ANDY REED: Fast Forward

Posted In: Arts & Entertainment, Artist Feature,   From Issue 665   By: Robert 'Bo' White

31st July, 2008     0

It seems in these pinched times of soaring credit rates, housing foreclosures and the ascendance of oil barons that the lost art of melodic pop music provides a lonely outpost of peace, groove and harmony in an otherwise barren wasteland of discordant yet bland muzak for road zombies and country bumpkins who just wanna back that booty up and mess with the little whisky woman. Better think before you cheat, or else. This is the era of aspartame-laced music made for over-consumption - express lane cheap and downloaded in only a few seconds.

Oh well  I'm not here to grouse about the smack-bad state of current affairs. I'm here to praise the lord and thank her for opening up the heavens and sending us Andy Reed. Bless Andy for mastering a lost form of rock n' roll back when the Beatles led the charge of a second coming, copying and then changing those original rhythms created by the likes of Ike Turner, Chuck Berry, Little Richard and Berry Gordy. Others pretended to the throne - Badfinger, Emmit Rhodes, the Raspberries, Curt Boettcher, Ric Ocasek, Grapefruit and Big Star (and Andy's early band the fabulous Haskels) - to name just a few' It seems that the popularity of rock n' roll and "power pop" is continuing to shrink into smaller pockets of  (extremely) devoted fans. It is within these small pockets that our beloved rock and roll continues to thrive.

Let's take a look and listen

The Ballad of. This is a love story about finding the "right one" very Beatle-ish from 1967 - with an ambience that recalls the Cyrkle's Wish You Could Be Here and just a hint of Strawberry Fields. Reed has a great falsetto and uses it effectively on this tune. Falsetto is a lost art and can be used to great advantage when done right - like the Tremeloes' version of Silence Is Golden. Reed's statement "Love means to me more than anything" colors the musical canvas of the entire disc - a great opener.

Crazy Things is a minor chord melancholy masterpiece filled with lost promise and regret. Things are left unsaid and the whole story - by necessity - cannot be revealed. So, secrets are hidden away and messages never get through and relationships are doomed. Given the circumstances, it could not be any other way. Look up to the sky for an answer.

The Criminal is about giving everything up in the pursuit of love, to hold the holy gun and make promises with a heart too easily broken. Reed has an uncanny ear for the unusual and writes in twists and turns that tell a story in a most elusive way. Listen carefully and don't be swayed by the pretty music, there could be something much deeper here.

Play just might be an advertisement for MySpace. It tells the story about a girl who "puts herself online for the thousandth time". She rolls the dice and takes a turn just for the thrill of the game. She likes men or maybe she hates men. Reed's message is somewhat dour, if not protective. And when he sings "she's throwing it all away", he seems frightened by her inability to control herself and her addiction to the "hunt".

Novacaine has a Gram Parsons vibe and a nice Harrison-inspired slide guitar. This is the lonely man's theme filled with metaphors of self doubt and regret. When he sings about waking up numb, blind, deaf and dumb, Reed reveals the dreariness of a life that has been robbed of its joy and keeps the protagonist wallowing in unrelenting existential pain. This is a harrowing musical statement.

Thank You is a wedding vow put to music. It opens with an echoed guitar riff straight out of the Badfinger catalog of metallic power pop. This song packs a whallop yet still inspires a sense of love forever without seeming too maudlin or trite. Reed lists the component intimacies associated to such a strong bond between partners who share a deep and abiding love laughing at secrets, sharing thoughts and meanings that are understood even without words, and growing old together. A life you make come true.

Tied up is an all-the-way Cars tribute. Power-pop at its boy meets girl, let's fall-in-love best. Ric Ocasek would be impressed, Rundgren too!

Around the Town finds Reed all jazzed-up and funky playing honky tonk piano like Scott Joplin on the intro and yet sounding like McCartney for the remainder of the song. Reed is juiced and at the top of his game here. The lyrical theme decries the public's indifference to original music in favor of songs that are known and comfortable. The message culminates in a serious exclamation point followed by a shrug.

Look After Me is one of those trademark Andy Reed-I-Can't-Help-Myself pretty ballads. It is a humble request for acceptance despite one's flaws. The lyrics convey how hard life can be as a traveling minstrel - boredom, fatigue (mental and physical) and bad decisions. Reed sings it like a prayer.

Feel Like Listening is about trying to help someone you love and care for who has lost his way. But he doesn't want your help. The hard honesty in the lyrics is simply stunning:
Try to make the wrong feel right / Out of mind, out of sight / Do you feel like listening?
I could waste a lot of time / Getting things into your mind / But the words are harder to find /
And the Sun is almost gone / The lie has been sold

Reed's extended guitar work throughout the song and on the extended workout in the coda is pure tonal perfection. His use of minor notes and chording and an insistent foreboding wah-wah effect gives the music a pitch of danger and warning. He achieves a full-bodied David Gilmour '69 Stratocaster sound, runnin' his Telecaster through a Vox amp - an amazing sonic achievement. Reed completes the song's identity to Pink Floyd through the magic of sampling, lifting the drum tones and vocal background from Dark Side of the Moon. It's a cool technology thing.

Andy Reed with the ear of a master has re-created multi-layered music with melody and harmony, clever lyrics that tell a story (thank you John and Paul and Burt Bacharach) and great sound. 
As I listen to this disc with a few friends, we are like spokes on a wheel, our eyes and ears are totally focused and directed toward the music and Andy is at the center.

Fast Forward contains ten brilliant songs and clocks in at a warp speed of 33 minutes and 6 seconds. Whew it's a great ride and gives me the kind of a gonad rush that I felt when I took my first roller coaster a ride or when I first listened to Go All the Way by the Raspberries or Badfinger's  Without You.

So here it is, take a ride


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