Gearphoria Volume 7, Number 1

GEARPHORIA SEP/OCT 2018 67 REVIEWS u RE-LIC’ ’ D ARTIST: The Grays ALBUM: Ro Sham Bo RELEASED: 1994 VERDICT: TAKE A COUPLE of multi-instrumentalist/ producer types and toss ‘em in a band with a future Apple Music guru and future record label supremo and you’ve got yourself… a recipe for disaster. But it wasn’t all bad for The Grays, which consisted of Jon Brion, Jason Falkner, Buddy Judge, and Dan McCarroll. They made one of the definitive — if lesser known — pop/ rock masterpieces of the mid-1990s. Sony/Epic released the 13-track Ro Sham Bo in February of 1994 where it garnered high critical praise, but failed to make much of a dent in the charts, with the exception of lead track and first single — the Falkner-penned ‘Very Best Years’, which did receive some ra- dio airplay. In fact, it was Falkner’s songs that really defined the record, even though he’d freshly exited his early 90s band Jellyfish and wanted to part of the another at the time. ‘Everybody’s World’ is built on a bouncing bass line with cocked-wah accents and a high- neck guitar hook with a backward masking vocal coda, while ‘Same Thing’ is a rumbling piece of pop perfection peppered with vocal harmonies and a swing-time break. Falkner’s ’Friend Of Mine’ is another gem, perhaps rivaled only by ‘Very Best Years’ as the album’s top offering. With its deft guitar work, existential lyrics and dreamy chorus, the hook-filled offering is anti-grunge during the height of the movement. The album continues to deliver throughout its second half, highlighted by ‘Oh Well Maybe’ (another Falkner gem), an acoustic- driven piece of optimism ‘Both Belong’ and the frenetic ‘Not Long For This World’. The album ends with the Brion-written ‘No One Can Hurt Me’ — a six-and-a-half minute slow burn of relationship lament. The band toured some, but was really im- ploding from day one. Brion and Falkner were too similar. They could play every instrument, and the experience ended up being one of competition and not camaraderie. Brion has gone on to be a successful producer for the likes of Fiona Apple as well as score films like Eternal Sunshine Of A Spotless Mind . Falkner has had a under-the-radar, but prolific solo career. Most recently he played bass on Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds album Who Built The Moon? If you’re really hungry for more after you give Ro Sham Bo a listen, you can try and hunt down the Very Best Years EP , which contains two bonus tracks: ‘Outdoor Miner’ and the Beatle-sque ‘Complicated’. G ARTIST: Josh Smith ALBUM: Burn To Grow LABEL: Vizztone VERDICT: BLUES HAS always been the center of Josh Smith’s guitar universe, but on Burn To Grow — his tenth studio record — he brings a bit more to the table than six strings and heart- break. Sure there is the traditional blues and brass mix of the album’s opening tune ‘Half Blues’ or the rhythm and blues swing of ‘Through The Night’, but then there is acous- tic balladry of ‘Look No Further’ and the ethereal heart tug of ‘She Survives’. The album has a healthy share of highlights and enough of guitar pyrotechnics to please even the most discriminating fret-head. ‘Your Love (Is Making Me Whole)’ lets Smith’s backing vocal- ist Monel Owens shine in a lead role, while ‘What We Need’ show- cases Smith’s blue-collar howl. The title track and album closer is a reverb-drenched thumper with a unique dissonance in its chord structure and solo that makes it one of the more unique Smith composi- tions around. Burn To Grow is everything you look for in a Josh Smith record — wailing, no-holds barred guitar work flanked by a soulful vocal growl, but if you listen closely there is more going on here than usual. G

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