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Friday, February 1, 2013

Maggi, Pierce & E.J. - Black* Gold~

Name:  Maggi, Pierce And E.J.
Album(s): Black*, Gold~
Years: 1997*, 2004~
Style:  Eclectic Folk-Rock* Country in a variety of forms~
Similar Bands:  Indigo Girls, Ben Folds Five, Blind Melon* Jayhawks, Victoria Williams~
"One-Word" Review:  Patchouli-pop*~
Based Out Of:  Philadelphia, PA
Label: Self-Released
*Black Album: Cover, CD & Back
*Black Album: Lyrics, Inner CD Tray
~Gold: Cover, Back & CD
 ~Gold: Liner Notes & Inner CD Tray
Black (1997)
  1. Sweeter 3:57
  2. Caliphornia 2:45
  3. (Not Really) 1:01
  4. Happy 4:22
  5. Smyle 5:24
  6. Nashville 3:12
  7. Scared of a Word 3:17
  8. Roadkill (Texas) 4:48
  9. I Can See You 4:13
  10. 10 1:34
  11. Mine 3:16
  12. Clones in a  New Town 1:11
  13. Slip 4:21
  14. hidden track Happy remix: 3:43 
Gold (2004)
  1. Flame 3:00
  2. Back 4:32
  3. Jaded 3:23
  4. Mr. Moon 5:01
  5. Coffee Song 2:20
  6. Visit Me 4:44
  7. Fate Train 5:10/
  8. Memphis 4:23
  9. In Your Hand 4:25
  10. Kiss Me 2:15
  11. Dear Grandfather 3:25
  12. Dagger 5:03
  13. Porch 3:33
  14. Track 14 Porch Reprise 2:35
Album Rating (1-10):  *6.0

Members & Other Bands:  
Andy Kravitz – Drums, Percussion, Producer, Engineer, Mix, Mastered*
Maggi – Vox, Guitar,  Drums, Kazoo, Producer, Layout*~ Conga, Sandpaper, Co-Engineer~
Pierce – Vox, Guitar, Piano, Bass, Kazoo, Drums, Producer, Layout*~Tambourine, Harmonica, Wood Saw, Engineer~
E.J. – Vox, Bass, Piano, Organ,  Drums, Mandolin, Kazoo, Producer, Layout*~ Wurlitzer, Hammer&Nail, Co-Engineer~
Gret Gentile – Oboe*~Vox~
Raymond – Steamer*
Sean Tyson – Turntables
J.R. Ricciardi – Drill, Asst. Engineer*
John Mettam – Drums, Comga*
Eric Bazillian – Piano (Evil Seed, Baby Grand, Hooters, Joan Osborne)
Adam Glickman – Engineered, Mixed*
Rev. Geoffrey S. Simpson – Photograph*Vox~
Owl – Layout*
Maria Billbrough – Layout*
Ben Wisch – Mix~
Andrew Mendelson – Mastering ~
Ken Smeltz – Trumpet~
Tuba Dan – Tuba, Accordion, Vox~
Gene - Sax (The Skanatras)~
Stephanie Winters – Cello~ (The Nudes, Richie Havens)
Ry Ry – Telephone, Vox~
Jordoni – Percussion, Vox~
Pokie – Vox~
Simon Maurer – Violin~ (Gabriel Chamber Ensemble)
Jordan – Broom, Camera~
MaryLee – Vox~
Sue – Vox~
Stephen The Saw Guy Christoff – Singing Saw~
Ekendra Dasa – Harmonium~
Gabriel Deadwyler – Tabla~
Dave Johnson- Engineer~
John Baldwin – Asst~
Isaac Robbins – CD Design~

Unknownness:  I picked up the Gold album awhile long time ago, but I do not remember why. A few years later, I picked up another one, but only because of name recognition of the first album, which I do not know why I purchased. I like the uniform idea of the same layout, but different colors for their albums, especially since they are 7 years apart. That is commitment to a form. It looks like it will be folksy, with a twist on eccentric sounds and an overall dorky approach. There is most likely an element of fun & silliness that I can appreciate, and not take too seriously, even if there are many small but diverse bits to these songs that make up the albums.

Album Review:
*“Sweeter” has a bit of a heavy electric guitar and prog repetitive feel to the song, with a bit of a folksy Breeders feel vocally.
“Caliphornia” Sounds a little Ben Folds Five-y. Lots of harmonies and sweet lush smooth melodies backed with a bouncy piano.
“(Not Really)” is a short acoustic folky female sung & strummed song-thought, not fleshed out into a full song.
“Happy” is more electronic with a drum machine loop. The vocals are a bit rushed to match the driving drum loop. The electric guitar parades boldly throughout the song, while the acoustic guitar grounds the song in its folky roots. The message of the song is emphasized by the music which is rushed, but there is an underlying anxious anger trying to get out of the situation/relationship that is making the singer not very happy.
“Smyle” starts with a very hippy, jammy, rocking (physically rocking back and forth, not rock music) folk melody. Part Indigo Girls and joined with a little Sarah Mclachlan, and a tenor harmonic chorus. The song becomes meandering a little in the psychedelic repetitive circle in the middle breakdown. Just reminds me stereotypically of Lilith Fair.
“Nashville” is a rocking song, with some crooning electric guitars and a general “90’s alternative” feel. Overlaid with delicate female vocals that grow stronger as it approaches the chorus, the song treads on Ani Difranco territory in sound. Halfway through the tempo and style changes to a rushed electro-country feel. It quickly reverts back to an electric guitar twittering song layered with a bouncy then romantic piano at its core.
“Scared of a Word” sounds like a lyrically silly They Might Be Giants demo covered by Ben Folds with the jubilee of bouncing piano, ending in off key notes. The campy sound of the song is benefitted by harmonized chorus of all three voices together. The instrumental is a quick lesson in electric power pop, which just oozes hooks. The end of the song spins chaotically out of control with vocals and effects sprouting out in all directions like fireworks until the very ending brings it back together with a hushed finish.

“Roadkill (Texas)” starts slowly, like a ballad with just acoustic guitar chords strumming along. The delicate female vocals return, painting a precious picture of a folky dry field of wildflowers. With a minute to go, the quiet song build up instrumental steam and crashes through the song, like a strong wind through the metaphoric field. The song quietly concludes back to where it began, the wind dying down.
“I Can See You” is a countrified harmonic power pop song with a countdown bass hook to accent every phrase.
“10” is a folk-pop-punk song. It goes across fast and catchy, but the production is so stripped down from the acoustic guitar. But it is a fun counting, rollicking song, including bouncy piano in the background a couple of times.
“Mine” feels like a psychedelic pop song. It has an off/three-step marching cadence, and the harmonies are slightly askew, like when songs are double tracked with a slight deviation in timing to give a song depth.  The song ends with a bit of a classical, or renaissance feel.
“Clones in a New Town” is a disjointed start stop fun song that just flows as if it has always been there. It sounds so simple in production that you cannot think how the melody could have been any different. There are a couple of odd breaks, and the song is way to short, and should have really been fleshed out more to be a great single
“Slip” is metal from a folksy stand point. The loud & heavy electric guitars give way to a shoegazing female heavy harmonized chorus. This is a bold combination of two or three popular song styles from the 90’s. And it shows. There is one lyric that reminds me of a song that’s killing me because I can’t put my finger on it…”What are you thinking of” sung softly a couple of times before it crashes back into the song is about the lyric I’m thinking (Air Supply: “All Out Of Love”). This song then grabs the classic rock guitar reigns and rides it for a while before ending with an abrupt cut off.
“hidden track” Happy remix begins quickly, and is a fastish pace, sorta dance remix version of the previous song “Happy.”

~“Flame” reminds me of a light and fluttery Frente song without the hugely dynamic and cutesy voice Angie Hart possesses. It kinda reminds me of the Three’s Company theme.  This song could be sung elegantly as chamber music in an old Victorian house, or a bubbly yet reserved soloist in a smoky nightclub. It also has the pleasant guitar strumming sound of Frente, but adds a trumpet to the mix. It is a nice calm song with a quiet tick-tock rhythm and a polite fade out.
“Back” features a down scale melody bolstered by a harmonica, and fey male vocals that are as smooth as they are content. The song has an alt-country feel, based on the harmonies and the harmonica. The chorus is bold and energetic, like later period Ben Folds, but it feels like it is missing creativity, replacing it with polish and a generic production.
“Jaded” is a retro bootleggers flapper of a song, with all the mystery and speakeasy romance that you could imagine in a nightclub of the 30’s. The vocals are again smooth male, with a scatting Louie Armstrong type in the background. Layered underneath is a female chorus further adding to the mystique of the song.
“Mr. Moon” is a jazzy pop song, smooth, yet feels like it is missing passion. There is record scratching in the background that actually adds to the 90’s theme (even if it was recorded in 2003) of blending genres like jazz fusion and DJ scratching. The raspy male vocals that underline the song and become more focal at the end remind me of Tricky.
“Coffee Song” is another jazzy beatnick tune with a heavy bass beat, shakers, and jazzy sax. The playful and eccentric vocals play off each other very well, and the end result offers is a smooth coffeehouse open mic vibe. It is complete with a stereotypical jazzy slide of an ending.
“Visit Me” is a quiet, light yet moody wishful song. It is a daydream of longing, produced very minimally with acoustic guitar and a little mandolin. The emotion takes off a little in the chorus, with a harmonized section accenting one or two phrases. A violin is added, bringing more longing and sadness with its pity cry.

“Fate Train” starts the authentic honky-tonk country music section. The happy go lucky hick accented male lead with the sharp-yet-whiny female accompaniment stereotypically craft a knee-slappin’ square dance ball. The momentum, as described by the title is driving and chugs along like a train. The middle of the song is an identity meltdown, where the straightforward country gives way to electric wha-wha guitars, and the song seems to fall apart. But it is picked up with a clicking, repetitive train influenced rhythmic beat, and gospel background. The song starts over with the chorus, and kicks back into steam powered locomotion and powers through to the wobbly end.
“Memphis” fades up with a finger plucking, train engine start, as if it is still in transition from the previous song. Then it slows down to an upbeat version of Ween’s country song “Fluffy.”  It feels like a dopey song, that borrows from a lot of other country music songs.
“In Your Hand” goes back to the classic and simple folksy, hippy new age style better represented by the opening track. Mystical and organic, and feels like an early renaissance inspired folk song.
”Kiss Me” dances around with acoustic guitar and perhaps mandolin in the background. It follows the light and ethereal folk feel. It’s entirely stripped down to the place that it feels like they have recorded a track of empty space to act as an instrument, perhaps with a little wind. It is a very sleepy song.
“Dear Grandfather” is an honest, organic and matter of fact tribute to a grandfather that has passed away. The male vocals sing a melody of positive reflection and memories that are all grand yet simple and meaningful. It has the catchiest melody of the album, and is such a refreshing song that it captures the perfect amount of respectful gratitude in mourning. It is a proud, happy sounding song, that played for the right people would create waterfalls of tears if you imbed yourself in the story and memories.
“Dagger” is yet another quiet, stripped down folksy song, this time, set in the glow of early morning waking up. Quiet and simple congas are in the background, and the half-asleep vocals glide across the melody as uneasy as the first morning steps. The hippie circle jam picks up with it’s crazy arm flapping and mud-dance spinning around as the beat and rhythm intensify and get more psychedelic. Then the song goes back to relaxing and comes down from the brief high in mirroring the sleepy & quiet start
“Porch” is more of a country story song that feels like it was sung down in the swampy, permanently sticky summer south. It is still sparse musically, but the melody is a bit more singer songwritery. This song specifically reminds me of the Victoria Williams Sweet Relief album.
“Track 14” possesses no title on the CD, but I’d assume it would be called Porch Reprise, as it is simply a fade in of the band continuing the melody in a jug band style, before it breaks into an acapella chorus repetition, ending with a harmonica continuing the melody, while irritating the hell out of what sounds like a dog, who kinda sings along with the harmonica Porch melody. Kinda.

Stand Out Track: *Caliphornia


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