Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Review: Richard X. Heyman “Tiers – And Other Stories”

The one and only Richard X. Heyman is back with “Tiers – And Other Stories”, an ambitious 31 song, 2CD set. He last impressed us with “Actual Sighs” not long ago (review here). Richard X. Heyman is a veteran singer/songwriter that pretty much does everything himself, making many a musician envious that so much diverse talent can be bundled into just one man. Sounding like a cross between Elvis Costello and Tom Petty, Heyman’s vocal styling is a perfect fit for his intelligent pop rock for adults.

Heyman emphasizes that these 2CDs are not necessarily related – while “Tiers” is more like a concept album and love letter to his wife Nancy Leigh, “And Other Stories” recounts topics that he and Nancy have lived through in more recent times - ranging from 9/11 to animal rescue to losing friends and loved ones. The epic saga begins on a surprisingly downbeat note with “Hot On The Trial of Innocence” – Heyman is easing us into this long musical journey with a beautiful and reflective piece. His trademark piano quickly brightens the room with the appropriately titled, “Golden In This Town” – classic Heyman. Many of the other songs veer from the jubilant pop his fans expect, venturing into more esoteric and experimental territory. That would be fine if only the roads led us somewhere interesting, like in the moving ballad “Everyone’s Moving In The Wrong Direction”. But with exception of “One Thing I Still Have” and “The Empire Lights”, the delectable melodies that I’ve come to expect from Heyman just aren’t there.

With some notable exceptions, the second disc contains songs even less memorable. “Branded In The Sky” is probably my favorite upbeat song of the new 31 tunes. The gorgeous “Beyond The Setting Sun” is the best ballad in the batch, with one of the sharpest hooks on the release. “When Willy Played Guitar” is a touching and celebratory tribute to Willy Kirchofer, a bandmate from Heyman’s days in The Doughboys who passed away in 2005. “The Finish Line” is an aptly titled highlight toward the end of this opus, as Heyman sings, “I’m heading toward the finish line”. At this point, after 120 minutes of Heyman, some listeners are going to be grateful for that (yet he still cranks out 3 more tunes before finally calling it a day!).

When seated in front of a buffet this decadent and large, it is easy to become overstuffed quickly. There is a great album spread out amongst these two discs, but the more casual fan is likely to grow impatient with the main course being interrupted by lesser courses. Sometimes less is more. “Tiers – And Other Stories” arrives April 19, 2011. Check it out if you like Bob Dylan, George Harrison, or Elvis Costello.

Disc 1 (Tiers): 1, 2, 10, 13, 14
Disc 2 (And Other Stories): 4, 8, 9, 13, 14

Richard X. Heyman - Official site.

Listen to “Branded In The Sky”