Sunday, October 22, 2017

Adam Rich. Sunshine + Puppies.

Adam Rich.  Sunshine + Puppies.
Love Muffin Records, 2017.   Adam Rich:

Cleveland music scene veteran Adam Rich has assembled quite a crew of musicians for this latest release. I imagine that this is due to several factors. He knows lots of people and has been in a lot of bands. He’s an excellent musician and songwriter with good material for colleagues to work with. And he doesn’t sing, so he needs other folks to do that for him. Hence (I love that word), he has some 20 guests on the album, including old bandmates and other prominent musicians in Cleveland. The result is quite the strongest material that he’s ever done.

First, since the opening track is an instrumental (so are “HarrisJam” and “Super Shopper”), you’ll notice Rich’s very impressive guitar work. Runs influenced by Joe Satriani and Eric Johnson, there’s an 80s-90s vibe to the music, which is okay by me. He also surrounds himself with fine musicians, including drummer Kurt Bernardo. As for the guest singers, I find Madelyn Hayes’ R&B styling (“Wrong Side of Cool”), and Jerry Principe’s punkish voice (“Sunshine & Puppies”) are standouts.

Of course, the title of the album is ironic, as that hardly seems Rich’s outlook on life, although I think he wishes it was. Never let it be said that he writes generic songs. “I love you, baby,” “Don’t leave me,” and “I’m gonna party” are not part of his musical vocabulary. Not that he doesn’t address those themes in some fashion, but his songs are instead, intensely personal. The lyrics are about his actual life, real events, good or bad, normal or bizarre, with little left behind or hidden. I wish I had the guts to write like that. Sometimes the narratives are funny, as with “Too Many Tacos,” a song about a restaurant he frequented, or “Superfan,” about a girl who followed one of his bands. Other times they are very uncomfortable, as if one is peeking into his underwear drawer (“Wrong Side of Cool”), or in the case of “Mother’s Day,” visiting the graves of his parents, or talking about his deceased father’s chair (“One Black Chair”). Funny, sad, driving, sometimes all at once. Life on his sleeve and music as catharsis is what you get with Adam Rich.

I’ve listened to Sunshine & Puppies four times now, and it holds up. This is a fine album, and I recommend it as both a musical peak for Adam Rich, and a fine collection of rock music.

Personnel:  Adam Rich (guitar, bass, keys on “HarrisJam,” drums on “Bartender Girl”); Kurt Bernardo (drums on everything else); Stefan Johnson (guitar solo on “Today I Cried”); Rod Reisman (drums on “Move My Soul”); Chopper (first guitar solo on “Move My Soul”); Ed Marthey (keys on “Move My Soul”); Carlos Jones (additional percussion on “Move My Soul”); Dave Smeltz (guitar on “Move My Soul,” harmonica & alternate vocals on “One Black Chair”); Jennifer O’Neal (violin in “Mother’s Day”); Jeff Scott (bass on “HarrisJam”); Scott Rogers (guitar solo on “Superfan”); Jerry Principe, Debi Lewin, Oliver Buck, Open Range Torch Songs, Madelyn Hayes, James Daymond Carter, Curtis Bradley, Butchie B; Michael McFarland (all vocalists on various tracks).

Tracks:  Fistula ; Wrong Side of Cool; Move My Soul; Bartender Girl; Superfan; Mother’s Day; Sunshine & Puppies; Nothing Left to Say; HarrisJam; Too Many Tacos (Ode to Mi Pueblo); One Black Chair; Today I Cried; Super Shopper; One Black Chair (Papa Dave version).

Jeff Wanser

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Angie Haze Project. Catching Bees with Honey.

Angie Haze Project.  Catching Bees with Honey.
Self-produced, 2017.  Angie Haze:

Angie Haze has been doing a lot of things lately, and gaining acclaim for the effort. A finalist in last year’s International Songwriting Competition for “Wave Goodbye,” which appeared on the 2014 Addiction EP, the song has remastered and put on this release. The shortest song on the album, to me it is the most powerful, displaying the singer’s voice at its rawest, but also most delicate. With only Haze and guitarist Spencer Martin, it should sound sparse, but overdubbing with multiple instruments and voices makes it a rich experience. I especially like the piano break.

Three other songs populate the EP. “Blood on the Mountain” is the result of the documentary of the same name, for which producer Mari-Lynn Evans invited Haze to perform on the screening tour of the film, including the premier at the Akron Civic Theatre in May. Powerful and heartfelt, it relates the story of a coal miner in West Virginia. Simpler in instrumentation with vocals, banjo, and percussion, it gives us another glimpse into Haze’s musical vision. “All that Breathes” begins as an a capella song, but moves into a more complex arrangement, with background vocals and a variety of instrumentation, including bagpipes. Uplifting in spirit, it shows Haze at her most optimistic. Finally, “Bad Habits” is a Jonah Koslen song, which she first performed at Koslen’s Stage Pass Now show. The theme is drug addiction, but Haze manages to put a hopeful spin in her voice and make it her own. By the way, Koslen liked it a lot.

Four songs, four different impressions of Angie Haze, all of which are fascinating and beautiful. Haze’s voice captivates, and takes the listener wherever she is going. My only complaints about the EP are that there are only four songs instead of a dozen, and that it is only available (currently) as a download. I’m old-fashioned, and still like CDs. Nevertheless, highly worth your time.

Personnel:  Angie Haze (lead and background vocals, guitar, mandolin, banjo, piano, bass synth, drum, percussion; whistle, chains, mining sounds); Ruth Chapman (bagpipes on “All that Breathes”); Chris Dudley (background vocals on “All that Breathes”); Spencer Martin (bass guitar, electric guitar, vocals, on “Wave Goodbye”);

Tracks:  All that Breathes; Bad Habits; Blood on the Mountain; Wave Goodbye (from The Addiction EP, 2014).

Jeff Wanser

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

A Midnight Syndicate Review (or Revue)

Midnight Syndicate. Monsters of Legend ; and Axe Giant: The Legend of Paul Bunyan.
Linfaldia Records, 2013.
Midnight Syndicate:  

The life of a ghoul is gloomy. You slink about performing your master's bidding, usually in the chasm of night, shambling forth to complete your labors with the closest thing to an undead smile upon your face. Tonight again I must complete by means of stealth and cunning more tasks to acquire the necessary materials for my wicked master's collection.

Such a sordid pleasure that a relative did send in parcel to me a gift of music complete with the portable means through which I could listen to it in full. In my unforgivingly drab existence I was morosely grateful with the pleasures of Midnight Syndicate's Monsters of Legend and its seduction of my long-shattered senses. When song can snatch even the ear of the rotting damned then something particularly mordant is at work, a thing possible from those wielding the might of the muse.

I rise.

Snatched from slumber in the root cellar beneath the ruined dormitory shed I step into the night air, driven by an urgency threatening consequences lest i fail in my deeds. Had my olfaction not expired long ago I might almost savor a sweetness in the zephyrs, wafting appetizers to proceed the inevitable pitfalls ahead.

In the muck I trek through the filth upon the 700 roadway, an eerie clock tower in the distance tolling mournfully as the eleventh hour passes. The genesis track in my ears is diminutive and purposed, high piano keys like a finger run along the spine with low strings plucking away, the chill of a stalker concealed in a cornfield, perfidious promise of what is to follow. My return to work and "Return to Arcacia" serve well together, the melodic choir kicking in to secure the otherworldly milieu, the sheer dread of human voice at its paradoxically reverent, sacrilegious duty.

Now then do drums beat and the spirit of adventure rise "Into the Valley of Shadows," the tempo increasing for a thrill one appreciates when moving uphill, texture in the work that nicely contrasts the gloomy feeling of what else often transpires in the flow of album. Fait accompli though it might be to keep up with the passing traffic in their horseless carriages I dart forward, carried by the music and its rousing percussion, tickled perhaps even by the daunting measure of its pace. Woe that I promptly then am struck by an actual horse-driven buggy piloted by a bearded man with family in tow. They briefly stop before uttering some words in archaic German, only speaking in the local tongue to mumble something at me about  "the infernal English" before driving off.  Undead and undaunted I can only sigh, victim of yet another collision in these wilds.

The evening continues and "A Watchful Gathering" awaits me as I approach the intersection for roadways 700 and 46, the denizens of Troy even at this late hour milling about in overalls and beehive hairdos conversing about the merits of their town and its dirty supply of grubs, weevils, and rhubarb. I feel as though I would be at home among them, but the clanging foley effects on this brief tune bring to mind the fate that will await me lest I dawdle too much in the company of these persons.  

Harpsichord and organ merge for supper at an abandoned curio shop known to those in the know as the "Inn of Weeping Sparrows," again joined by choral incantations, pocked notes of violins adding a pelt of elegance to what is a place I might have once stayed at when among the living. After not long I spy in the corner a fattened opossum carcass, appearing to be recently dead after some gorging on a foodstuff bearing the label "Sodexho."  Were I to go by the countenance on its deceased face it may well have tasted horror itself before it perished, as though the creature realized it had been consuming something composed of the same pulpy mass as itself.

There on the horizon the moon sat in the sky, indifferent yet majestic when "Unwanted Visitor" begins, a somewhat perplexing bit of music due to its cloying lines of dialogue that, while not entirely unmerited, seem a bit intrusive to instrumentals that might have very well served on their own. Lounging at the counter I plot my next route and dive through the picture window of the establishment to set forth on the road again in search of the remaining items. The edifice collapses behind me as I pass a lonely fuel kiosk, stall within collecting dust and only the "Closed" sign appearing to be new.

My slog down the stretch of road resumes, now the music beginning to bear something of a rather jello-like semblance to itself from one piece to the next. The individual works are not, in a word, undesirable, yet their similarities are gelled together so much that it almost feels as though one long piece of music itself is playing. Such befits the decisions of those not desiring otherwise but the continuity wears heavy after some time, with a reliable pattern of violin, solemn choir volleys, organ, and background percussion repeating themselves. Had I encountered mere monotony?

Frustrated with my pace and the ho-hum music I defy protocol and approach a parked vessel in-between the roadways, occupant within sitting at the wheel eating something, its greasy face illuminated by faint light. The individual startles when I knock at the glass, spilling its meal upon its lap and bellowing in agony. It is obvious I have disrupted its favorite activity. The thing exits the vehicle, decries me as a "hippy" perhaps due to my appearance, trips over itself, and binds me with metal wrist stocks before shoving me into the back of its vehicle. At least now I have a means of transportation, I reflect, though I am carried in the wrong direction that I desired to travel.

Fortune smiles upon even the worthless in times of despair, it seemed, as two fantastic songs ensued that assisted my droll ride back the point from whence I had started. "How to Build a Monster" and "A Terror Unleashed" break rank with the rest of the songs on the album, each powerful blends that satisfyingly, dramatically and very successfully summon a smooth blend of percussion and strings, nothing instrumentally unique but done with a gusto and tact that commands your attention. Your memory seeks the songs out over and over again even after their performances have ceased playing.   

The thing in front piloting the vehicle continues wordlessly, snorting and dining upon well-stuffed coffers of food, merely eying me at random times. Among the junk in the back where I sit is made up mostly of boxes labeled "VHS," one of which is marked "Dash Cam Derrieres," along with a book titled "How to Catch A Witchcrafter," and other such rubbish. I sit neither in despair nor hope, merely wondering if the end times will soon be upon us.

Sinister providence prevailed when the thing, attempting to further engorge itself by using both hands to shovel two slices of pastry into its mouth lost control of the vehicle and collided with a stone statue near a small chapel. Launched through a window from the impact I am catapulted into the body of the statue, stone arms holding me like an undead baby. Now realizing the loss of time and folly of my quest I implore whatever dark forces will listen to vault me from this wretched place and send me to my next desired end.

"With my arms of Greek and Latin so it is done."

The statue spoketh! Wondrous! And there then I was flung by the animated statue, launched into the air as a blast rang out and struck the statue's head from its body, an emaciated woman back on the ground staring at my skyward departure, croaking "Good golly, I guess we'll just blame this on the students. Not like it's the real Garfield the Cat, anyway!" Whatever that meant, I was gone.  

With nary but the final ingredient left I soar through the air for quite some time and land in a dumpster brimming with decaying dairy, a mass of fungus growing upon the grease-caked waste unit's inner walls. Brushing away rats and vermin I gather armfuls of the viscous material and stow it into my sack, now bulging and tellingly heavier. With exertion I shift the weight to my mortified back and prepare to depart on my return to the lair from whence I came. But then did sounds queer and ominous drift through the chill night air and into my rotting ear canals, tickling my curiosity in a way not felt for eons. I determined to scale the building and inspect the siren song closer, alighting upon the square chamber's roof.

Now the racket's volume increased and with every step I could feel beneath me booming vibrations, hums of something prickling the soles of my feet and pulsing the gravel below. Captivated I paced forward a tad more and proceeded to unwittingly trip upon the latch of a trap door, crashing to the ground and through a service panel whereupon I plummeted into the building's interior and smashed through a table, brights lights and sound at once rushing upon me.

With hazed vision and rotted brain my surroundings further befuddle me: clothed animals with instruments upon a stage dancing and singing, all manner of open-face cheese pies strewn about carelessly, and smiling faces full of joy and surprise gazing upon me as though I were, accurately and unerringly, undead.

They are stunned. Yet it was I that had plunged into madness.

"This is the best Chuck-E-Cheese ever!" a woman blared, marveling at my "fantastic costume." She helps me up and piles several slices of the bizarre food into my hands. It appears that I have been mistaken for some sort of performer, nonetheless welcomed into their ranks and given a seat amongst the other humans in attendance, their eyes all fixed upon a projection illuminated against a wall. It is some type of moving picture entertainment, proceeded by the words “Axe Giant: The Wrath of Paul Bunyan.” The show commences and for some time I am subjected to a story no doubt intended for lunatics that ends as satisfyingly as it began. Upon completing this feature the clothed animals upon the stage then commenced playing tunes and works of song quite like that heard in the moving pictures feature, the creatures neither harming nor helping the artistic merits of the music.

I flounce for the exit at the conclusion of this flimshaw escapade. Never more have I wanted egress. For it all I can judge not more than that I was glad to be rid of it, and the seduction that bade me to seek it out in the first place must have been in origins the spawn of something sordid from my mortal life.

Perchance that I might find a ride with strangers I threw myself at the feet of two men, both dressed in similar formal attire and with goblets in hand. "Eric, fetch the car," the one that must have been the alpha of the two said, "this fellow clearly desires a learning moment about the glories of our institution." "Of course, Tom, at once!" replied the other, moving only a few paces away to bring the vessel to our side. Once seated within our horseless carriage I am subjected to an hour's worth of lecture about an educational institution they desire me to enroll in, and when within walking distance of my destination I throw myself from the vehicle and roll into a ditch. "We'll send a fundraising newsletter to your address!" one of the men calls from a window, the soundtrack of Axe Giant fading into the distance with the travelers.

I stumble through thickets and darkness, groping about and finding the concealed entrance beneath a shrine on Pioneer Trail, site of past perversions and forgotten ills. Navigating the tunnel beneath I find my way to the main chamber, emerging to find the Master sitting upon his throne unattended, a mirror in his right hand.

I approach him with modest satisfaction, his commandments for this night's questing fulfilled. He eyes me with disdain, another mere subject encroaching upon his time, merely suffered to be in his presence. I bow, empty my satchel, and utter my words meekly. "Dear Master, I have fulfilled my chores for this evening. Grant me even the simplest praise and I shall consider my rancid life yet full of one fleeting pleasure: thine approval." Such groveling should suffice. The Master pauses while examining me carefully, as though I were a large insect saturated in liquified offal. What were once my lungs contract with timid apprehension, for it is not wise to displease the Master.

"You are late.... too late," my Master says." I quiver and bow lower, speed forever my absent attribute. "But I have performed my labors, my Lord...." It is the best defense I am able to muster.

"So you have. So long as my will is done such is acceptable." Such praise! My bed of mold and rat droppings shall be extra luxurious on this eve, with moth-eaten sheets no doubt to feel far more slimy as well. "But  there is far more desirable news to share with you, lowly minion." What's this? Mayhaps greater compensation ensue?

"My Lord, what manner of news could this-"

"Your festering impatience displeases me."

My cursed petulant tendencies only condemn me to worse straits. I grovel and kneel, the favored tactic to again curry my owner's favor. He smiles wanly and resumes.

"On this day I have, by slovenly means of mass reasoning and inaction, been elected President of the United States."

Truly? Could it be? For millennia none among the undead had ever managed to assume the ranks of higher office. The obstacles had been formidable. Money. Sunlight. Values. But no more would they suppress us! "My Master.... this is most joyous news! You deserve it all! Allow me to arrange for the transportation of your royal throne constructed of facsimile gold. An age of true darkness is now sure to follow." There then did follow a pause so marked, so sublime that I did chance to think I spied a raven in the sky, high above crossing the moon. I did begin to feel as though something wicked were about to descend upon me.

"Actually," the Master said, raising a plastic goblet filled with some type of pink beverage that he sipped generously. I craned my neck to the side and raised a crusty eyebrow, the stench of treachery beginning to mix with my own musk and the master's as well.

"Y-yes, my Lord?" I stammer.

Throwing his potable over the balcony behind him the Master directed a finger towards the largest pit of flames blazing in his Great Hall. His words echo as he delivers his verdict.

"You're fired."

Such was his decree. Eternal death in sight, at least I had suitable music in mind to play during my demise. The contents of the review upon this scroll of parchment shall direct your attention accordingly. Farewell!

Rotting Robert (Gojo)

Monsters of Legend:
Personnel: Edward Douglas (Composer, Instrumentals), Gavin Goszka (Instrumentals)
Tracks: Return to Arcacia, Into the Valley of Shadows, A Watchful Gathering, Inn of the Weeping Sparrow, Unwanted Visitor, Requiem, Witching Hour, Unexpected Cargo, Black Woods, Twilight, Carriage Ride, Stone Guardians, Ancient Portal, Dark Tower, Building the Monster, Lord of the Realm, Forgotten Alcoves, A Terror Unleashed, Cloistered Cemetery, It Lives!, Beyond the Veil of Time.
Axe Giant: The Wrath of Paul Bunyan:
Personnel:  Gavin Goszka (Instrumentals), Edward Douglas (Composer, Instrumentals)
Tracks: Axe Giant Main Title, Minnesota 1984, Babe's Grave, S.T.U.M.P. Medley, Bunyan at Babe's Grave, S.T.U.M.P.S Meets Bunyan, No Escape, The Legend of Paul Bunyan, Zach's Last Stand, Bunyan's Cave, Bunyan on the Move, Final Showdown, Legend's End, The Ballad of Paul Bunyan (Written and performed by Hickry Hawkins)

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Housecleaning, Reinvention, and Oh, Hell.

You may have noticed, or not, that there has been a scarcity of reviews coming through this blog for the past six months or so. It’s the result of a combination of factors, most my own fault. Overextension, classes, writer’s block, lack of writers recruited, procrastination, theft (yes, theft of CDs slated for review by certain unnamed individuals), illness, and bad luck have all contributed to the sluggishness of the blog. I am in the process of recruiting trustworthy writers, finding new music to review, and seeing what else I can do to make this site better. It deserves better.

To that end, I have cleaned out the list of CDs for possible review,
and removed everything from before 2016. After all, what’s the point? Unfortunately, that adds up to more than two thirds of the list. Nearly all of those CDs will end up in the collection of the Hiram College Library, so no need to worry about their future.

In the meantime, should you feel moved to write up a review or an article for Buzzard Tracks, please contact me and we can chat about what it is you’d like to write about. I’m open to all sorts of topics in any genre of Northeast Ohio music: reviews of online-only music, concerts, interviews with musicians, essays on a particular artist or genre, mad ravings over the state of music in the region. You don’t have to be a member of the Hiram College community to write for the blog, just sufficiently interested. There is no payment, only glory, and if you’re a student it’s a chance to pad your resume. gets you there.

Jeff Wanser

All CDs pictured here are now retired, as they came out in 2015 or before.