At first as a musician, I created music, then as an A&R executive I challenged it, now as a music reviewer, I explore it. Of the three, the latter is the most difficult. Criticizing or appraising somebody else’s creation is no easy task. Enjoying it is one thing, understanding it another, and translating it is even more arduous. The funny thing is, I’ve always hated describing music. It’s such a volatile and subjective art, that nobody should really have the authority or the presumptuous audacity to judge the level of enjoyment or emotion any one piece of music is capable of delivering to any one listener. I am also no longer a purist in this field, and believe that music like paintings and other types of art can be appreciated on many levels, and should be allowed to do so.
Someone could look at a painting and just be swept away by the colors of its simple strokes, without ever comprehending any profound message the artist is trying to communicate. While another observer might be inquisitive enough to look far beyond the techniques and colors, maybe finding a much deeper message that will likewise sweep him or her away.
The key to any art is the emotion it allows to be stimulated in its beholder. And that’s where I take my measuring cue from – ‘allows’. I firmly believe that truly great music ‘allows’ its beholder a greater number of levels to succumb to. Therefore absolute purists, as well as the masses can draw their own level of satisfaction from these pieces.
The Beatles music was, and still is an excellent example of how music can allow itself to be appreciated on so many levels – from the simple ditto-like choruses to their groundbreaking production tricks and harmonic ideas that made their records the benchmark for creative recording in the last century, and beyond.
So today, my measuring stick for good music transcends genres and styles, eschews pompous techniques, and simply looks to see if the music is enjoyable at its surface level, and if it has the depth to ‘allow’ me to scratch deeper if I ever have a more profound desire to do so. Be that through the music composition and execution, the lyrical narratives, or the production work. One such piece of music that ended up on my desk is the new album by Eddy Mann, entitled “Simple Things”.
Eddy has put together a conceptual album inspired by the paintings of Thomas Eakins of which you can read the entire story here. Ashamedly ignorant on the subject, I have to admit to not knowing much about Eakins’ works at all. Will that mean I cannot reap any satisfaction from the music and songs within this album? No! Why? Because Eddy Mann, being an intelligent composer, ‘allows’ me the possibility of reveling within his work, at a level that suits both my emotional and cerebral needs.
So when the first song, “When The Cowboy Sings”, kicks in, and the shimmering guitars strum through the verses, while Eddy’s voice resonates dominantly in the mix, I am totally swept away by the warm, and all-embracing sound that engulfs my senses.
On my next listen, I will observe the Thomas Eakins painting, paired with this song, and no doubt will find even deeper satisfaction. For now, I am simply swept away by the rich organic sound of Eddy Mann’s music. And I was even more moved on listening to “The Red Shawl” which is wrapped in many more layers of sound and harmony.
A true delight for elegant ears and inquisitive souls. “A May Morning in the Park” is more stripped down, but not any less captivating, as voice and acoustic guitar take you on an enchanting journey. I could go on describing track after track of gorgeously composed, executed and sung music, but you really need to experience this for yourself.
From “An Actress” to “Girl in a Big Hat”, and “The Courtship” to “Whistling for Plover”, there is not a song you should miss here. With this album, Eddy Mann continues his evolution. And “Simple Things” is even more perfect, each of his albums stretching out the distance between him and his contemporaries, few of which I even bat an eye at.
If you are looking for music that will allow your own level of satisfaction, then this is Eddy’s pinnacle of achievement so far. There is a beautiful fullness here which is nearly indescribable with words. It will leave you breathless and in a state of euphoria. “Simple Things” is simply magnificent!
The official release date for the album is set for April 03 2018. While the lead single “The Dancing Lesson” will be dropped on March 06.
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