Style: country, pop
Members: John Nicole ~ vocals/guitar/harmonica/keyboards/various sound effects
Additional: Tom Walker ~ guitar
Scott Harlan ~ bass/strings
Seth Kibel ~ sax/clarinet
Laura Baron ~ vocals
Karen Oliver ~ b. vocals
Think the solo albums of Queen's Roger Taylor but subtract his hopelessly cliche social commentary & put in its place some country twang, a dance beat & some downhome love songs & you'll get a close approximation of JN's surprisingly welcome Happy Life. Or, this very well could be a hip new Tom Jones album. A mix of ambiatic electric backgrounds, from synthetic strings to odd sounds, & a slight laid back country twang that brings one through a collection of songs of love & everyday life. Laid back being the key word. One critic has called JN "sophisticated pop" due to the dominance of a light dance beat for an intimate dancing moment (i.e. "Feel You In My Arms", "Everything Will Be Okay"). Though, that dancing moment changes through the hour into a bit of calypso (i.e. "This Is The Time"), funk ("Dig That Bone") & some spirited dixieland feeling with playful horns, cowbell & handclaps (i.e. "Do I Love You (Go Away)"). Happy Life opens on a high & then slowly melts away as the songs progress into a somber emotional reminiscence that ends the album ... but it's too late to turn back when you realize JN has pulled you from a dancing mood to a pondering one. Hypnotic jazzy ballads (i.e. "I'm Not Too Old", "Peace Of Mind", "You Are My Woman") punctuate the second half of the album bringing the evening's dance to a slow waltz. The dance floor allows itself one final pop with "Dance With Me" that includes a horn line against a disco beat sequewaying to the closing sober acoustic title track, a duet with Laura Baron, with the line "happy new year for the last time, my dear" that brings the dance to the close suddenly waking you up to the story that you were dancing to. Laid off after numerous decades serving as a marketing executive in the wake of a national economic crisis 60 year old JN decided, like many in his shoes, to make the most of his free time while looking for more work & do something that he wanted & not just what others wanted out of him. Happy Life is the catharsis. Happy Life is his first solo album, though it's title is deceptive as it was created in the shadow of losing his job & not finding another in the face of mounting debt, losing his long-time girlfriend & even having his cat die. The project started with the funky bass heavy poem-turned-song "Can't Get A Job" as a personal protest of his situation & then turned into a full length album. But, as JN sings ... "Everything will be okay." Highlights include "It Ain't All Up To You", "Feel You In My Arms" & the particularly Roger Taylor-esque "Remember". A definite must hear is "Together Forever", which opens with the line "I'm doing the laundry" & is filled with an array of odd sounds against a dark bass line in a moody song recounting doing the laundry, cleaning the house, putting away the dishes, making soup & sitting on the couch before going into a church organ chorus about being together forever in a song that needs to be heard for it's use of non-musical sounds coming together. If you're wondering ... this debut went out under JN's birth name of Schneider but due to confusion with the actor-cum-country singer of the same name of The Dukes Of Hazzard TV show he became Nicole ... the name also marking the success of his new music career with numerous releases following.