Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Brian Ray: This Way Up ...

The beauty of having a blog is that I have a place to write about whatever interests me in a given moment.

And, in recent moments, as some have noted, I've been very taken with Brian Ray. To me, he's the musical equivalent of finding a fabulous new restaurant and telling all your friends.

Music is a fickle business. I'll never stop wondering why some artists who are so electronically enhanced are so successful while others who possess honest-to-God talent fly largely under society's view. Where's the logic in that? Where's the reward?

So, I write about those I like. Actually, I need to write about those I like more often, and do my part to keep Google engaged. (Brian Leitner, I'm looking at you.)

This Brian's new album, This Way Up, drops August 9, but there's a pre-sale happening at brianray.com. The discs won't ship until August, but every sale also buys the digital download. You can buy just the download, but me, I like discs, so I order the CD and download it, too. Yes, I'm weird, I know.

Yesterday was the virtual release, and so I've been listening.

When I get a new album, I click through the whole thing, listening to just a few seconds of the opening of each song. I like to see what catches my attention. Then, I go back and listen to the whole thing all the way through, cohesively, the way I expect artists would like their albums to be experienced, especially in these days of iTunes and buying one track at a time.

What I love about Brian as a musician is that every track he records is different from every other yet they all hang together so well. From the moody open of "Happy Ending" through the guitar-anthem ending of "Under The Sun," there are plenty of highs and lows, wide-open rock straightaways that gear down into a wending, catch-your-breath ballad and then he hits the gas again.

Between the start and finish, a few tracks earned specific first-listen notes.

The beginning of "Hello Lonely" calls to mind the opening of Pink Floyd's "Take It Back" which piqued my interest, because I happen to love that song. And I love this song, too. It might be my favorite on the album. The reason for which is at least two-fold: 1) I love this song because I am a sappy girl, and 2), and more importantly, I love this song because it is one of those rare cuts that reaches into a place inside me and refuses to let go. Some music – most music – floats right by me. But with some music, very rarely, I have a visceral reaction that never fades. (That reaction has identified every song I've recorded. It serves me well.)

When I first heard the title track, I wrote "Sounds like?" And I was very pleased when I realized that it sounds like my aforementioned pal Brian's band, Pet Lover. Though as I listen again as I write this, it also calls to mind Cheap Trick. A Pet Lover/Cheap Trick hybrid. In my book, that is a very good thing.

Not to detract from any of the artists, mind you. I don't mean to suggest that any of them are aping the others, but, well, you listen to enough music, you can't help but compare.

To wit, the first few seconds of "Rearview" made me think of Don Henley's "Dirty Laundry," but that's where the similarity ends.

And I mentioned the ending to "Under The Sun" but it's the beginning I really love, because I started singing it right away. It's just that kind of song for me. It reminds me a bit of something by Eric Johnson, but it's undeniably Ray.

Lest you wonder about the tracks I didn't mention, I wrote about two of them when they were released earlier this month, and the others, well, I don't want to tell you everything. Suffice it to say that there's no song I don't like, I simply like some more than others. So go see – well, hear – for yourself. Music is such a personal experience. I hope you enjoy this particular journey.

P.S. And speaking of journeys, there may be a fall tour, too.

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