(Artwork care of Karen Ramsay (www.karenramsay.com), profile photo care of brianlackeyphotography.com)

Thursday, May 20, 2010

CD review - The Morning Pages - Rising Rain (2010)

The Morning Pages have gotten some recent web attention with their take on Lady Gaga's Telephone, which is more tongue in cheek than anything on Rising Rain. But it does give a sense of the band's range, which is more of a mix of '70s folk and country rock blended with mid-'60s rock. It's retro, but vibrant enough to avoid sounding like a museum relic. There are plenty of other references scattered across Rising Rain, which all seem to mesh. The surprise is that this Brooklyn band evokes such a strong California feel.

The opening couple of songs, With the Lord and Stumble Towards the Light, have the strongest country feel. Despite (or maybe because of) the repetitive lyric format, With the Lord is an earworm. It's got a great chorus hook, with sweet harmonies. The leads alternate between a rock grind and a country twang.

Songs like Live With You stir up Jefferson Airplane with the Zombies. This rolls in a smooth retro channel: it's got the changes, the instrumentation, the acid lead, and the general feel of late '60s rock.

This City Keeps Me Down is like Creedence Clearwater Revival covering Chuck Berry's Memphis. Throw the right lead voice on it and it could be anyone from the Beat Farmers to Drive By Truckers. Regardless of the references, it's a rollicking, fun foot-tapper.

For me, though, the sweet spot is Makes Me Cry. It owes a lot to Curtis Mayfield's People Get Ready and a bit to Blind Faith's Presence of the Lord. The piano and organ work are exquisite, like Al Kooper going to church. All the pieces fit together perfectly -- from the smooth guitar to the lagging bass to the rich backing vocals. The bluesy gospel feels perfect after blues vibe of All My Friends.

There's nothing experimental or challenging here, which makes it a comfortable easy chair of an album. There's a plain honesty to these songs, though, that satisfies. It's not a guilty pleasure, Rising Rain is just a pleasure. The effect is like a fine traditional mead; simple honey can still be complex.

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