"Above The Blue" CD liner notes - by Mike Lidskin (Twirl Radio, Sacramento):
"This album that you're holding, Above The Blue, may simply be the finest collection of songs you'll hear this year. It's the sophomore effort from Vegas With Randolph and the songwriting team of Eric Kern and John Ratts. They take what worked best from their self-titled debut and build it into sheer powerpop perfection.
These songs are written by regular guys, but they're not regular songs. Incredibly articulate, poetic wordplay informs each line. Not one thought or sentiment is wasted. But these tunes weren't meant to be dissected in your college literature class. They were designed to blast out of rolled down car windows, as you cruise around your town. Play them on your boombox at the beach. Make sure they're the soundtrack to your backyard barbeque and swim party. Ladies and gentlemen, this is pure, fuel-injected American rock 'n roll, straight from our nation's capital. Muscular, but sensitive. The songs celebrate, but never swagger. It's thinking man's party music.
Above The Blue — both the title track and the album -- is undeniably optimistic. Life's rough, but VWR wants you to know that you're not tethered to the mundane—we can fly above this stuff.
The Better Part steadily climbs a sonic incline with its beautifully poetic verses—and just when you think you're at the peak—the first of two sets of double choruses soars even higher with some Raspberries-like harmonies and crunchy guitars. This is blissful pop songwriting at its finest, executed really, really well. I'm feeling chills up my spine—and this is only the first track.
A common theme is love. The fine line between love that is and love that never was, as in The Better Part versus A Lesser Fool. Love of family—Some Time To Live. Playful celebrity worship—Marisa (as in Tomei). Even love of single malt scotch—Lagavulin for Christmas.
To formally wrap up the album, the guys reprise their “album within an album” concept from the previous disc. This extended suite is called Double Play, and it summarizes the gamut of emotions and sounds on display throughout the rest of the album: love, loss, fear, and hope. This section rocks out of the gate with full-on guitar and horn assault, invokes some gorgeous melodies and thoughtful lyrics in the middle, and finishes on a high note with soaring harmonies, pulling out all the musical stops. If you want to have the full Vegas With Randolph experience, but only have 11 minutes of spare time, this represents it well.
Although this project starts with Eric and John's collaborative writing, the songs aren't Vegas With Randolph songs until Dan Aylestock, Dave Purol, and Brock Harris—the rest of the band—help craft these into finished classics. These guys are good—crunchy, dual guitar heroics, solid, spritely bass, and drums that crash and propel the music—the VWR sound is tight, yet exciting.
And like another songwriting team—they get a little help from their friends. Guest appearances by vocalist Maxi Dunn, guitarist Vinnie Zummo (Joe Jackson Band), and some orchestration by Wim Oudijk, as well as contributions by Fred Lieder, Pam Long, Mark Cornell, and Johnathan Beckett, stretch this band even farther than before—anything is possible with this stellar cast.
Above The Blue is a special album. Please take care of it and treasure each musical gem, and it will see you through good and bad times. It's not just a summer fling--it's an album you'll share your life with."
Twirl Radio, Sacramento, CA www.twirlradio.com
Recharged Radio, London, UK www.rechargedradio.com