Friday, September 8, 2023

Steve McAllister: “I Hope You Are Okay.” (2023) CD Review

Steve McAllister is a musician and composer who works in a wide range of areas, including film scores and commercials. His new album, I Hope You Are Okay., contains all original material. In addition to providing lead vocals, Steve McAllister plays guitar, bass and piano on these tracks. And he has some incredibly talented and accomplished folks joining him on this release, including Dave Gregory (from XTC) on guitar, slide guitar, organ, mellotron and strings; Rafael Bernardo Gayol (from Leonard Cohen’s touring band) on drums and backing vocals; and Mike Keneally (who toured with Frank Zappa) on guitar, piano, vibraphone and recorder. There are also special guests on certain tracks.

The album opens with “Because I Love You Too Much,” with Stewart Cochran joining him on organ, mellotron and synthesizer for this one. “I don’t know where to begin” is the line that begins this song, which makes me smile. I like how the instruments sort of pause for the song’s main line, “Because I love you, because I love you too much,” the first time he sings it, putting focus on it. And within that line there is a slight pause before he sings, “too much” (though of course we already know he’s heading in that direction because of the song’s title). This track features some good guitar work, particularly starting in that brief instrumental section halfway through. That’s followed by “Something In The Water,” which has more of a fun, playful vibe from its start, addressing superstitions, signs of bad luck, as he tells us things are getting better. These are the opening lines: “Got a black jack, and a black cat came through/On the thirteenth went beneath a ladder or two/Cross my fingers, it lingers, and a sure thing’s comin’ through.” Then in the second half he asks us, “What do you believe?” This is one of my personal favorite tracks.

In “Roll On,” we’re reminded how little control we have, and Steve McAllister does this in a playful way. Check out these lines: “And I told the sea to stop rising/Asked the clouds to lie down/Doesn’t matter what I do or say/It’s gonna roll on anyway.” It’s not just nature, but the people in our lives that are out of our control. If someone is going to leave, she’s going to leave. “I can’t tell you to stay/You’re gonna roll on, gonna roll on, you’re gonna roll on anyway.” But that pleasant groove tells us it’s all okay, so we should relax and enjoy what we can. This track also features some really nice work on guitar. Then in “Get Yourself Together,” Steve McAllister sings, “Can I find all the splinters I have been/Put them back in place again/Get yourself together.” Here is speaking to himself. And who among us has not demanded the same of ourselves in recent times? “Get yourself together.” Dana Colley (from Morphine) joins the band on saxophone on this track, delivering some wonderful stuff.

“No” has a mellower, contemplative vibe as it starts, almost like a meditation during that first stanza: “No sun, no moon/No night, no noon.” But it if were some sort of meditation, then perhaps the next lines might come as a surprise: “And everything I ask/The answer comes back no.” And if you can relate, you kind of need to laugh at those lines, laugh when you recognize the truth they speak. At least, that was my response. I really got into the mood of this song. And I love its final lines: “No support or institution/No places good friends go/My contribution/Is more like an undertow/The solution is no.” The instrumental section at the end is rather pretty, and I particularly like the drum work. Rafael Bernardo Gayol then begins “The 3rd Side Of An Egg” on drums, delivering more cool work. And Jon Bookout joins the group on guitar and backing vocals for this one. This song has an interesting atmosphere. “Let go/Everything you know/Drifts like a leaf and away.” This is another of the disc’s highlights. It’s one you just have to let take you where it will. You can drift like that leaf on the strange breeze of this song.

Steve McAllister turns more playful again with “On It Like A Narcotic.” This song has a strong groove, with a bit of a punk edge. The tone changes when he sings the line, “I’m gonna fly,” as if he right then is attempting to lift from the ground, to leave behind everything else. This is a song that I enjoy more each time I listen to it. “And now I know how an explosion feels.” That’s followed by “Sunshine Ladies,” which has perhaps the album’s best vocal performance. There is such a good feel about this song, and it’s another of my personal favorites. “Is there something I should learn or know/I keep dreaming I will wake up/Lying in your glow.” And I really like that guitar work. “A Letter To My Son” feels like an honest and straightforward assessment of the world. As Leonard Cohen sings in “Night Comes On,” “I'd like to pretend that my father was wrong/But you don't want to lie, not to the young.” Here Steve McAllister sings, “My son, my son/It’s a cold, cold world/If you’re lucky you’ll find/Some lovin’ arms from time to time/You need it and it feels so good.” It comes down to love. Doesn’t it always? Dony Wynn plays drums on this track. Steve McCallister wraps up the album with “Sailors Waltz,” a sweet and pretty nighttime waltz featuring more good vocal work and some nice work on keys. “Fill me with your sea/If we ever drift apart/Please come back to me.”

CD Track List

  1. Because I Love You Too Much
  2. Something In The Water
  3. Roll On
  4. Get Yourself Together
  5. No
  6. The 3rd Side Of An Egg
  7. On It Like A Narcotic
  8. Sunshine Ladies
  9. A Letter To My Son
  10. Sailors Waltz

I Hope You Are Okay. was released on July 1, 2023.

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