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Deep in 70's classic rock territory is where Mr. Stranges hangs his musical hat—not a bad thing at all, IMHO, as oh-so very, very much great and influential music was put forth at that special time in our sonic pop-rock history. The richly creative tradition well deserves to continue inspiring all contemporary artists so inclined.
Masterfully accomplished rock/pop vocals are the focus here, set in and set off by a most solid rhythm section, replete with delightfully toned crunchy classic rock guitars. Beds and touches of organ, a sprinkling of bells, some lush orchestra, and other complementary additions are then placed in most all the appropriate places. Enviable engineering and insightful production skills are evident everywhere.
A guess will now be hazarded: Victor, do you sometimes tire of what I'm thinking is an all too frequent comparison to, yes... Elvis Costello? For, based on this record, this appears to be your inevitable destiny. As fantastic as much of your basic material, honed talent, and performance execution unarguably is, this single aspect might be considered the most unfortunate. Why? Because we already have Elvis Costello. We now want to musically know who YOU are. My recommendation is that you do everything in your power to not sound like the aforementioned, and strive to find your own unique expression, more unlike any other. Enough said on that, with all following making no further comment of the similarity.
Let's take a brief word ride through each track:
1. Songs with adventurous pop chord progressions like "Morning Star" always catch my ear. Gentle surprises and flowing key changes set in an easy bop-along soft rock beat propel us forward beautifully. When these elements are expertly combined with catchy melodies and instrumentation captured in well-executed production, you can't ask for much more. This song qualifies on all counts—well done!
2. As the title track, "Hello You To Me," is another winner. With less techno-synth focus, we groove along the lines of Gary Numan's "Cars." Stellar classic rock vocal harmonies soar up the chorus, providing the high resolve payoff with which most great songs reward listeners come chorus time. Again, it's a hit!
3. It would be nice to start our days in the happy feeling spirit evoked by "When the Morning Comes." The instrumental guitar hook/chorus simply shines with light-n-bouncy joy, dancing to greet the new day. After a bit of more questionable flit in a doubting darkness, positive lyrics of welcome encouragement and commitment flood in like the sun.
4. As befits the title, "Memories" harkens us back into a slow love song stylized upon the 50's torch songs. But in fine Stranges' style, a few choice subtle, quirky and creative twists are added at strategic spots to maintain interest.
5. Now the tempo slows down yet further. "Not That Bad at All" continues to demonstrate general songwriting savvy, lead vocal valor, and production prowess. While not a showcase standout, at 6+ minutes, its gentle empathy suits the record's midpoint.
6. "Restoration Blues" takes a helpful stroll down a little more odd of a road. Ripe with biblical references, if the playing and praying is speaking for the correct "One True God," the introspective wisdom is welcome, and reflects a near universal internal dialog found within each soul of humanity..
7. Continuing in overt religious vein, "Is There Someone to Thank for All of This?" makes direct reference to Luke 16:19-31, wherein a rich man's afterlife is suffering in hell, while Lazarus, who suffered on earth, now enjoys comfort. In answer to the song's question, the rich man need only thank himself. Interesting choice of a song theme. The fear-based warning of irredeemable judgment here is scary "as hell." Set in a lilty rhythmic pop frame, once again, the songwriting, performance and production make it work.
8. It is not the opening chord to Imagine. Rather, "Nineteen Years Ago" is basically a piano/vocal pop ballad, flowing, poignant and personal. The superb vocal performance, set in a deft and graceful piano accompaniment, peaks nicely in a string-laden crescendo finale.
9. For all its exuberant and energetic (Elvis-like—oops ;) rocking out, "Tonight" somehow falls a bit short on the amount of emotional engagement to which I believe it aspires. Nevertheless, particularly in a live setting, it will likely get everyone up dancing.
10. "The Colour of Your Street is Gold" feels sort of like a circus gospel waltz, with bits of secret agent and mystery. As with every other tune on this record, its overall musical competence is assured, though the total presentation is likely just over the top too quirky for most mainstreamers.
11. An unusual choice to finish out this collection, "You Can't Buy Happiness" takes us down into the slow lane again, this time often with a distinctly bluesy vibe, then soft and soothing praise chorus, and finally plenty of relatively unusual effects-laden parts, approaching weird. As in life, one often doesn't know where one may go...
Reviewed by Michael Ososki
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