Sunday, May 25, 2014

Michael Stanley. The Ride.

Michael Stanley.  The Ride.
Line Level Music, 2013.  Michael Stanley:

Our esteemed editor (did I suck up enough?) asked me to do this review as sort of a followup to his review of Stanley’s latest album.  I was tempted to say, “thanks for the crumbs, man,” but this is a cool gig, so I figured, what the heck.  Turns out this is a really cool album, Heartland Rock-style, so I got a bonus.

Most of the songs were written by Stanley. The exception is “To Love Somebody,” which freaked me out because it’s an old Bee Gees tune, but I guess it was before they went all disco.  Stanley and the band do a really nice job with it, making it sound more like an old tune by Eric Burden & the Animals, kind of a bluesy ballad.  Some of the other songs are kind of funky rockers, and it sounds like the band is having a good time.  “Shiny Things” is a great opener.  The team-up of Stanley with Jennifer Lee on vocals gives it a soul push.  Makes my head bop, so it must be good.  I like the guitar solos too, but there are so many guitarists I don’t know who to give props to.  Everybody I guess.  “Take that Ride” sounds E-Street Band-ish, but I’m okay with that.  Good tune.  “A Fool in Love” does what “Shiny Things” does--makes me want to dance, and “Anything Goes” (not the ancient Cole Porter tune) is neat blues tune, with Stanley singing about being a bad boy.  I get the feeling he’s not, but he can play one on the album.  

Some of the other songs are more...what’s the word...simmering.  They rock, but they’re not really rave-ups either, just strong tunes, and the lyrics are worth listening to.  “Uptown” does that, and so does “Justine,” with its sweet organ work.  “Lucky Again” is a little faster, but it should because it’s going for optimism in the lyrics.  And again with the nice keyboards--I keep noticing them.  “Making Beds” is more menacing, with cool guitar solos.  “Shining Through” is one of those songs that will get the audience all up and yelling--anthemic I guess is what you’d call it--with a positive message.  “I Can’t Wait” is another mid-tempo tune, with pretty funny lyrics about getting the hell out of a bad situation.  Been there, man.

Finally we get a couple of ballads, good changeups from the other songs, but most of them have some grit (and some saxophone), so I liked them too.  “If Anybody Could” is one, and it sounds pretty soulful.  He finishes up the album with another, with Lee chiming in on vocals, an upbeat song with lots of good piano.

I thought I was getting leftovers from the Editor, but it turns out that The Ride is a full meal.  I listened to this a bunch of times, and it doesn’t get stale.  Plus, it all fits together. Who said albums were dead?  Great stuff from a Hiram alum and a dynamite band.

Personnel:  Michael Stanley (vocals, guitars, bass), Jennifer Lee (vocals), Danny Powers (guitars), Marc Lee Shannon (guitars), Bob Pelander (piano, organ), Tommy Dobeck (drums), Eroc Sosinski (bass), Rodney Psyka (percussion), Paul Chistensen (saxophone); with special guests: Don Dixon (vocals), Frankie Starr (guitar), Gary Jones (piano, organ), Michael Gismondi (bass), Colin Dussault (harp).
Tracks:  Shiny Things, All I Want, Take that Ride, To Love Somebody, Uptown, If Anybody Could, A Fool in Love, Justine, Lucky Again, Making Beds (in a Burning House), Shining Thru, Anything Goes, I Can’t Wait, When the Smoke It Finally Clears.

Ron Yoyek

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