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Non-Prog CD Reviews

Fred Argir

Despair & Ecstasy

Review by Gary Hill

This is the third album from Fred Argir that I've reviewed. Like the others it is a good, but not great release. It suffers from a "too much music without enough variety" problem that was present on the other two. In a lot of ways, the comparisons end there.

Those other albums were more mainstream singer-songwriter rock releases. This lands more into 80s zones and is more electronic and techno based. It also has a tendency to feel unfinished. It seems like a lot of these songs are more like demos that could be turned into something great, but instead were just abandoned as "good enough" and never really developed.

There are exceptions, but that really seems to be the case on much of this set. And, when I say the songs are "good enough," they are literally there - not bad, but not great. The music also has a tendency to get into some long, often aimless jams at the end that could be cut. Still, as I said everything here works reasonably well. This would have just been a much stronger release with more effort put into really getting these songs feeling more "finished" and perhaps dropping three or four from the album. Of the three sets from Argir that I've heard, this is the most inventive, but also the weakest of the bunch. 

This review is available in book (paperback and hardcover) form in Music Street Journal: 2022  Volume 6. More information and purchase links can be found at: garyhillauthor.com/Music-Street-Journal-2022.

Track by Track Review
Jumper

Percussive vibes that seem to be electronic start the song. Eventually a more complete arrangement rises upward from there and some crunchy guitar is heard amidst driving electronic concepts. It drops to moody 80s styled sounds for the entrance of the vocals. It does get more rocking as it builds later, but that moody vibe remains.

Lay Me Down
More rocking, this still has some 80s vibes, but is a little less moody and more techno. It also feels more modern. It's another classy cut.
Float Away
There are some female vocals in the mix here. The cut features some electronics that feel like tuned percussion, but there is also driving guitar. This is one that has a good balance between mellower and more rocking sections.
Dear You
More driving rock sounds are on the menu here. The guitar gets a bit crazed at times. This song doesn't feel as cohesive as some of the rest, feeling somewhat noodly at times. While I wouldn't say that this is bad, it is definitely not as good as the previous pieces. It feels like it could have used a bit more work to create something stronger.
The Misunderstood
Another with female vocals added to it, I really dig some of the guitar riffing and sound on this. The tune is somewhat driving. This also feels a bit more developed than some of the rest, although some of the guitar parts feel to lack substance or direction to a degree.
Strangers
Coming in mellow, this works out from there to something with a lot of 80s vibes to it. In fact, some of the keyboard sounds make me think of the Eurhythmics. The guitar brings it into more driving rock zones, though.
With No Name
Another rocker, this isn't a big change, but it does have a solid groove to it.
Bloodlines
On the one hand, there are no paradigm shifts here. That said, this song feels more finished than some of the others do. It's one of the standouts here. It has some intriguing rhythmic layers. The guitar seems more focused. The arrangement feels better thought out. The whole song is an example of what the rest of the album could have been with more work and time put into it.
Gold from Light
There is a soulful groove to the opening keyboards and female vocals movement on this number. The cut works out to more of an 80s-inspired sound from there. This is another that feels more complete. It's also another standout here.
Babes
While this number doesn't feel as complete as the last couple did, the guitar soloing on the closing instrumental section is among the most effective here.
Leave a Trace
I dig the guitar heavy arrangement on this quite a bit. This is one of the more effective pieces here. It's also another feels more thought out and complete.
Triage
Percussive elements bring this track in, and the guitar solos over the top. This is another song that feels like a demo or first draft piece. It does coalesce a bit at times, though. Still, I think "Leave a Trace" would have been a much stronger closer. A jam later that includes bits of spoken vocals seems much more coherent, and works pretty well, although it does go on a little too long. And, as it continues it loses some of that charm and effectiveness.
 
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