First Listen Reviews
Over my five decades of listening to music, most of my favorite records and CDs have grown on me over time. Indeed, some of the greatest consensus albums ever recorded have required repeated listens until I hear what all the fuss is about. But every once in a while, an album grabs me the very first time I listen.
I decided to write a column where I review albums that make an impression on me after only one listen. Admittedly, this sets the bar high, but it’s only this one guy’s opinion. One very picky guy to boot. Your experience may vary.
*I’ve had this column in mind for quite a while. This was the first review I wrote, a little over a year ago.
Victoria Vox–When The Night Unravels
Even though one would think that maturity and life experience would result in greater artistry, history says that songwriters tend to peak early in their careers. The majority of hits from Lennon, McCartney, Simon, Dylan, Goffin & King, and the like were written during bursts of creativity while they were in their twenties. Victoria Vox’s latest album has reversed that trend. Over a decade into her career, I believe that When The Night Unravels is her best work to date. I felt that way after the first listen and I still feel that way today, after dozens of listens.
My career in promoting and producing live music events has become heavily weighted toward the ukulele, and the majority of people reading this will be ukulele fans. That said, I don’t consider ‘When The Night Unravels’ to be a ukulele album…and that’s perfectly OK with me. Oh, the uke is there, making subtle or cameo appearances. But this is a lush, beautiful, and sophisticated collection of original songs, with production to match. It’s a quality pop album that should appeal to a wide audience.
I grew up with the music of the legends of the 60’s and 70’s. Beatles, Dylan, Stones, Moody Blues, Simon & Garfunkel, ELO. But in my early twenties I developed an appreciation for female vocalists. Over the years, Linda Ronstadt, Karla Bonoff, Rita Coolidge, Emmylou Harris, Carly Simon, Beth Neilsen Chapman, Carole King, and others have become favorites. For me, Victoria’s album took me back to that era, when silken voiced chanteuses captured my ears, while the intelligent, engaging lyrics they sang tugged at my heart.
Victor & Penny–Electricity
The long drive home from our recent Palm Strings Ukulele Festival provided hours of listening time. We collected many new albums at the fest and stuck them all into the slot over those 450 miles. A first listen of each resulted in a clear winner: Electricity was easily my favorite and my family unanimously agreed.
This album contains all original material from Erin McGrane and Jeff Freling, the real people behind the stage names, save for one Sting composition. With their trademark, “Antique Pop” sound, writing an entire album of music that simultaneously sounds new and keeps true to their vintage style could not have been an easy task. But they pulled it off, like the pros they are, and there’s never a dull moment in this collection of tunes.
Victor & Penny have carved a niche in several genres of music, and I’m already eager to see what comes next. Electricity is retro-meets-pop, serious-meets-schtick, and is music to my ears.