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Raine Maida —The Hunters Lullaby
Raine Maida
The Hunters Lullaby
3 Stars

Our Lady Peace front man releases a surprising and intriguing solo record.

Folk albums are a lot like science fiction movies in that the market typically has room for only one of them at any given point in time. So while people were busy talking about the new collaborative folk record from Alison Krauss and that guy from Led Zeppelin, it was easy to overlook this new release from Raine Maida, which, incidentally, is the more adventurous release of the two.

Our Lady Peace has a clearly defined sound in the alternative rock world, and Raine Mada’s voice stamps a definitive signature on top of it. While that defined voice is evident on The Hunters Lullaby, the music bears little resemblance to the band in which Maida makes his primary musical home. In this collection of ten songs, the delivery is a cross between folk rock and a poetry reading, with an occasional nod to alternative rock and hip hop. It’s something Bob Dylan or Lou Reed might have given us in the Seventies had they been backed by an upright bass player and a drum machine, but Maida delivers his original fare with a modern flair.

The lead single, “Yellow Brick Road” is a superb track that delivers a story of youth set to a catchy hip hop beat with Raine’s traditional vocal styling, which is thoroughly captivating in an alternative rock way. “The Snake and The Crown” is another especially moving track, and the sparse arrangements comprised primarily of subtle drums, upright bass, acoustic piano, and haunting backing vocals are extremely powerful in their delivery.

The entire album is dark and moody, with a very airy and live sound to it. Maida’s also-famous songstress wife, Chantal Kreviazuk, performs very emotive (and sometimes frightening sounding) piano throughout the record, and some strings and accordion show up in a few spots, too.

The focus of this solo record is clearly the delivery of stories and poems set to a musical backdrop. Listening to the deadpan poetry vocal delivery of songs like “Sex, Love, and Honey” or the opening track, “Careful What You Wish For,” we can’t help but picture someone driving up in the background at an outdoor café poetry reading to shout “three V-dubs for under $17,000” (if you’re one of our foreign readers, this reference may not make much sense unless you google it and watch the Volkswagen commercial that we were inundated with in the US this past fall).

A few tracks like “Confessional” and “Rat Race” have a borderline OLP feel, but overall, Maida really stuck to doing his own thing with this release and created what is truly an original artistic offering. We plan to talk with Maida next month about the record, so check it out.

— SK

Alex Argento — EGO
Alex Argento
4 Stars
Awesome! If the Chick Corea Elektric Band had been influenced more by rock than jazz…

EGO is the first solo release from Italian keyboardist and composer Alex Argento. It is always a treat to hear music from outside of our US borders and this album definitely showcases some of the amazing talent and musicality the rest of the world has to offer. EGO is a fusion masterpiece in which jazz harmony is blended with some serious rock attitude.

Argento honed his chops and compositional skills with such influences as Chick Corea, Pat Metheny, Allan Holdsworth, and the like. We really enjoyed the diversity and maturity of his compositions and arrangements, not to mention his superb technique. Whereas some artists’ tunes can sound very one-dimensional, each of Argento’s tunes manages to speak a different language depending on the mood he is trying to convey.

Also featured on the album is the smoldering guitar work of another fellow Italian, Marco Sfogli, who also plays with James Labrie’s (Dream Theater vocalist) solo band. From a technical standpoint, it sounds as if he could easily pull off whatever style he chooses. Sfogli deftly shifts from intricately arranged ensemble parts to brilliantly executed improvised solos over some pretty exciting chord changes depending on the tune.

While we really enjoyed each of the ten tracks presented on EGO, there were several that really stood out and demanded our attention. The aptly named “Moving Around E” is a classic fusion tour de force featuring a very cool chromatic bop inspired keyboard/guitar melody. As for the solos, well, let’s just say they’re truly inspiring whether your a keyboardist or guitar player.

“Synchronal Steps” is another great tune with a very memorably melody that has been stuck in our head for weeks now! As before, you can expect more exceptionally improvised solos that actually have something musical to say as opposed to just pure brazen displays of technique. Rounding out our other favorites were “Mr. Shuffle’s Land” and “Groovus In Fabula” which are both really hip sounding compositions that simply ooze with feel and groove.

The album also features outstanding guest performances by guitarists Fabrizio Leo, Alessandro Benvenuti, bassist Jon Reshard (from Greg Howe's band) and drummer Stefano Ruscica.

If you’re a fan of modern fusion, than Argento’s EGO definitely falls under the category of required listening and should be a part of you musical library. It is truly an outstanding example of writing, arranging, and performing at its best.

— HS

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