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Non-Prog CD Reviews

Idiot Grins

State of Health

Review by Gary Hill

This act really has a classic sound. Well, it might be more appropriate to say that they have "classic sounds." There is a lot of old school soul music in the mix. That's not the only piece of the puzzle, though. They work through things as diverse as old-time rock and roll and country music on the set, too. I think that if I had a complaint it would be that the first half seems very closely related while the second half shows more variety. Perhaps if some of the later songs were sprinkled amidst the first half, the disc would feel more even. As it is, it almost seems like two different discs.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2018  Volume 2 at

Track by Track Review
Get Busy Dying
This is a mid-tempo number, but it's packed with energy and power. It's a killer groove that just works so well. This has such a classic soulful sound. Yet, it's also modern in a lot of ways. I really dig this cut. I think it's such a great choice to lead off the set.
There is a lot of funk built into this one. It's more purely old-school in sound. There is nothing wrong with that, though. This is classic in sound and really works so well. It definitely has a bit of a James Brown thing to it in some ways.
Philly Belly Cheesy
This retro sounding ballad is interesting. It's less soulful than some of the rest here. It does feel like it could have come from an album from the early 1970s. The horns are classic, and the backing vocals add a lot. The lead vocal performance is really packed with emotion, though. That's the real key here.
Build It
Imagine combining Blood Sweat and Tears with old school Chicago and some Earth Wind and Fire. You'll be in the right territory for this killer song. It's very much a retro sounding number that works really well.
Another that lands nearer to the balladic end of the spectrum, this is very soulful. The horns add a lot to the arrangement. It's a cool groove.
That's Some Funky Business
While not a huge change from some of the rest, this has a great soul meets rock vibe. The spirit of James Brown is in the house again. The closing jam on this is so classy.
A bit "more of the same," this is perhaps a little more of a rock song. It's mid-tempo and interesting, but not really a standout. That's more about the quality of the other music here than anything wrong with this one, though.
Take it Back
This is a catchy and energized cut. I dig the organ and the backing vocals on this. It's a fun tune.
This cut is rather unexpected. The horns are still here, but overall it's devoid of the soul music that dominates so much of the set. Instead, this has a real 1970s rock sound. It makes me think of both David Bowie and Mott the Hoople quite a bit. This number really has a lot of charm. It's one of my favorites here, in part because of the variety it brings.
Mama's Tears
Another with a more rock based sound, this is a mellow piece. It has a real 1950s thing in the mix. There are even some hints of country music. It definitely brings some variety, but it's not really my style.
There is a lot more of that country thing here. This feels like some kind of country leaning soft rock from the 1970s. The arrangement gets a bit of a dream pop element later, though. Still, the overwhelming texture is in keeping with things like Poco. The pedal steel guitar adds something special to the mix here. This does get a parental advisory.
Big Starry Night
Energized and grooving, this has a lot of old school rock sound to it. There is some old time rock and roll along with 70s soft rock, country and more. This is a fun piece and a good closer.
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