 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Marrow

As this tune starts, one might think it’s going to be something rather like Pink Floyd. Then, as it gets into the meat of the song, it gets to something more soulful. It’s got a real alternative pop vibe to it. There is a definite modern, almost electronic texture here, but a real classic musical song structure. This is a slow moving, and rather bluesy number. It has some great keyboard sounds and is quite cool.

The Road

This cut is a bit faster paced than the previous one. It’s got a rather minimalist arrangement. There are definitely bits of progressive rock in the mix here. The vocals at times make me think of Sting, but that’s only in certain places.

Midnight

While overall this doesn’t seem that different from the other tunes, somehow this calls to mind Steely Dan just a bit. It definitely does a great job of combining the vaguely minimalist electronic element with a classic rock vibe. There are some rather lush moments on this number.

The Hunter

Taken by itself this is another good song. The trouble is, by this point the mood and the pacing of the disc is essentially unchanged from song to song. Everything just sort of blends together. Still, there are some good moments here. In particular, some of the keyboard elements seem to stand out a bit.

The Skies Glowed

The first part of this tune seems cut from the same cloth as everything else thus far. Then there is a faster paced jam that’s got a lot more energy. That goes a long way towards regaining the momentum. There are some cool keyboard elements over the top and that movement is almost progressive rock in nature.

Embers

And now, we’re back to that same basic tempo and understated mood. It’s a shame because this is really a great song, taken by itself. Unfortunately, as it tracks as part of this set, it really fails to shine. It’s just too much like everything else here. There is a bit of jazzy guitar in the mix later that sets it a bit beyond some of the other music.

Like a Rose

Starting much too similar to the other stuff here, there are some nice bits of melody in the early movements. A more energized break later adds some much needed variety, but it isn’t enough, nor does it stay around long enough. Again, this is a good song by itself. It just suffers from the monolithic nature of this album. It’s another that makes me think of Steely Dan just a bit.

The Turning Quiet

The vocals on this might be a bit above and beyond a lot of the rest of the songs here. The problem is, the formula is wearing so thin by this point that it just doesn’t get to shine like it should. This is OK, but it just doesn’t stand out amidst all this slow moving moody tapestry that seems to blend together. There is some tasty guitar work here, too. It’s just a too late and not enough.

To Dust

As this opens, it’s obvious that this tune is cut from almost exactly the same cloth as everything else here. It’s got some of the best vocal hooks on show, but the similarities from song to song are getting so thick that it just gets me wanting to hit “skip.” It’s a shame because this song deserves a much better treatment. There are some soulful elements here that, were the mind not turned to mush by the monolithic texture, would really make this one stand out as a great piece of music.

The Line

This has a little more energy than some of the other music. Those Steely Dan references return, too. Beyond that the cut is just kind of jazzy and classy. It’s actually one of the real highlights. Additionally, it’s one of the most “different” pieces. Unfortunately, there’s so little difference from song to song here that, while this is sort of incrementally different enough to stand apart, it’s still too similar. It just manages to shine from that bit of difference.

 
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