Reviewed by: Stephanie Sollow, November 2000
Colie Brice, who recently took an executive position with The Music.com in Los Angeles, CA (see news archive), released Chameleon last year. Chameleon is his second solo release, New Age Blues being his first. This on the heels of a stint with Phantom's Opera.
I am a firm believer in that life is full of intersections - that something you learn or discover over there, will be reflected in something you discover or learn over here. It happened to me throughout college, where two seemingly unrelated courses would intersect on some topic. Or, for example, in order to be "added" to a philosophy class I was trying to take my sophomore year of college, I had to answer three questions*. The answer to the third question was something I had only learned the week before, while playing Trivial Pursuit.
It relates to this review in this manner. In this week's "issue," I also reviewed Cruz De Hierro's debut album which contains a song "Chameleon 177" and about which I said "just when you think you've got it sussed, this track changes its colours just like, well...just like a chameleon."
Well, the same could be said about Brice's Chameleon, which is a mix of rock, pop, techno and psychedelic music all performed by Brice, with "a little a help from his friends" on a couple of tracks. The Beatles quip comes not without reason - Brice sounds eerily like John Lennon, especially on the Beatles-esque "Only Love Is Real." Oh, not the 60's Beatles, the 70's Beatles...you know, The White Album, though this makes me think of "Across The Universe." Only much more acoustic and accented with sounds of nature. And one might say thematically like "All You Need Is Love." "Only Love..." is a psychedelic, spacey, mainly acoustic treat to start off the album (the song, in a truly acoustic setting, is reprised later on the album, where it comes across as more fragile, and not quite as assertive - no less good, though).
Further evidence of this Beatles homage can be found in "And He Loved Her" (cf "And I Love Her"), "Mystical Music Tour" (cf "Magical Mystery Tour"). Upon hearing "And He Loved Her," an instrumental, this connection is unmistakable as the familiar guitar riffs are borrowed and slowed down just a fraction. While I hate to overuse a word, the guitar shimmers here again, like rippling water fanning out from a dropped pebble...many pebbles in succession. While it's a "cop out" to review an album by telling you other things it sounds like, the guitar here reminds me also of a Billy Joel tune on The Bridge, played by Danny Kortchmar ("This Is The Time"). Joel also is a Beatles fan (or so I'm told), but I'm almost certain the connection is merely mine and not Brice's.
But "Mystical Music Tour" is more a tour through some familiar sounds of some very familiar band. There are part that hint at Rush, as there is a percussive tone like Peart used on "Passage To Bangkok." A few Hendrix-like guitar tones pop in briefly before they become more Pink Floyd-like (the darkness of The Wall is what I'm thinking of ... the intro to "Another Brick In The Wall"). The drums pick up on this and we get deep, echoing, haunting beats. And perhaps it's because of the title and because of the other Beatles homages, but there's a brief moment where at about five and half minutes in you almost expect to hear "Roll up! Roll up for the Magical Mystery Tour..." But that goes, and it's back to Floyd, and specifically the intro to "Time" from Dark Side Of The Moon. Oh, I hear other bits and pieces that I can't quite pin down, though I'm left with the feeling that I should. There are some dramatic, very cinematic moments...oh, Laurence Of Arabia comes to mind, though I can't say from that specifically. Maybe The King And I. I see a large scale pageantry scene with a cast of thousands...the roar of the crowd comes in waves.
"Discovering Joy," which is the second track, is more akin to the Fourth World sonicscapes of Steve Roach. Here you'll find undulating synths providing a bed for rhythmic percussion with a Native American feel and piano interludes. It's sanguine. "Jubilant Front" is different again, with trumpeting synths announcing a short guitar solo.
"Relax" is different again being a rock-techno hybrid, where guitars shimmer, laying down notes along an Eastern scale, and a "Max Headroom"-like voice urges you to relax. I thought of Thomas Dolby while listening to this, though I can't attribute it to any one specific thing...except I'm thinking of his Beyond The Mind's Eye soundtrack.
The most "typical" rocker is "Follow Your Dreams." I dare say form follows function here, as you might expect bright upbeat guitar with searing solos, driving percussion, dreamy and soaring vocals - very AOR. And yet, we prog fans might also think of Pendragon, Jadis, etc.
True weirdness ensues with the very brief "Sampler Madness" which lasts less than a minute.
This varied release is a joy to listen to, it's well played, well composed, and not at all merely rehashes of familiar riffs. It's taking those riffs and making them something new, holding them up for examination, where they can be looked upon with new eyes...or, in this case, heard with new ears.
*Perhaps this is a particularly US "custom" but even though a class is full, a student may petition to add a class, up to the instructors discretion and provided there is physical room to accommodate the students. As it happens, students also drop classes, so attrition is taken into account. For those curious as to what that question was, it was something like "What is significant about 1066?" I replied, "The Battle Of Hastings," and was thus the fifth of five permitted to "add" the class. I can't recall the second question now, but the first was "Who came first, Jesus Christ or Julius Caesar."
More about Chameleon:
Track Listing: Only Love Is Real (4:16) / Discovering Joy (5:35) / Jubilant Front (1:28) / Relax (3:40) / Follow Your Dreams (4:19) / Prelude In D Minor (1:32) / Alien Perspective (3:12) / What Do You Need To Know (0:24) / Rite Night (2:14) / More Than It Seems (1:37) / And He Loved Her (2:46) / Only Love Is Real [acoustic] (4:44) / Sampler Madness (0:40) / Mystical Music Tour (21:42)
Sound Clips: www.myspace.com/coliebrice
Colie Brice - everything
Eric Walz - acoustic guitar (1, 12)
Bob Nelson - drums and percussion (14)
The Night Owl Review of Chameleon
What's that--you've never heard of Colie Brice? You must not live anywhere near the east coast--specifically the New Jersey area. Brice is a multi-instrumentalist, who has seen just about every facet of the music business from Bon Jovi to Ella Fitzgerald and all points in between--both as an artist and from the business end of things. On the aptly titled, "Chameleon," Brice has come up with an interesting mix of progressive rock and world music, with a tinge of psychedelia thrown in for good measure. The songs on the CD cover a multitude of musical styles and ambient soundscapes.
The CD begins with "Only Love is Real," a tune featuring a processed Lennon-esque vocal, set over an acoustic background with nature sounds. About half of the CD is made up of instrumental tracks. The first is a dark, ethereal, keyboard-based song called "Discovering Joy." Up next is the first of several short interludes called "Jubilant Front." The track starts off with a fanfare intro, and then descends into a guitar/keyboard theme.
"Relax" is one of the stranger tunes on the CD. The backing track has a 'No Speak' feel to it (No Speak was a cool, but short-lived, rock instrumental label in the late 80's that produced a ton of great material), with fluid lead guitar flowing over crunchy power chords. The strange thing about the song is the 'chorus,' where you repeatedly hear "Relax… and take it eeeeeaaaasssyyy." "Follow Your Dreams" also features some good guitar work, and a false ending.
"Prelude in D Minor" is a short interlude preceding one of the best tracks on the CD, "Alien Perspective." "And He Loved Her" is a beautiful instrumental, but it's got copyright infringement written all over it. This song is almost identical to The Beatles' "And I Love Her." Brice does a respectable job with it though. The acoustic version of "Only Love is Real" isn't a whole lot different than the original. The vocals aren't processed, and it's a bit shorter, but that's about it.
The most interesting tracks on Chameleon are "Musical Mystery Tour," and the unlisted bonus track that follows it. Clocking in at an epic 16:41, "Tour" starts off like a sparsely arranged cross between "Xanadu" (Rush) and "Sorrow" (Pink Floyd). From there, it goes into something that sounds like "Time" (Pink Floyd again). Keyboards come in around the 11:00 mark, followed by a "Take Five" theme a minute or so later. Toward the end of the track, Brice's classical influence comes in and the song ends. Or so you'll think. After about three minutes of silence, an eerie, almost bluesy tune called "I Went to Boston" comes in to bring the CD to a close.
As you can see, Chameleon is a perfect name for this CD. Colie Brice may not be a household name right now (at least not outside of NJ), but with talent like this, that's sure to change.