Kneejerk is a new feature here on BMF - we preview some new releases and give our short, "kneejerk" reaction...this edition features three guys who decided to fly solo…
Ed Kowalczyk “Alive”
Ed Kowalczyk, best known as the man who made a hit song using the word “placenta” in his lyrics, has given birth to another recording in the form of a solo album called “Alive”. His Pennsylvania-based band, Live, was huge in the 90s thanks to a strong debut followed by their blockbuster “Throwing Copper” record. But after the uneven “Secret Samadhi” the band lost traction and alienated fans as they catered to trends. Failing to draw back the music buying public, I can’t blame Kowalczyk for trying a solo effort. Kowalczyk was a driving force behind the songs and sounds of Live, so it comes as no surprise that “Alive” sounds so much like, uh, “Live”. While most fans will welcome his characteristic vocals, the fact that he’s done little here to distance himself from Live is disappointing and just sounds tiresome. And his lyrics are overly saturated with spiritual references – even more than usual – he comes across like the Deepak Chopra of the musical world. So for me, I’m afraid “Alive” is D.O.A. Let’s hope his other bandmates, some of whom went on to form The Gracious Few with Kevin Martin of Candlebox, can produce something with more life.
Alex Band “We've All Been There”
Alex Band is the baritone voice from The Calling, best known for their 2001 smash "Wherever You Will Go" off the “Camino Palmero” record. Like we’ve seen with Kowalczyk, it is very hard for such a recognizable voice to distance itself from the shadows of its past projects. So again, vocally and even musically, “We’ve All Been There” could easily be mistaken for the third record from The Calling. That aside, “We've All Been There” is filled with decent modern AOR – catchy songs with big choruses and simplistic lyrics. “Tonight” and “What Is Love” have radio-friendly written all over them. The major problem is that by halfway through you realize why he called the record ““We've All Been There” - everything is sounding the same! Worse, the repetitive sappiness of his lyrics gets old fast. But if you are looking for a record stuffed with songs of love and inspiration that are belted out by an excellent vocalist, you’ve found your Band.
Bret Michaels “Custom Built”
Bret Michaels has seen an unexpected resurgence in his popularity these days, unfortunately due to appearances on reality TV and extensive coverage of his health problems. This has climaxed in a surprise appearance on the American Idol finale, which gave him the opportunity to remind America that he still does music. But his timely new CD is a tragedy in that it is such a wasted opportunity. People were interested in Michaels once again, but this CD is just a cash cow rushed together in a transparent attempt to capitalize on his newfound popularity. In fact, there are only four new songs – the rest are remixes, demos, a cover (Sublime’s “What I Got”), or tracks found on previous releases. Granted, not many people have heard those previous releases, but the reality is that those songs are not very good. As for the new songs, we have 2 nondescript rockers (“Riding Against The Wind” and “Lie To Me”) and 2 decent ballads. Ballads have always been a specialty for Michaels, and “Nothing To Lose” (with Miley Cyrus) and “Wasted Time” find him in fine form. “Custom Built” is stitched together like a sloppy patchwork quilt – some rock here, bit of glam, lot of country, and some other fabric salvaged from a previous worn out blanket.