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Non-Prog CD Reviews

Stephen Jacques

Charmed to Death

Review by Gary Hill

This is a good album, but there are some songs that definitely miss the mark for me. The music is largely in the singer-songwriter vein, but lean toward classic rock and country a lot of times. The main issue I have is with the vocals. They have a raw, DIY approach that sometimes works alright, but other times really drags the song down. Still, this is reasonably strong from a punky kind of grunge perspective, and some songs really rise up toward greatness.

This review is available in book (paperback and hardcover) form in Music Street Journal: 2021  Volume 1. More information and purchase links can be found at: garyhillauthor.com/Music-Street-Journal-2021.

Track by Track Review
When I Fell in Love with You

As this comes in there is a real Beatles-like vibe to it. When the vocals join, they bring a definite DIY punk edge to the proceedings. There are some country elements in some of the layers of sound that come over the top at times.

One Day You’ll Discover
The vocals have a definite punk sneer to them. The cut feels a bit more like a country rocker with a punk alternative rock angle. This is catchy and fun, and tastefully rough around the edges.
Caroline (MLK Tribute)
The country meets punk concept is on display here, too. This is a slower, balladic tune. It doesn't work as well as the two openers did. The low register vocal performance just seems almost like it's intentionally over the top, lending a disingenuous air to it.
Simple Life Man
A higher energy, bouncy cut, this has more of a pop rock element at play. The whole thing just works better. This tune is a lot of fun. It's one of the strongest things here.
Turquoise Waters
I love the hard rocking musical arrangement here. The vocals spoil the tune for me a bit, though. The instrumental portions are dramatic and strong enough with their almost psychedelic rock edge turned punky to make up for it, though.
Love For a Moment
A balladic cut, DIY and punk angles are brought in by the vocals. I dig the guitar soloing that takes the track out quite a bit.
Charmed to Death
Folk rock, punk and even metal seem to merge on this tune. It has a real grunge goes punk vibe to it. This works really well, perhaps because of the rough edges, rather than despite them. I love the crunch on this.
Sweetness
A slower, mellower tune, this has some hints of old-school rock and roll. The vocals on this one seem over the top, too, cheapening the piece a little for me. It's a shame because this has a great musical arrangement and provides some real variety.
Voyage to Your Heart
DIY balladic folk rock is the concept here. This brings some variety and is a pretty interesting tune. It's one of the strongest pieces here. The keyboards are a nice touch and almost bring some hints of prog. The number gets into some Beatles-like zones in the closing movement.
Morning Surfers
Another that's along the mellower end of the spectrum, the vocals on this are more like the ones on "Caroline" and "Sweetness," but they work better here. This is still very much rough around the edges, but it is fairly effective. Again, keyboards bring some magic.
Jamaican Breeze
The music on this is dramatic, but the vocals really mar it for me. There is a DIY singer-songwriter vibe to the cut. This is a tune I'd love to hear with different vocals because the song itself is particularly cool.
 
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