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Non-Prog CD Reviews

Tim Russ

Tim Russ

Review by Gary Hill

This debut from Tim Russ (best known as Tuvok on Star Trek Voyager) came out on the Crescendo label. If you are familiar with that label, you'll know that a lot of the material they have released is Star Trek related - including various soundtracks and albums by cast members. As such, some of the releases are of questionable musical merit. Such is not the case with this one. While this disc definitely shows a performer who hasn't really completely honed his style yet, it also shows one who is talented and has a lot of potential. Frankly, first albums from many artists need a bit of polishing - and many need a lot more than this one. While this is definitely not a perfect album, it showed a lot of promise and was a very worthwhile contribution. Russ certainly had nothing to be ashamed of here. Truly, the majority of the problems on the disc are more in terms of over-production (especially in the way of backing vocals) than anything else. I'm guessing that this issue can be chalked up to outside interference, a bit of inexperience in the studio, or a combination of the two. The truth is, this one is a good, if not great album, and definitely showed that Russ had a lot of potential to put forth.

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
I Can't Imagine
A short progressive rock like dramatic progression (that later takes its place as a bridge) serves as an intro here. This gives way to a fairly straightforward rocking '70's style song that feels a bit like a more energized Cat Stevens. Eventually a Rabin era Yes styled drop down variant on the opening themes takes it into a reworking of the main cut. This song is a Russ composition that would be a bit mediocre but for these prog like sections.
Can't Do It Like That (Busted Rainbow)
Originally performed by Teddy Andreas, but I can't say that I've ever heard him or even of him, the overall song structure here isn't all that different from the style of the opening cut in the earlier modes. They do crank this one up at times to a fairly energized rocker. The vocal arrangements on the later segments here are quite cool. 
I Would Stop The World
A song that was originally performed by Charles and Eddie on, of all things, the Super Mario Brothers soundtrack, a piano based melodic arrangement makes up this take on the R & B number. This one isn't as strong as the first two, feeling a little too lounge lizard for my tastes. Still, it gives Russ a chance to put in a different type of vocal performance. The sax solo is nice, too and the jazzy, near prog jam / outro is another high point.
Crossroads
This comes in feeling like "Ballroom Blitz" on the percussion, but as the fast paced bluesy arrangement joins, it becomes obvious Russ is moving in a different direction here. This is a fast paced, bouncy take on a Robert Johnson classic. While not my favorite version of the song, this does rock out well, and is definitely a unique variation. 
Money Talks
Coming in with a pretty smoking mainstream rocking tone, this feels in some ways like Spinal Tap, but only in terms of the musical style, not the absurdity. I would have preferred a bit more gritty arrangement - and the female backing vocals could have been done away with, but Russ' strong vocal performance, a fast tempoed jam and some fiery guitar work save this from mediocrity. While this was written by Gorgio Moroder, it seems like Russ chose a good song to cover here, as this one is quite obscure.
Where Do The Children Play
Russ' voice many times calls to mind Cat Stevens, so it's pretty much a no-brainer for him to cover a Stevens' song. Playing this one quite faithfully, Russ puts in a great and very evocative take on the track. I like this a lot. In fact, it's one of my favorites on the disc.
Crazy
Another original, this one comes in with a funky guitar that feels like "Pick Up The Pieces." It turns to a cool fast paced, but rather unusual progression for the verse. The chorus resolves out as a more mainstream jam, but again I could have lived without those backing vocals. This is a very intriguing rocker that's quite catchy, but still has a lot of unusual things going on. The instrumental break is a killer and borders on progressive rock. The outro has a great funky '70's rock texture.
Louisiana
Jon Anderson once called Randy Newman his favorite songwriter. Russ pays his tribute to the man with this take on his cut. It's a great piano based ballad and Russ' vocal performance here is top notch and contributes to making this a very evocative and powerful number.
Strangers
Another Russ original, this one has a pretty straightforward pop rock verse, but the chorus takes on a quirky, part jazz, part prog approach with cool minor chords. This cut is another that benefits from a tasty sax solo. The whispered female vocal at the end here is a nice touch.
Great Divide
Here Russ turns his attention to the work of Bruce Hornsby with his take on this bouncy rocker. The female backing vocals work much better on this number, lending a cool gospel texture to the piece. This is another that shows off some prog tendencies at times and is a strong one.
Love the One You're With
This tune, written by Stephen stills and brought to life by CSN, feels here like what Cat Stevens might have sounded like doing the number. It is a very strong rocking rendition with a potent arrangement.
 
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