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Non-Prog CD Reviews

Tim Russ

Kushangaza

Review by Gary Hill

Kushangaza is Tim Russ' second album, and it definitely was a step up from the debut. Frankly, the majority of that was in the production department because his self-titled disc suffered more than anything from some over polishing and augmenting. The only real complaint on this disc is that it's just too short. Russ shows off a lot of skill in both reinventing songs by other artists and creating his own. There are really no bad cuts here, although "Soapbox Preacher" doesn't hold up as well as the rest. This one is a strong release, and along with the follow up, Brave New World, is a great introduction to the work of this musician/actor/all around cool guy. I'd say start exploring his music with this one or BNW, then get the other one - and go with the debut last. Everything here is likable, I just wish there were more of it.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2006 Volume 1 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Kushangaza
Starting with a world music type texture, waves of keys move this into pretty atmospheric territory. The lyrics and ever growing rhythmic structure are what really make the verses here. An expanded world music sound on the chorus is quite effective. The later parts take on a faster paced more energized tone, feeling a bit like something that might be heard on adult contemporary radio. Still a crunchy guitar brings in more oomph before it's over.
Soapbox Preacher
Russ covers this Robbie Robertson penned tune here in a nice rock ballad style. His vocal performance, along with a cool keyboard arrangement, lends a touch of style to this. It's a solid pop rock number, just not a standout.
The Door
This one was written by Keb Mo, and it's a smooth R & B, bluesy jam. Russ' vocals here are quite cool, and this is a nice groove. It turns more pure R & B on the chorus. The bridge on this feels just a bit like Rick Wakeman to me. A quick tasty honky tonk section ends it.
We...
Written by Russ and Bill Burchell, a distorted vocal segment gives way an awesome pounding techno type musical structure. This big brother like tale turned song has some great science fiction oriented sounds to it. It is my favorite track on the disc, even if it's too short - only 2 and a half minutes. I love how Russ' spoken "please hold for the next customer representative" gives way to a quick statement of muzak before moving back to the song proper.
Crossfire
This is certainly one that most people will recognize, having been one of Stevie Ray Vaughn's trademark pieces. Russ gives it a more jazzy arrangement and it serves the song well. While I still prefer this original, this one is very effective. Neil Norman puts in a strong showing on the lead guitar solos, but Vaughn's are exceptionally big shoes to fill in that department. Understandably he falls just a little short.
Hideaway
A John Fogerty penned cut, this is a beautiful and very evocative keyboard based ballad here. This one is so mellow, but so powerful. It is another favorite on the disc.
Holiday Inn
I have to admit to being a big Elton John fan, so covers of Reginald Dwight's work, when done well, always resonates well with me. Russ' rendition of this one is especially strong, and I'd have to say that I like it at least as much as the original. In many ways it has that EJ early '70's texture, but still is moved into unique territory. While not the strongest cut on the disc, it's close and makes for a great conclusion. I don't think any song here would have done better in that slot.
 
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