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Non-Prog CD Reviews

Various Artists

For the Love of Dog... And Cat: An Album to Benefit Noah's Ark Animal Sanctuary

Review by Jason Hillenburg

Charity albums, unfortunately, can often mean well, but lack any sort of lasting musical value. Artists dig up previously discarded tracks, others rehash well-known material, but this album forgets to tread water in the musical quality. Instead, this impressive assortment of musicians offers the listener a wide variety of material that, irrespective of genre, sounds fresh and motivated. The album can be purchased here: https://www.createspace.com/2248385.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2014  Volume 4 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Clark Colborn – Into the Mist
Clark Colborn opens the collection with a starkly beautiful instrumental. The man has a fantastic guitar tone - warm, fat, but as sharp as razor wire. The playing has marvelous articulation perfect for an atmospheric number like this. It is notable, as well, how much of a mood he creates without any accompaniment.
Kris Orendorff – You Made This House a Home
The sprightly pop stylings and strong harmonies on Kris Orendorff's offering are highlights, but this is much more. This is a sturdy piece of song craft full of effortless sincerity. The lyrical content escapes the trite by grounding its subject matter in reality rather than tacky sentiment and the lead vocal is very enjoyable.
G.W. Hill – Déjà vu
G.W. Hill's brief instrumental has a subtle, ephemeral quality. While some might hear it as an arbitrarily arranged recording of electronic notes, a discerning listener will pick out the track's structure. The silence between each note is as, if not more, important as the actual sound itself.
Paul Hieser – The Whatever Man (Dedicated to the memory of Grace Dakota Kostka)
The infectious, swinging tempo and slightly cluttered quality of the song are memorable. The band has discovered a great groove and the vocal melody complements it well. Paul Hieser's vocal has a sensitive, wispy quality that strikes an interesting contrast with the music. The phased guitars add appealing funk textures with brief, brittle lead work and dissonant fills.
Sean Huguenin – Decide
This song opens with a beautiful guitar figure accompanied by sparkling touches of piano. When Sean Huguenin's clear voice enters the song, its earnest tone will likely put any listener at ease. Huguenin's performance is a clear highlight, but the cut benefits largely from its complete band performance. It touches on a number of elements and dynamics prevalent in the genre, but despite that, it never sounds overburdened with formula.
Sonicbloom – Clean and Well Lighted
Beginning with the title's likely allusion to Hemingway's famous short story "A Clean Well Lighted Place,” this is a smartly written sophisticated marriage of stylistic mastery on a musical and writing level alike. It has a quality reminiscent of Tom Waits without the stock imagery and inaccessible vocals of the latter. Sonicboom's song will be a certain highlight for many.
P-H-M with Wade Lammon – Exit Us
The delightfully simple and biting guitar riff propelling this track from P-H-M with Wade Lammon never overstays its welcome. The Biblical theme of the lyrics never stoops to sermonizing in anyway and the vocal conveys them with confidence. A brief, but entertaining, guitar solo and the inventive, restless percussion work are other high points.
Sonicbloom – Miles Away
Sonicboom returns with this understated, simmering blues tune. There is a fantastic groove here, nearly subterranean, and the nasty, crackling edge of distortion on the guitar is perfect for the song's mood. The vocal performance is very solid, tasteful, and reeking with genuine soul.
G. W. Hill - Hyperdrive
Another G.W. Hill instrumental, reminiscent of Hawkwind, this is a longer piece than his earlier offering, but exists firmly within the same genre of progressive electronic music. Other truths hold here as well - to the uninitiated, this might sound like a relatively aimless piece, but there is clear movement and design in the arrangement that retains your interest throughout.
Sean Huguenin – Fly Away
Sean Huguenin's second song on the collection has a decidedly commercial feel and considerable musical depth. The musicians are superb, but the arrangement deserves praise for its inventive use of dynamics and strong melodic sense. Huguenin's pleasing voice has impressive range and emotive power.
P-H-M – Day of the Lord
P-H-M returns, this time sans Wade Lammon, with another guitar-driven offering. The Biblical themes are once again present, but like before, P-H-M avoids any heavy handed proselytizing. This is much less strident than the earlier song, but the relaxed feel is enjoyable and benefits from a cool, confident vocal.
Casey Carl Bunge – L'Etat ! L'Etat ! (Il s'Agit de la Passion... !)
Casey Carl Bunge's piano instrumental is full of verve, fluid movement, and great melody. It emanates a compelling sort of tension between classical and popular music influences - the playing has a definite sense of structure, but the notes pile on with such urgency that it seems ready to break out into a boogie any second.
Sonicbloom – My Baby
Speaking of boogie, Sonicboom hits the listener with a third blast of boogie-woogie blues guaranteed to get your foot tapping. The hallmarks of the earlier tunes get full airing here, as well. The stuttering, fire-spitting guitar licks, the swaggering vocals, and a rock solid rhythm section laying down a deep groove to hold it all together.
G. W. Hill – Exploration
The last offering in the collection from G.W. Hill reminds me, once again, of English prog rock legends, Hawkwind. However, it isn't derivative in any fashion. The electronic music wonderfully and intensely embodies the atmosphere of an internal exploration, a three AM dark night of the soul attempt to make sense of the contradicting emotions within us all. The dynamics are marvelous and suggestive.
Sean Huguenin – Together (United We Stand)
Sean Huguenin's final song is a rousing, polished patriotic anthem that, thankfully, doesn't beat war drums. Instead, the lyrics are firmly in keeping with the message present in all of Huguenin's songs here. They promote positive values like hope, community, and perseverance with top shelf backing and above average arrangement skills.
Kris Orendorff – Kristmas Kard
The final song on the collection comes from Kris Orendorff. His tongue-in-cheek rocker is a delightfully ragged garage band confection with a catchy chorus. This is a number that seems ideal for live performance because of its potential for audience participation. It's a fun, offbeat way to end the album.
 
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