There was not much going on in the Westcoast scene over the course of the last couple of years. Even more so when it comes to new artists to step into the limelight. Most of the new talents that managed to gain some attention came from Scandinavia like Peter Friestedt or Corin & Edman.
With Daniel Nelson a fresh new face is finally stepping to the forefront who knows the Californian way of life from his own experience and his songs reflect this. The connoisseur knows this kind of music very well from bands like Maxus, Pages, Airplay, Sneaker and Ambrosia.
When he was looking out for an arranger and producer Daniel met Ed Smart, a guy who exactly knew what Daniels songs should sound like. For the recordings studio musicians were picked by hand in L.A. and every single one of them was capable to create this perfect mixture of AOR, Smooth Jazz, Soul and R’n’B. The names of session pros like the guitar players Nick Brown and Allen Hinds or percussionist Brian Kilgore can mostly be read in the credits of Smooth Jazz greats like Michael Paulo, Dave Koz, Dan Siegel and Warren Hill, but in the past they were also booked by Robbie Williams, Cock Robin or The Goo Goo Dolls. Another great cast of players is the Vine Street Horns who are the regular horn section of none other than the mighty Phil Collins. With so much musical competence it’s not surprising that the sound of the five tracks got absolutely perfect and there is nothing left to be desired.
The opener of this Westcoast cycle is “Madelynn”, it’s a bit funky with a Soul and R’n’B touch and Nick Brown adds his brilliant guitar licks from start to finish, crowning his work with an amazing solo. The horn section also contributes to the fine sound with its accentuated playing.
Next up is “Is It You ?” a cover version of the Lee Ritenour classic which is pretty close to the original and it fits in perfectly with Daniel’s own compositions.
The following trip to Camarillo is a wonderful ballad that shows a lot of feel in Daniel’s wonderful emotional voice which is supported by a smooth arrangement with piano, nylon string guitar and tasteful percussions. The songs theme picks up a well known former mental hospital north west of Los Angeles. Ambrosia were also “Ready For Camarillo” when they led their “Life Beyond L.A.” and rumor has it that The Eagles also got inspired by this facility and its voices down the corridor when they wrote their Westcoast classic “Hotel California”.
The song that rocks the most is “Here in L.A.”, on the basis of a pumping rhythm Nick Brown takes his chances in playing his guitar on the rhythm and lead tracks in the familiar Lukather / Landau / Graydon / Thompson-way. It’s a tune in the Toto – The Seventh One vein and Daniel himself has played the piano, besides that his vocals show another facet here, an almost aggressive one. This stylistic element supports the song lyrics displaying a critical view on Los Angeles. A city which is by no means as glamorous as it might seem at first glance.
“Emily” is the closing ballad and this time Allen Hinds shows his guitar skills. Covering a wide spectrum with solid rhythm work in the beginning, an amazing solo during the bombastic middle part of the song and perfectly placed guitar licks during the fade out of this impressive Westcoast experience.
In the late 70s and early 80s David Foster had an assembly line to produce songs like these. Since he went into Westcoast retirement we can call ourselves happy that Daniel Nelson is a master in bringing the traditional Westcoast sound to life with fascinating arrangements and with the best sound you can possibly think of.
(Review by Gregor Klee)
Daniel Nelson biography :
Growing up South of Philadelphia, it was almost impossible not to be affected by the music coming out of Philly. From the Thom Bell sound (like The Stylistics) to Hall & Oates. “I used to stay up all night listening to the local AM station on my transistor radio, hoping Mom and Dad didn’t catch me up past bed-time.”
Daniel has been cutting his teeth on Pop, Soul and Jazz for most of his life.
“My oldest brother was a music director at a New York station, so I got a chance to listen to all the promo records from the late 70s to early 80s.. I heard great West Coast music like Steely Dan’s “Aja” and Ambrosia’s “Life Beyond LA”, and I knew I was going to end up in Los Angeles writing and performing this genre of music .”
While at Syracuse University’s Newhouse School, Daniel studied recording and production, and spent a Summer in LA working at the Bill Schnee Studio, where he met many of his heroes, including David Paich (Toto) and Boz Scaggs., and before long, Daniel had gone West and was playing in local LA bands and spending his free time song writing. Daniel also began performing solo, and won the open mic night contest at the then-famous Hollywood Palomino Club. Daniel also found work in TV, which gave him access to shows like the Grammys and Billboard Awards. There he met Kenny Loggins and Ambrosia’s David Pack. “Their encouragement really helped me finish the Mini-album.”
After writing about a dozen demos, Daniel was ready to go into the studio. “I wanted my music to have a more theatrical flair, so I sought out someone who was really well versed in arranging, as well as standard production.” Daniel met Ed Smart, who scored the music for the Academy Award nominated Documentary “Hank Aaron - Chasing the Dream”. Their first collaboration was the bitter-sweet ballad “Emily”, the two decided to continue working together and the Mini-album was completed. Daniel and Ed even co-penned the Soul and R&B laced “Madelynn”, a song about an obsessive relationship.
Ed brought many studio professionals in to fill out the sound, including guitarists Nick Brown and Allen Hinds, David Derge on drums and the amazing Vine Street Horn Section. “My music as a lot different than the stuff that’s going on out there right now. I really dig great arrangements, horns and strings, not just straight-ahead guitars and drums. I love great lyrics and melody lines, and I really think a lot of people want to hear music from good Singer/Songwriters.”