Sunday, January 22, 2017

Big Shoals: “Hard Lessons” (2016) CD Review

Big Shoals are a band from Gainesville, Florida. Last summer they released their second album, Hard Lessons, the follow-up to their 2014 debut, Still Go On. Hard Lessons features an excellent group of songs, all within the country and folk realm. The band delivers intimate, soul-baring moments, as well as energetic country rock songs. This disc boasts some seriously good lyrics, such as these lines from “The Fall”: “It took losing you/To see what I put you through/It took falling apart/To fix a broken heart.” All the songs were written by singer and guitarist Lance Howell.

They open the album with “Only Queen,” which starts with a sweet, comforting folk vibe, which I appreciate. Ease us in with a touching moment of beauty. “Been holding onto my youth/Like it’s my last piece of gold/Been hiding from the truth/I’m just scared of letting go.” Then when it kicks in, the song takes on a stronger, brighter country feel. “Baby, when I make it back through town/I might give a second thought about settling down/You’d be the only queen to wear my crown.” That sounds so appealing to me right now. This is one of the disc’s many highlights. They follow it with “You Ain’t Nothing Like The Girls Back Home,” which has more of a pop flavor added to the country rock, but is also a love song. “I want to be the one who’s crazy/I want to cross the line/I want to be the one you think of/When trouble’s on your mind.” And after the lines “I want to lose control/I want to sell my soul to you,” singer Lance Howell delivers a good lead part on harmonica. Chad Voight plays drums and percussion on this track.

“Union Son” is a song of a family divided during the Civil War. There is a kind of quiet power to this track. Check out these lines: “But I watched my daddy grow/To a cold and bitter soul/What once he did for country became fun/And every day I fought the fear/That the smoke would one day clear/And I’d have to face my father’s union son.” That’s followed by a more rockin’ number, “Only God Knows.” The line from this song that stood out for me the first time I listened to this disc is: “I’ll never be a better man than who I was when I was with you.” This is a man who sings that he’s left his past behind him and is curious about what an uncertain tomorrow will bring. Usually, a line about leaving a past behind has a positive, optimistic ring to it. But in this case, it’s a mixed bag, since he sings that he was at his best in the past, which makes for a more interesting character and song.

In “Happy For A While,” Lance Howell sings, “I just want to be happy for a while.” It doesn’t seem like too much to ask for, right? I can’t help but agree with him when he sings, “It seems like the world’s gone to hell.” Things are twisted and grim out there, and though the protests and marches yesterday raised my spirits, it doesn’t seem like the state of the nation is going to change soon enough. I’ve been turning to music and alcohol, lots of both. It’s sort of a selfish move, I admit, but “I just want to be happy for a while.” The band then returns to a friendly folk feel with “Love, Fortune Or Fame,” which features more nice work on harmonica. I also really like that catchy bass line. “Did you pray for the sun, and get pissed on by the rain?” Yup.

Another of this album’s highlights is “Losing Hand,” a sad and moving song, with lines like “Dreams are just dreams/I gave this my whole life/Got no kids, got no wife/Just a lost trail of old hearts/And torn at the seams.” There’s also a hard-hitting instrumental section that is really effective. Fans of bands like Wilco should appreciate this. “Losing Hands” is followed by another of my favorites, “Amelia,” which begins with some wonderful work on acoustic guitar before the vocals come in. This song features possibly the most passionate vocal performance of the album. “You took my heart/And left behind/A broken man/A darkened light.” I love this song. The CD then concludes with “The Way It Goes,” which tells the tale of a friendship. “I know time will change you/Hell, it’s changing me too/Back then it used to move so slow/I see our glory days fading out of view/I guess that’s the way it goes.”  

CD Track List
  1. Only Queen
  2. You Ain’t Nothing Like The Girls Back Home
  3. The Fall
  4. Union Son
  5. Only God Knows
  6. Happy For A While
  7. Love, Fortune Or Fame
  8. Losing Hand
  9. Amelia
  10. The Way It Goes

The musicians on this album are Lance Howell on vocals, guitar and harmonica; Jacob Riley on bass; Ryan Williams on drums and percussion; Todd Beene on pedal steel guitar; Ryan Baker on piano and organ; and Chad Voight on drums.

Hard Lessons was released on July 15, 2016.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Vivian Cook: “The Long Shot” (2015/2017) CD Review

Today, in celebration of the passionate Women’s Marches all over the country, I’ve been listening to some cool female recording artists, such as Vivian Cook. Vivian Cook’s debut release, The Long Shot, features original material, mainly in the pop realm, but with folk elements, and also with a sense of humor. Vivian Cook has a distinct voice, and plenty to say. She grew up in the San Francisco Bay area, and recorded this album in Los Angeles. It was produced by R. Walt Vincent, who has worked with Pete Yorn, Liz Phair and Tommy Keene. R. Walt Vincent also performs on the album, playing acoustic guitar, electric guitar, bass, piano, organ and percussion. Also joining Vivian Cook on this release are Malcolm Cross on drums and Zak Ambrose on acoustic guitar and slide guitar.

She kicks off the CD with “Know-It-All,” the opening verse of which really caught me by surprise the first time I listened to it, and made me pay closer attention: “Turns out a second-hand account of watching your mother die is still/Two hands too close for I cried on the kitchen floor listening to ‘No One Is Alone’”/Boo, Sondheim, you whore/Nobody likes a know-it-all.” I love how emotionally you’re prepared for one direction, but then she switches gears with the line, “Boo, Sondheim, you whore,” a change that had me laughing aloud. By the way, “No One Is Alone” is a song from Into The Woods, a musical that I suffered through once and hope to never encounter again. The song then kicks in after those lines. And check out these lines: “And the only promise I ever made/Was to do anything I could so/Sorry I’m shit at the hospital bit/But if you’re looking to forget I’m the good/Witch of distraction, absinthe ready for action.”

That’s followed by “Whatever,” a cool and surprising pop song, a strange combination of cute and gritty. Like the first song, the vocal line features some unusual and interesting phrasing. Here is a taste of the lyrics: “So let’s do whatever we want/I’m pretty sure it’s legal long as we don’t get caught/Yeah, we can do whatever you please/Long as it ends with you on your knees.” Then “Hazy” is a fun song that begins as sort of a folk tune, but with a catchy chorus you can dance to. But the lines that always stand out for me are these: “Just because I couldn’t come/Doesn’t mean we didn’t have any fun.”  And in “Just Kids,” Vivian sings, “So let’s move somewhere cheap/And just read for like a year/I’ll bring the weed, you bring the beer.” Amen. I’ve had desires like that often throughout my life, and now more than ever it is appealing. Just move away and immerse ourselves in literature and mild drugs.

“Truth” is an oddly beautiful and humorous folk song, which I totally love. This is another that made me laugh out loud, and yet is also a quite moving song, something of a feat, really. The first lines of the song are also the first that made me laugh: “I got lost the other day/So I tried to find my way by the North Star/But no one ever/Really taught me how to do that.” And I love these lines: “You can’t have everything/And nothing at the same time.” This is one of my favorites.

Another favorite is “Nights End.” It has a catchy groove, bordering on reggae. And check out these lines: “Yeah, I was once in love, now I don’t know/What it would take to open up that door/That’s been locked for so long, what do you think?/Just one more song?/If that bitch plays something beautiful/I’ll make him a part of my whole.” Again, there is some interesting phrasing here. Like the line “Yeah, I was once in love, now I don’t know.” Taken by itself, there is something sad and funny about it, like she doesn’t know if she’s still in love. But then the line continues into the next line, so she’s also saying she doesn’t know what it would take to be in love again. Vivian Cook does that quite a lot on this album, running lines together to allow for different and surprising meanings. She concludes the album with “Farewell L.A.,” which opens with these lines: “Seems like everybody’s somebody in L.A./What would you pay for it to rain?” Yesterday, I would have paid somebody to make it stop raining. But that’s a rarity. This is a really strong song, and makes me excited to hear more from this unusual artist.

CD Track List
  1. Know-It-All
  2. Whatever
  3. Hazy
  4. Take Me To The Water
  5. Just Kids
  6. Train Conversations
  7. Truth
  8. Down To Frat
  9. More
  10. Nights End
  11. Farewell L.A. 
The Long Shot is scheduled to be released on January 27, 2017 through Omnivore Recordings. However, it seems that it was released with a different album cover in September of 2015.

Sex Stains: “Sex Stains” (2016) CD Review

As our nation descends into what promises to be a dark and horrible time, many of our citizens have taken to the streets today to combat the rising tide of terror, and to show a brighter, most positive face to our country. It’s wonderful to see that many, many more people turned out for the women’s marches than did for the inauguration of that narcissistic, racist, misogynist monster. It gives us hope, and we could all use a bit of that right about now, eh? But I’m still furious, and it’s difficult to let go of that anger. So the music for today had to be loud, kind of angry, but with a sense of play (because, hell, I don’t want to descend into my own darkest places). And also, in solidarity with the days’ events, it had to be by women (or at least with female lead vocals). So I’ve been listening to the Sex Stains.

Yes, I know, I know. But don’t let the band’s name scare you away.  Sex Stains are actually a really good band, fronted by Bratmobile’s Allison Wolfe. I saw them in concert in September, on the same bill as The Mekons, and they were a lot of fun, with a great energy (though it was difficult to make out the lyrics). Their self-titled debut CD was released that month, but for some reason I never got around to reviewing it until now. Today seems like the perfect time for the Sex Stains, for their energy.

The CD opens with “Countdown To…,” a not-quite-nostalgic look at a childhood of poverty. Here is a taste of the lyrics: “I don’t remember anything/But Dad kept a loaded gun in the bedside table/When my sister and I were five, Mom came into the bedroom/To find us pointing the gun at each other/Give Mommy the gun.” But the line from this song that always stands out for me is “Music saved me.” I expect it to do the same for all of us. By the way, the sort of spoken-word style of the verses reminds me a bit of some of the work of the Dead Milkmen and King Missile. That’s followed by “Land Of La LA,” one of my favorites, and not just because I live in Los Angeles. This is a seriously fun and catchy tune, with a great groove, but not with innocent or meaningless lyrics. “Welcome here to the land of la la/Happy to serve, don’t quite your day job/Can’t get ahead or off the streets/So who do you know and who do you meet?

“Period. Period.” is a strange one, mainly because of the way most of the lyrics are delivered. But I totally dig it. It reminds me a bit of The Waitresses. “Could you please leave me alone now?/I didn’t sign up for this shit, wow/You’re not invited tonight – ouch/And oh no, you want to cramp my style/Well, your need for male attention sucks/And no one here really gives a fuck/So why must I spell it out for you?” This is one of the disc’s highlights.

“Oh No (Say What?)” has some lyrics that seem just exactly right for today (not that the song is about Donald Trump): “Hateful. You ain’t grateful/We put your heart to the test/Let’s rearrange that fucking mess/You’re hateful. You ain’t grateful.” “Who Song Love Song” is ridiculously fun. But yes, I admit I am guilty of that sort of thing from time to time. “Oh no! Did you just tell me that’s a Who song?/‘Can’t Explain’ when I was singing you a love song/Why do boys always gotta tell us what is/What I want is you to listen up and shut it/Up to you. It’s what you want and when you want it.”  

“Cutie Pie” has something of a reggae vibe, and is another that is making me feel better about the world. “I like you, it’s like a tantrum/But now I don’t like you/Feel free to split like a phantom.” Before the line “Here’s a correspondence,” there is a sound like a chime on the computer that a new message has arrived. The CD then concludes with “Crumbs,” a heavy and wild tune. “I’ll take your crumbs, I’ll beg for your scraps/Tell me when you want me – I’ll take that/Talk like a baby, but it ain’t real/And all of your money, can’t buy you to feel/None of your fame will clear your name.

CD Track List
  1. Countdown To…
  2. Land Of La LA
  3. Period. Period.
  4. Don’t Hate Me Cuz I’m Beautiful
  5. Oh No (Say What?)
  6. Done Popped
  7. Confrontational
  8. Who Song Love Song
  9. Spidersss
  10. Sex In The Subway
  11. Cutie Pie
  12. Crumbs
Sex Stains was released on September 2, 2016 on Don Giovanni Records.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

David Wise: “Till They Lay Me Down” (2017) CD Review

David Wise is a saxophonist from Richmond, Virginia who is now based in Los Angeles. Though he has appeared on recordings since 2007, Till They Lay Me Down is his first solo album. It features mostly original compositions, written or co-written by Wise, with just a couple of covers. Joining him on this release are Bruce Forman on guitar, Alex Frank on bass and Jake Reed on drums, along with a few guest musicians on certain tracks. There are also vocals on a couple of tracks.

The CD opens with one of the vocal tracks, “What More Could One Man Want?” This was written by David Wise, though it has a wonderfully familiar vibe and sound, and I’m surprised I hadn’t heard it before. It just has that feel of being a song that’s already made a home for itself in my life. You know? Jason Joseph provides the lead vocals on this track, with Laura Mace backing him. Here is a taste of the lyrics: “If you’re by my side/Then even that would be much more than I deserved/What more could one man want?” Ah, I’m happy to say I know just how he feels. This song also features some nice work on keys by Amy K. Bormet. Josh Smith joins the group on guitar, playing that great solo partway through, and this track also features Mitchell Cooper on trumpet, Glenn Morrissette on alto sax and R.W. Enoch on tenor sax. I would not be surprised if this song became a standard in the years to come.

“Sylvia” then follows with some sweet, romantic tones on saxophone. This track also features Mikala Schmitz on cello, an instrument I’m always happy to hear. This is a beautiful piece, with something of a 1940s feel, and I really like the percussion. David Wise then plays one of the album’s covers, a rendition of “Here’s That Rainy Day,” written by Jimmy Van Heusen and Johnny Burke. It’s a song that’s been covered by a wide range of artists over the years, and here David Wise gives it his own personal spin. It has a kind of peppy romantic feel, and features a very cool bass line by Alex Frank (there is even a bass solo in the second half of the song), and some great work by Bruce Forman on guitar. And to top it off, there is a groovy drum solo by Jake Reed. This version should have you feeling good. The album’s other cover is “Kol Nidre,” a traditional piece for Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. It’s presented as a solo on saxophone.

“Till They Lay Me Down,” the album’s title track, is probably my favorite. This one makes me feel seriously damn good, even in the days before the inauguration of that horrid creature (I keep trying to put that out of my mind, but keep failing). There is even a cool bass solo. But it’s David Wise’s smooth, intimate, expressive and groovy sax that is at the heart of this piece and makes it something special. Somehow this tune is giving me hope (though perhaps this bottle of Italian wine is also contributing to that feeling). That is followed by a track titled “Lullaby,” and it does feel like a gentle late-night piece, letting us know the world is okay, that it’s safe to go to sleep, that the world will still be here in the morning.

The CD then concludes with two tracks featuring vocals, “Life Is But A Song, Parts 1 & 2” and “Life Is But A Song, Part 3.” David Wise himself provides the vocals for these two tracks, though the lyrics for the first track were co-written by Amy K. Bormet. Mikala Schmitz joins the group on cello for that first one. The second track has a cheerful vibe, and features Mitchell Cooper on trumpet. “So happy I have you in my life/So thankful to have you in my heart.” Yes, it’s a happy, slightly cheesy song, but I’m in touch with this. And for all of us who have a special someone, it’s good to regularly remind him or her just how you feel. If you don’t feel like saying it, for whatever reason, then play your loved one this song.

CD Track List
  1. What More Could One Man Want?
  2. Sylvia
  3. Here’s That Rainy Day
  4. Home
  5. Kol Nidre
  6. Till They Lay Me Down
  7. Lullaby
  8. Life Is But A Song, Parts 1 & 2
  9. Life Is But A Song, Part 3
 Till They Lay Me Down was released on January 6, 2017.

Mason Summit: “Gunpowder Tracks” (2016) CD Review

I first listened to Mason Summit a couple of years ago when I got Loud Music & Soft Drinks, an album that caught my interest in part because of the musicians supporting him, including Carl Byron and John McDuffie, two people I always love hearing. They both also play on Mason Summit’s newest release, Gunpowder Tracks, which, like his previous release, features all original material written by Mason Summit. This guy is young, but there is nothing immature about his lyrics, even when singing from a youthful perspective as in “Splatterpaint.”

He opens the new album with “Cellophane Skin,” a tune with a pleasant, relaxed vibe and a good vocal performance by Mason. “He’ll tear right through her cellophane skin/And she’ll wait until he does it again.” Mason Summit also plays electric piano on this track. He follows that with a more energetic number, “Splatterpaint,” in which he confesses “What I’m trying to say/Is that I don’t know what to say.” Both tracks are really good, but the following song, “Detour,” is one of my favorites. It’s a catchy, kind of quirky and delightful tune that makes me smile every time I listen to it. Sure, part of it is the horn, and part of it is that great work on piano. But a good deal of it is the song’s lyrics, which have an inventive playfulness. Check out the opening lines, for example: “I took a circuitous route/A lengthy commute/Around your backstory/Avoiding traffic and geographic memories/Your inventory of unseen footage/Because it’s better if I don’t know/It’s better that I go/Through the detour.” In a time of fear and misery and hatred, this song makes me truly happy. What more could I ask for?

Of course, then it’s followed by a song that begins with the line “Tonight she called and said that we were through.” “When Time Was Mine To Spend” is a song about wishing to be able to return to childhood before troubles and concerns took over our lives. I understand this idea, of course. But then again, I’m reminded that Mason Summit is only nineteen or twenty years old (depending on whether you’re looking at his Facebook page or official website), and the second line of this song is “Tomorrow the big paper is due.” Come on! You’re making me feel old. There are those among us who could write a similar song about wishing to return to one’s college days. But anyway, it’s a good song. “It seems the list of troubles never ends/I wish I was a little kid again.”

And speaking of being a child again, in “Hitting All The Reds,” Mason Summit mentions butterscotch Life Savers. I haven’t had butterscotch Life Savers in years, but those were always my favorite when I was growing up. Anyway, this song is another with lyrics that I just love, with lines like “And it seems like there’s a dead end/Behind every bend” and “We both look newer than we are” and “And I’m trying to get ahead/But I’m hitting all the reds/So I put my dreams to bed.” We’ve all had days like this, eh? Especially lately. This is one of the disc’s highlights.

That one is followed by another favorite, “Gunpowder Tracks,” the CD’s title track. It opens in a kind of folk vein, and halfway through becomes another strangely joyful tune. Yes, again, it’s in part because of the excellent horns, and because of that delightful piano part, both giving it something of a New Orleans vibe, which is always appreciated. This might be a good time to mention the musicians who play on this album. Mason Summit is on vocals, acoustic guitar, electric guitar, electric sitar, Mellotron, synthesizer, electric piano and rainstick. Joining him are Shawn Nourse on drums and percussion; Jeff Turmes on bass and clarinet; Carl Byron on piano, electric piano, organ, harmonium and accordion; John McDuffie on pedal steel, lap steel, electric guitar, and slide guitar; Lynn Coulter on congas and tambourine; Chad Watson on trombone; and Neil Rosengarden on trumpet. “How could I have fucked up when I didn’t even try?/The sparks are my calling card, the ashes my goodbye.”

The CD concludes with “Last Time,” which has something of smooth jazz vibe. “There’s a last time for every first/And the last time will be the worst.”

CD Track List
  1. Cellophane Skin
  2. Splatterpaint
  3. Detour
  4. When Time Was Mine To Spend
  5. Suede Pockets
  6. Hitting All The Reds
  7. Gunpowder Tracks
  8. Snakeskin Shoes Crocodile Tears
  9. Sidestreet
  10. Good Thing Going
  11. Particles
  12. Last Time
Gunpowder Tracks was released on September 16, 2016.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Greg Diamond: “Avenida Graham” (2016) CD Review

These are rough times, no doubt about it. And as we get closer and closer to the day the monster assumes office (he’s even provided a countdown to disaster on his Facebook page), I’m finding it more and more difficult to find solace, even within myself. Even retreating into music is becoming difficult, though I keep trying. Today I’ve been enjoying Avenida Graham, the latest release from jazz guitarist Greg Diamond. Greg Diamond is based in New York, and lived for a decade near the corner of Graham Ave. and Broadway, the spot depicted on the CD’s cover. His music is influenced by the different cultures and peoples of that city, often with a strong Latin feel (which you might have guessed by some of the track titles). Joining him on this disc are Stacy Dillard on saxophone, Seamus Blake on saxophone, Mike Eckroth on piano, Peter Slavov on bass, Henry Cole on drums, and Mauricio Herrera on percussion. These tracks were recorded in New York in May of 2015.

“Synesthesia,” the opening track, has a great groove, and some excellent work on guitar. But what really makes me love this track is that saxophone, sometimes sounding like something coming in from a distant, foreign land, entering from above, from below, from all sides, commenting on the action and then quickly becoming a part of it. That’s Stacy Dillard on saxophone. I also love the percussion, which dominates the track at the end, taking it in a different direction. Actually, the first time I played this CD, I thought that ending was actually the beginning of the second track. Henry Cole does some great work on drums here.

Then things get mellower with “Rastros,” which has a quiet, gentle feel to start. Then the tune begins rising above that initial feel, like finding strength in crying out loud to the night, and this time it is Seamus Blake who provides that voice on saxophone. I just want to ride the waves of that sax, right on through the darkest of days. Greg Diamond’s lead part on guitar toward the end is wonderful, and I particularly like the way it rises over that great percussion and piano. And then the sax joins its voice to that of the guitar, like everything coming together in a beautiful and lasting way. “Hint Of Jasmin” also begins in a mellow way, with some really nice solo work on guitar. This compassionate piece draws me in, feeling like a caress within a cold city.

“Laia” begins with a cool bass solo, and goes in some interesting directions. I love that gentle saxophone over the guitar and percussion early on, like a breeze washing over my face and rustling the leaves of the nearby trees, while I keep my eyes closed. Things then take a turn when the piano takes on a steady groove, and soon the track gets a bit wild, the saxophone rising in energy and freedom of expression. And check out the way the guitar and percussion interact toward the end. Wonderful stuff. That’s followed by a moving and beautiful piece titled “Ultima Palabra,” featuring Mike Eckroth on piano at the beginning and then again in a lead section halfway through that is excellent. Peter Slavov turns in a wonderful lead on bass in the second half of the song. But Greg Diamond’s work on guitar here is the heart of the piece, and is what makes this track one of my favorites.

Greg Diamond concludes the CD with “Motion Suite,” which at times is a more joyful piece, with the vibe of a busy optimism. I love that piano. Ah, maybe we just need to keep moving. Don’t provide an easy target, right? And don’t let despair overtake you on January 20th.

CD Track List
  1. Synesthesia
  2. Rastros
  3. El Coronel
  4. Hint Of Jasmin
  5. Gentrix
  6. Laia
  7. Ultima Palabra
  8. Cascade
  9. Motion Suite 
Avenida Graham was released on November 4, 2016 through Zoho Music.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Stephen Bishop: “Blueprint” (2016) CD Review

Stephen Bishop is known for mellow hits like “On And On” “Save It For A Rainy Day” and “It Might Be You.” He also did that ridiculously fun and catchy theme to Animal House, a movie that he also appeared in (though it’s a funny moment, I always hate to see a guitar smashed like that). He did “Dream Girl” from that same film, as well as the theme from the 1984 remake of Unfaithfully Yours (a movie I love particularly because Nastassja Kinski is insanely gorgeous in it). Most of these are songs that he wrote, and many artists (including David Crosby and Art Garfunkel) have covered his material over the years. He’s co-written songs with Kenny Loggins and Eric Clapton, and on his newest release, Blueprint, he delivers his version of “Holy Mother,” the song he wrote with Clapton and which is on Clapton’s August album. Blueprint contains some romantic, unabashed love songs like “Someone Like You,” and also features some striking lyrics.

Though this disc contains mostly original material, Stephen Bishop opens it with a cover of “Everyone’s Gone To The Moon,” which was written by Kenneth King (also known as Jonathan King). This version has an odd beginning, with the song gently emerging from a dark cloud. “Eyes full of sorrow, never wet/Hands full of money, all in debt/Sun coming out in the middle of June/Everyone’s gone to the moon.” Ah, I know the feeling, especially these days. And in the coming four years, the moon might be the safest and sanest place to be. I really like this rendition. It’s kind of quiet and pretty, and it sneaks up on you.

He follows that with an original song titled, “Little Bird,” written with Dominique Star. This is one of my favorites, in part because of lines like “The signs were there all along/But it takes all the strength I have just to be yours/I never made you happy, did I?” And there is something pleasant about its groove, about its vibe. “Ultralove” he wrote with Jeff Jones. And yes, as you might guess from its title, it’s kind of cheesy, and definitely has a strong 1970s vibe. But that’s not necessarily a negative thing. “Time goes by so slowly when you’re gone/So I tell my heart that soon you’ll be here in my arms.”

“And I Love You” is sweet and simple, delivering a beautiful late-night promise that you just know he’ll keep, because this night will go on and on, without need of a dawn. “And I will follow you anywhere.”  Then “I’ll Sleep On The Plane” has a very different vibe, with a kind of jazzy sensibility and a sense of humor, making it one of the album’s most interesting songs. Plus, it tells a good story, and features some lines that stood out for me, like “Posing for Playboy as she reads Voltaire” and “It’s gonna be a brand new life for us, my love/You’ll wear your white fake fur in the Vatican hall.” And I love the backing vocals.

The lines from “Before Nightfall” that stand out for me are “When you’re tearing yourself apart/When you’ve broken your own heart/I’ll help you mend it.” Every time I listen to this disc, those lines grab me. This one too has a sweet vibe. “Holy Mother” is a song that Stephen Bishop co-wrote with Eric Clapton. Clapton included it on his 1986 album August, and now we get Bishop’s rendition. It’s beautiful and moving. “Oh, I need your help this time/To get me get through this lonely night/Tell me please which way to turn/To find myself again.”

“Slippin’ Into Love” comes as a surprise, for suddenly we have a pronounced beat and a more electronic 1980s pop feel. It’s kind of a dance song, but a somewhat mellow one. This CD concludes with a new rendition of “It Might Be You” (which is listed as a bonus track). This song was a hit for Stephen Bishop in the 1980s, when it was featured in the movie Tootsie. Hearing it now really brings me back to my childhood. It certainly got a lot of airplay in 1983, and it holds up remarkably well. A nice way to end the album.

CD Track List
  1. Everyone’s Gone To The Moon
  2. Little Bird
  3. Ultralove
  4. And I Love You
  5. I’ll Sleep On The Plane
  6. She’s Not Mine
  7. Before Nightfall
  8. Love At Stake
  9. Holy Mother
  10. Someone Like You
  11. Slippin’ Into Love
  12. Blue Window
  13. It Might Be You
 Blueprint was released on July 29, 2016.