Welcome to the musical meandering insights of Aaron Joy. Here you'll find 600 reviews of CDs & DVDs of rock & metal in all its variations, mainstream & indie. What they all share is that the album or band is unique in some way & not every submission was reviewed. Please share these reviews or link to them if you like what you read. Reviews are no longer being posted here but feel free to e-mail Aaron & post comments. (Formerly the Roman Midnight Music Blog) (last update 5/23/2017)

January 6, 2012

Raymond Bally & The Renegades ~ Faker

(Click on heading to visit official website.)
Style: folk rock, experimental
Label: self-released
Year: 2011
Home: New Jersey

Members: Raymond Bally ~ guitars/vocals/keyboards
Dennis Young ~ guitars/b. vocals/marimba/percussion
70 ~ bass/guitar/drums
Andrew Platt ~ drums
Bern Nix ~ guitar
Raymond Bally III ~ bass

This reviews blog now enters its third year which means I've had the chance to review a handful of bands more than once as they've created successive albums. It's been enjoyable to hear bands change & develop & an honor to be kept in the loop of their ongoing output. Singer-songwriter-guitarist RB stands out in the group as he was the first artist to submit an album to me after I decided to open my blog up beyond my own collection, further he's also been interviewed by me for my other media outlets. But, talking about how RB has changed & developed between releasing Nature Of Love & his newest album Faker isn't exactly the right approach. Nature Of Love started as a collection of modest acoustic tunes, previously described by me as having a "folksy but gritty" & an "ambiatic" feeling, that were given an array of overdubs by the unrelated Hans Bally of Sweden lifting them to new levels & helping usher RB's return to the music scene. A few friends were also brought in to accentuate a handful of songs. Those additional musicians, with the addition of a guitarist & drummer & sans Hans Bally, have since been dubbed the Renegades. The line-up no longer just accentuates the RB/Hans Bally songs but contribute fully weaving their ideas into RB's compositions from the beginning making this the group effort that Nature Of Love wasn't. Thus, it's hard to look at RB's two albums in terms of growth & change. Growth perhaps in terms of going from a modest self-conscious return to music after years away to a jump in personal confidence to create a second album. Confidence is a better word to pair up with growth not just because they describe RB's music career of the last few years but also the music itself. For those expecting the songs of longing & love in the vein of Nature Of Love ... well, there are love songs here (i.e. "Hear Me God", "Mystery Play", "Good Night Boys") but now they stand alongside songs of personal discovery or maybe questioning, (i.e. "Heroes & Fools", "Faker") & loss (i.e. "Can't Blame It All On You", "Vampire Song", "Bitter Love", "Dead Soldier" & the instrumental "Good Bye James") with a stunning perspective of a full life now put into perspective beyond a single emotion. Perhaps the real faker is the man who only sings love songs? "Dead Soldier" is a particular lyrical highlight calling out simply to a fallen brother in anything but a single emotion with its simplicity as it dances from one emotion to the next haunting, though ironically the music is not depressing giving the song a strange sobriety in the contrast. Actually, Faker is not the moody jaunt that might be expected whatever the song. The lyrics belay the mood while the music is more an unemotional canvas that takes the colors & mixes them rhythmically together. The music has a tendency to wander almost non-melodically with dueling guitars filling every space, sounding like they're playing atonally or in unusual keys, not exactly playing solos but just lines around RB's talking/singing vocal style. In the background a strummed electric rhythm stays low in the mix helping lay the foundation with the rhythm section for the guitars to trickle around it. It's more akin vocally & musically akin to some of Lou Reed's 80's work, such as parts of Magic & Loss, sans the jagged angry rhythms or earlier Robert Quine soaring solos or the little 50's-inspired backbeat. Though, like the late Quine the solos on Faker are not your obvious melodic rushes but ramble in a loose experimental way that is about sounds over riffs. A further comparison musically might be Frank Zappa & Captain Beefheart's bands but without the quirckiness. The strongest songs & tightest musicially are those where the lyrics are short & sparse & more time is given to the music (i.e. "Vampire Song", "Heros & Fools" "Bitter Love" "Mystery Play"). The essential problem musically is that for many of the songs there's a rhythm with a soloing guitar or two on top of it not accentuating the melody but either working against or around it seemingly without direction except in terms of winding around the lyrics. It draws the ear in different directions & pulling away from the cohesiveness of the songs, particularly with the bass so low in the mix where its important role as the bridge between the parts is nullified. But, this is one of those albums that may at first sound jarring but on repeated listens one gets into the lyrics, the real highlight, & it becomes obvious that the inner workings of RB isn't about presenting what you know or expect. "Mystery Play" is the most interesting track where RB actually does his best singing in a deeper softer voice. Also of note the album is the first I've received blatantly citing recycled paper with the brown recycled digipack & rough print being a nice improvement over the modest packaging of Nature Of Love.

(featured on the Roman Midnight Music CD Reviews & Interviews podcast: episode 14 "Interview: Raymond Bally," March 2011, click here to listen)

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