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Non-Prog CD Reviews

Eric Westphal

Alice Street Sessions

Review by Gary Hill

This is an entertaining album. The easiest description would "pop music." There is quite a range of sound within. It's all very much middle-of-the-road, though. I know people use that term as an insult, but honestly, in a lot of ways it isn't. I mean, what's wrong with music that's catchy and pop oriented. There are some tunes that really shine brightly here, and nothing falls flat. Don't expect to be wowed with originality or genre-shattering sounds. Do expect to be entertained with professional performances. Isn't that one of the goals of music, really?

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Track by Track Review
Coming in mellow and gradually rising up, this is very pretty and dramatic stuff. While the first couple minutes are based in this decidedly mellow mode, the cut powers out there to more rocking stuff beyond that. It keeps working its way forward in style. This evocative, lush and so cool.
Hold Me
This powers in faster paced and jazz driven. The horns really add a lot to that concept. There is a bluesy sort of vibe here, making me think of something like Robert Cray to a large degree. This is energized and quite classy. Both the saxophone and guitar solos elevate this even further. The female backing vocals do that, as well.
Another Time Another Place
Driving acoustic guitar brings this into being. It drops a bit for the entrance of the vocals. A mellow rocker, this doesn't get other instrumentation added to it. It's one that would fit on a metal album as the "acoustic song," but would also fit on a progressive rock set. The vocals really make this work. I could see this being called a power ballad. It definitely has that kind of vibe, and it rocks out, but purely on acoustic guitar.
Second Time Around
Sort of a merging of mainstream rock with adult contemporary sounds, this is accessible. It's also potent. It's not particularly unique, but it is just a strong piece of music.
Follow My Heart
An energetic and catchy tune, this is another that's effective, but nothing Earth-shattering. It is, however, entertaining.
Wake Up To Love
A mellower piece, this has more meat in the mix. It's emotional and rather deep. The arrangement is well-developed and somewhat lush. This is balladic, but it's also intense.
Stop and Smell the Roses
A killer horn arrangement brings this jazzy, soulful tune into being. It drops to a mellower, more stripped back sound for the verses, but rises upward for the choruses. The feels like something that you might have heard on R&B stations in the 1970s. It's tastefully retro-styled.
An 80s styled pop rock tune, this is catchy. It's also well done. I dig some of the guitar changes on the tune, but the vocals are really the main driving factor here.
So You're in Love
I love the cool guitar soloing on this number. It's a bluesy rocker that is quite effective. The horns add something to it, too. The vocal hooks and performance are among the best here, though, really stealing the show. I'd consider this to be the highlight of the disc, really.
Night Light
This has some jazz and old school crooner type sound in the mix. This makes me think of both Neil Diamond and Barry Manilow in a lot of ways.
Here we get a cool rocking groove that works quite well. I like this better than a lot of the stuff here because it's more my kind of thing. I really dig some of the guitar work on this quite a bit.
Parked in the Dappled Shade
A rather bluesy piano brings this into being. While there are other instruments, and backing vocals, in the mix, overall this is more of a piano and voice ballad. It's packed full of emotion and is quite classy. I do enjoy some of the layers of sound that serve up the icing to this cake, but the main elements are the real substance here.
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