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Non-Prog CD Reviews

Everlast

Love, War And the Ghost of Whitey Ford

Review by Gary Hill

I’ve always appreciated Everlast’s music, although this is the first full album of his I’ve owned. I have to say after listening to this one, I’ll be catching up with this back catalog. I know many people consider Everlast to be a rapper, and yes, he is that. The thing is, he’s a whole lot more and this CD shows just how diverse the man’s music really is. There are very few songs on this album that wouldn’t qualify as the standout cut on a good deal of albums coming out these days – that shows just how strong this release is. I wouldn’t consider it completely flawless, but it’s darn close. It’s without question going to be near the top of many “Best of 2008” lists – I’m sure it will be in mine.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2008  Volume 4 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Kill The Emperor
The intro to this can probably best be described as a R & B take on regal processional music. After this plays through it drops to a raw and gritty chorus with a percussion based background. This gives way to the rap. This cut is full of social commentary about the state of America and the world – and it isn’t pretty.

Folsom Prison Blues
Old school hip hop fans will certainly recognize the loop that shows up throughout this piece. Here we get a hip hop cover of the Johnny Cash song. I like it a lot. It’s an intriguing updating. A cool retro keyboard section later starts as honky tonk but turns to a Bob Dylan classic (think about stones and you’ll get the hint).
Stone In My Hand
Some hippie, sitar like sounds lead this off. As this launches out into the hard rock jam it’s just plain killer. It drops way down for the rap.
Anyone
This is a slow one. As the lyrics start with “I got my pick up truck / And I got my gun,” we get a good idea of the people Everlast is talking about here.
Die In Yer’ Arms
Here we get a bouncing techno sound that might make you think you’ve just picked up a new Nine Inch Nails disc. When Everlast comes in it becomes obvious that the truth is it’s a cool song from him. This is an interesting piece and one of my favorite cuts on show here. This rocks out quite well.
Friend
In a definite change of pace, Everlast shows that there is more to him than just a rapper. This is an acoustic guitar based rock ballad with no rap to be found on the number. Often times these types of songs can seem contrived and a bit too “fluffy,” but this one, even though it does get some lush overlayers later, maintains its credibility throughout. It’s a highlight of the CD and a great tune.
Everyone
This is another rocking tune that feels a bit like Tom Waits or Dr. John at times. It’s got a funky, bluesy sort of texture and it’s another high point of the CD. The atmosphere and sound here is quite retro, but also very tasty. It’s another that doesn’t have any typical “rap” in the mix.  They turn in a rather Dixieland-like journey in the midst of this.
Naked
The motif that starts this off is dramatic and powerful with a nearly prog rock feel to it. The track is stripped down for the vocal segment and it’s classic Everlast. This is another powerhouse.
Stay
A moody balladic piece, this is extremely emotional. It’s another highlight of the disc, but this CD has so many of them that it’s hard to pick the biggest winners on show here.
Letters Home From The Garden Of Stone
A short intro section with a verse gives way to a rise of sound effects. Then it pounds in with a killer funky texture. This one really rocks out quite well.
Tuesday Mornin’
The tone and tempo is brought way down here. This is a slow, almost tentative, ballad – at least at first. As the backing vocals enter and this gets a bit more “oomph” it reminds me a bit of Bob Dylan’s version “Knocking on Heaven’s Door” for some reason.  It alternates between the more stripped down approach and this fuller arrangement as it is carried forward. A choir-like element ends this.
Throw A Stone
Neo-classical meets techno is the motif here – with a bit of a marching band element. This is a short instrumental interlude.
Weakness
This is sort of a cross between a balladic number and a fully arranged powerful version of the same type of sound. This is a socially conscious and beautiful piece of music. It seems almost redundant to say that this is another highlight of the disc, but truly it is. That’s just how strong this CD is. There is a false ending and then the track is brought back in instrumental format – to me feeling a bit like some of the more fully arranged Suzanne Vega.
Dirty
This one might be the weak point of the disc. It’s not that it’s bad, but it just doesn’t rise up to the level of some of the other music. It feels a bit pedestrian in terms of lyrical motif and the arrangement isn’t especially powerful. That said, there is a killer instrumental segment here that pulls it above the level of mediocrity.

The Ocean
The stripped down arrangement on this is perhaps more of a typical hip hop style. It’s a cool track, but probably not one of the highlights – at least in the beginning. Still, it does has a cool texture and mood to it and it gets more powerful as the arrangement fills out. Everlast’s vocals are the key factor to this piece, though – and they are potent and poignant. The cool groove with female vocals later is also a nice touch.

Let It Go
To me this track feels like Everlast meets Lenny Kravitz. It’s a cool tune with a definite retro rock and roll texture. It’s not one of the standouts, though and perhaps not the best choice to close the disc.
 
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