'On An Island' is a sweet reflection of a life spent in the beach towns of Southern California. Blending elements of pop, jazz, folk, rock and a host of other musical styles (a little bossa nova here, some ragtime there) Charlie Imes releases his first CD, and it’s as comfortable as your favorite T-shirt and shorts. Co-produced by Imes and Jeff Berkley, and mastered by multi-Grammy winner Gavin Lurssen, the warm feel of this album is perfect to conjure images of those long summer days at the beach… sort of like a cross between Jimmy Buffett and Jack Johnson, with jazz musicians… and much more.
From the upbeat pop rock of the title track, to the wistful sentimental beauty of 'The Test of Time' or the idyllic country porch feel of 'Waste of Time', this album covers a lot of stylistic territory while still keeping its toes in the sand.
With an impressive cast of supporting musicians, tasty performances and melodic soloing are generously spread throughout the album, in all the right places. Two-time Grammy winner Laurence Juber (formerly of Paul McCartney’s Wings), who has made a name for himself as one of the most notable fingerstyle guitarists in the world, stretches out on his electric guitar on a few cuts, including the beautiful instrumental 'Morning Birds', for which Juber and Imes share the writing credit. Studio ace Dennis Caplinger peppers his banjo, fiddle and mandolin playing throughout the album, but shines brightest on 'Waste of Time', where he takes all three out for a spin in the danceably sweet solo section. Jim Soldi (former guitarist for Johnny Cash and Ricky Skaggs, currently with Eve Selis) is a chameleon on the guitar, offering tasteful jazz ('My Next Song'), cool surf-guitar ('Oasis') and several island styles on the adventurous 'On Another Island', an instrumental daydream inspired by the album’s title track that takes the listener island hopping through the musical styles of 9 different islands. And it doesn’t stop there.
Among all of the other fine musicians on the CD, there are several nice surprises in cameo appearances by people like singer/songwriter and anti-folk heroine Cindy Lee Berryhill, noted jazz trumpeter Gilbert Castellanos and rising comic star James Adomian who adds some levity with his spot-on impression of President Bush on the catchy "Worst Presnadent Ever", a satirical look at the “achievements” and popularity of the current administration. With some nice harmonies and a strong hook, the song calls it like Charlie sees it without being too mean spirited. (Adomian does many impressions, but is best known for impersonating Bush as a regular on 'The Late, Late Show with Craig Ferguson' and in the movie 'Harold and Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay'.)
Charlie had set out to find the players to give him those strong performances, offering them room to breathe and stretch out a little. “I’m a big believer in the collaborative effort. My favorite albums have always been ones where every instrument played something interesting if you focused on it. If the bass player is just playing the root note of the guitar chord, I get bored. That’s what made the Steely Dan records so interesting to me, the great performances by the whole ensemble. By letting the musician have some room to really express him or herself within the context of the song, you add some beautiful nuances to the songs and the result is more enjoyable and exciting… I think.”
The production was another key for Imes. Jeff Berkley, a winner of multiple San Diego Music Awards and the Kerrville Folk Festival for his own music with Berkley Hart, has been making quite a name for himself producing, engineering and mixing albums for a growing roster of clients. Charlie credits Berkley with helping him to achieve the warm, full sounding album that he always heard in his head.
“I’ve always been especially drawn to records with that great warmth and clarity, ya know? The kind that you always used to test how clean and full a sound you got out of your new stereo and speakers. I’d crank up albums like the Eagles 'Hotel California', Steely Dan’s 'Aja' or Joni Mitchell’s 'Court and Spark'. They’d get that great sound and use musicians like Larry Carlton, Steve Gadd and Tom Scott. Maybe I’m missing something but it doesn’t seem like you hear a lot of albums like that anymore. That’s what I was aiming for, getting those types of musicians and taking them to my beach, metaphorically, and capturing that "warm breeze" feeling. That’s how I had always heard these songs in my head. Jeff was the first and only guy I thought of to help me produce this record and get the feel I was looking for.”
Thanks to being exposed to the record collections of his parents and older siblings, Charlie’s music shows his wide variety of influences – from the pop sensibilities of the Beatles to the smooth vocals of Nat King Cole; from the down-to-earth folk style of James Taylor to the progressive multi-layered arrangements of Jethro Tull; or from the soft, ambient jazz of Earl Klugh to the Caribbean soul of Jimmy Buffett. 'On An Island' has something for most anybody who likes to relax among the palms with a cool beverage on a warm day. It’s sunny weather for your ears, and who couldn’t use more of that? So get yourself a copy, load the cooler, invite over a few friends, fire up the barbeque and enjoy this lighthearted celebration of those carefree days of summer.
(Charlie was born in San Antonio, TX, grew up in the South Bay of Los Angeles, in Torrance and Redondo Beach, but has made his home in San Diego for over 20 years now.)