Archive for the ‘Classic Review’ Category

One again, I am posting an updated review on a release I wrote about a few years ago. This review is on The Life you Always Wanted, an album from The Bittersweets. Back in 2008, the original article I wrote had double purpose: One purpose was to give some exposure to the band’s new release; the other purpose was to give exposure to the band’s then-upcoming performance in the Cleveland area. Today, I have expanded the original review to cover the entire album. Here is the 2012 version of the review on The Bittersweet’s album, The Life You Always Wanted.

ImageSinger/Songwriter Chris Meyers never really liked country music until he discovered a love for it while attending college in rural Ohio. While in college, Chris set up a national tour out of his dorm room.
After college, Chris moved to California and met up with singer-songwriter Hannah Prater, a jazz vocalist who toured Europe. The two hit it off and started performing together in a duo that was a country based duo and soon released a self-released EP in 2005 under the moniker of The Bittersweets. With the release of the EP, they started gaining attention in the Bay Area.
With the new found popularity the band was getting, the time was right to expand from just a duo to a full-fledged band. Along with Chris and Hannah on vocals and guitars, the group soon included bassist Daniel Schacht and multi-instrumentalist Jerry Becker.
With the group getting their name out there in the Bay area, they ended up getting an ex-drummer for a couple well-known bands interested in them. A certain Steve Bowman from Third Eye Blind and Counting Crows became the last piece to the puzzle to fill out the band.
When the band was finally put together, Chris, Hannah and the rest started opening for big name acts like Rosanne Cash and Train even before they had an album out to help promote themselves. Soon afterward, they went about putting together The Life You Always Wanted, their first album that they recorded for Virt Records.

The Life You Always Wanted from The Bittersweets begins with the song “When the World Ends”. The slow, steady beat of Steve Bowman’s drums starts the song off. It is Hannah Prater who handles the vocal for this track and the power in her voice really gives the song a lot of feeling. When the entire band gets together, the resulting folk-rock song that is produced gives only the slight indication of what The Bittersweets are capable of.

On the song “Bag of Bones,” Prater and Chris Meyers create a duet-like vocal to a song that sounds like it would have been produced in Nashville and NOT California. The commercial quality of the song would sound as much at home on country stations as it would on Top 40 stations. Once again, it is Prater’s vocals that help make the song as her beautiful, clear voice brings home the true meaning of the lyrics of the song.

Long Day” is the first song on The Life You Always Wanted that feels like a hit single. The song features a rock vibe but it’s the mandolin from Jerry Becker that really gives the track some depth. And with the melodica that Becker also adds to the song along with the cello from David Henry (the same person who helped mix the album), “Long Day” is the song that seems to stick out on the album because of its beauty.

While Hannah Prater handles most of the lead vocals on the release, there are times when composer Chris Meyers takes a turn on vocals. One particular song that features Meyers is the track “Houston”. The driving beat of the song gives the track a bouncy, happy quality that will put a smile on the face of anyone who listens. “Houston” is another song The Life You Always Wanted that has the most mass appeal and it’s that mass appeal that makes the song feel very much like a single.

“Mostly Happy People” begins with Hannah Prater singing the lyrics over a music bed of organ and drum loops, but the sound slowly fills in when the rest of the band help create a track that has a slow, steady beat. Eventually, Chris Meyers joins Prater and they once again create a duet-like track. While the title of the song seems to suggest a somewhat upbeat take on life, the lyrics to the song tell a different story.

Meyers and Prater once again come together on the track “Shooting out the Sky”. The pop-rock track finds the entire band creating a strong track with everyone in the group creating some passionate music.

The Life You Always Wanted by The Bittersweets not only shows off singer/songwriter Chris Meyers as the talented composer that he is, it also showcases Hannah Prater and everyone else that help make up the band for this release; the resulting tracks that make up the release end up being full-bodied and fun to listen to.

Click HERE to see a live performance of “Long Day” by Hannah Prater and Chris Meyers.

This is an updated version of an article I wrote back in 2007. This is the version of the review I would have written had I had the opportunity to go deeper into the review. However, with only about 500 words, I was restricted to the amount of words I could write to describe Mark and the album. The album of 2012 from Mark Dwane is very apropos for this year. The album has not lost any of its appeal since the time of its release and it needs to be heard. Check it out.

Much like Jim Brickman, who is known for his New Age instrumental music, Clevelander Mark Dwane is also an instrumental musician. However, Mark Dwane falls into the category of Electronic Music; a form that gives the listener a feeling of floating through the clouds while listening to the music.
To help describe Mark Dwane’s sound, I will let him describe his sound in his own words. This is an excerpt from the interview Mark had in May, 1996 with Margen Magazine, a publication from Spain:
“As a child, I was always interested in music, which was mostly classical. I began lessons on the guitar at age 10 and progressed through a formal education on the instrument. I began composing my own songs very early on, and made my first recording at age 12…..
“Classical music always remained a heavy influence, as well as film scores and experimentalists such as Stockhausen, Reich and the emerging electronic composers.”
Aside from being interviewed in Margen Magazine from Spain, Mark Dwane has also been interviewed in the U.K. magazine Sequences in August of 1996. You can read both interviews in full by clicking on the “interviews” icon on the homepage of Dwane’s website.
With the classical and film score influences running throughout Mark Dwane’s music, it shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise that Mark also makes a salary writing music for the entertainment industry. On his website, you can find a section devoted to the production music that he has written over the years. Production Music is that type of music that is used in the back of commercials and on television shows to add atmosphere. Some of the clients that use Mark’s Production Music include: Fox Sports, Univision, Comcast Sports, the Playboy Channel, and many others.
Mark’s Production Music is for “commercial use only” and is not available to the public. However, Mark has also been writing and recording his own albums for more than 15 years. His library includes 9 albums and an album of alternate mixes and unreleased tracks. The newest album in the library is 2007’s 2012.
2012 was recorded by Mark Dwane in his own Trondant Studios, in Westlake. Each song was composed by Dwane using his MIDI guitar (a guitar that transforms vibrations into electronic sounds by way of a computer) and many other guitars to create the finished product. While some of Dwane’s other albums could be described as “background music for epic sci-fi movies”, and other as “concept albums”, 2012 has some of both styles in its sound.

The album begins with the title track of “2012”. Like the song title suggests, the music of the track begins with Mark Dwane creating a song that has a very ethereal feel, which is helped along by the inclusion of the harp and the sound of the gong that adds to the orchestral feel of the music. The title track of the release is the best way of sliding into an album full of ethereal concepts.

2012 continues with the track “Skywatchers”. “Skywatchers” features some of Mark Dwane’s best guitar work as he creates a song that has multiple layers and seamlessly blends New Age and Jazz together. To go along with the New Age and Jazz flavors that are courtesy of the keyboard programming from Dwane, the track also includes some electric guitar. The inclusion of the electric guitar to the track adds a bit of Rock and Roll flavor to the track. That electric guitar and the drums that appear on the track give the song a slight feeling of music that came from the eighties. This blending of all of the different genres of music in one track makes for one of the best moments on the 2012 album.

With the track “The End of Time,” Dwane uses the music created by his midi guitars to add a lot of atmosphere to the back ground of the track. That atmospheric feeling helps to create a song that features music that seems to suggest a very ominous occurrence. It contains some of the eeriest and most intense music on the entire album. It also comes across as music that could have been in the background of some type of Sci-fi adventure movie as the audience waits for something big to take place.

The 2012 album concludes with perhaps the most beautiful of all of the tracks, the song entitled “Ascension”. “Ascension” contains the feeling of being taken up into the clouds. This track will definitely leave you with two feelings at one time: one feeling that suggests some sadness and one feeling that suggests beauty. All of that comes from the guitar work of Mark Dwane whose music on this song is a combination of New Age and Instrumental Rock. While all of Mark Dwane’s songs are created one musical part at a time being assembled as he records, “Ascension” is one track that actually feels as if the track had been created by an entire band and not simply one man and a midi guitar. The final track of the release makes for a great way to wrap up this album that features a lot of beauty and complexity.

With the album 2012, Mark Dwane created a release that is full of imagery that will capture your imagination. If you like New Age or Soft Jazz, or if you are a fan of background music from movies, give Mark Dwane and his release 2012 a listen and find out what the rest of the world already knows: Mark Dwane is a very talented musician and composer. Visit Mark at his website.