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)

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Henry Lee Summer ~ I've Got Everything

(Click on heading to visit official website.)
Style: Americana, country-rock, folk-rock
Label: CBS
Year: 1989
Home: Indiana

Members: Henry Lee Summer ~ vocals/keyboards/guitar
Mike Organ ~ drums
Rick Benick, Jimmy Rip, Mike Wanchic ~ guitar
Leigh Foxx, Graham Maby, Toby Myers ~ bass
Mimi Mapes, Chrystal Taliefero, Georgia Jones, Kim Fleming, Vicki Hampton, Ross Fleming III ~ b. vocals

Additional: John Cascella ~ keyboards/saxophone
Flip Miller ~ trombone
Paul Yinger ~ trumpet
Lisa Germano ~ violin
Michael Read ~ keyboards
Sheila Lawrence ~ b. vocals


I consider HLS the under-dog of the Americana heartland musical genre spearheaded by John Cougar Mellencamp & later Melissa Ethridge with Bruce Springsteen doing the city version. Culling also from Indiana like Mellencamp HLS released two indie albums before hitting MTV with the infectious folksy pop hit "I Wish I Had A Girl" from his self-titled major label debut. I'll confess that this is a favorite song of mine to suddenly break out into song with & its nearly impossible to get out of my head once in there. I've even been caught dancing around the living room singing along. Though his debut had some modest success for many people it was too imitative of early Mellencamp, while in the long-term photos of HLS's mullet, now gone, has probably had more talk about it then his music. It's ashame, as the debut is a great album not to be casually overlooked by anyone who likes heartland rock. I find it hard not enjoy HLS. His music not just gets me dancing but inspires me to dig up more Americana wondering why I don't listen to it more often. He has a lighter touch lyrically than Mellencamp, focusing on love songs instead of social commentary, & isn't pushing the genre in any new directions, but HLS creates completely unpretentious music that is aiming for lots of fun & easily makes a bullseye. Sadly, his career would take a turn to awkward & overly polished hard rock with a twist of Michael Bolton in an attempt to get more chart hits & appeal to a wider audience. The result has its moments & luckily only lasted a single album. By the time HLS realized the mistake & tried to reverse gears, or at least straddle both worlds, it was too late as his fanbase was just not big enough nationally to get him over the hurdle. Today he gigs numerous nights a week around Indiana doing cover songs & originals & I can only hope enjoying a second chance at trying to pay the rent through music & being creative after a career of ups & downs. If you enjoy his debut the follow-up I've Got Everything is its twin even down to sharing five musicians. Other than adding a gusty R&B choir that gives a bit of a gospel shout it's not that much different from the previous release, staying safe musically & even spurring the minor hit "Hey Baby". Much like the debut it's low on suprises & just straight ahead heartland rock at its best with a few electric guitars & keyboards thrown in for good measure. Though, HLS does push his singing much farther here instilling an energy into the affair not present earlier albums. He even has less of the sandpaper feeling that some have criticized his voice as having. While the debut has the bigger singles this album just might be the better recommendation to hear HLS's voice at its finest. Further, there's really no weak tracks on the album. The MTV single "Hey Baby" could have easily been followed-up with a numerous other similiar sounding songs if the promotional machine had been in top gear & his popularly more, including the must hear vocal rocker "My Turn Train". The thing with HLS albums is that while there tends to only be a few singles per album they aren't that much different from what bumpers them & one could easily be exchanged for another. HLS albums are not about standout singles but just one rolling great rock'n'roll affair that just grows & grows in energy. The only real weak track might be the synthesizer & funk bass heavy 80's soft rocker "Don't Leave" that predicts where HLS was slowly moving musically. It's not bad, but HLS can do better. At least he pours his heart out through his voice pulling the song up from its blandness. To his credit, even during the later hard rock days, HLS has always penned most of his own songs & his skills as a songwriter are top notch. He very well could have written music for other artists ... or maybe, he's not just great but he sings his heart out & thus makes a simple lyric sound exciting. Opener "Treat Her Like A Lady" is the only non HLS track on the album & though it great is only a tease of what follows. HLS also is responsible for his own arrangements & this album finds him getting more comfortable in the studio. Unlike the debut where he only sang here he plays guitar & keyboards. He also turns in two piano heavy songs (i.e. "Something Is Missing, "What's A Poor Boy To Do") that provide a nice break because otherwise the energy just builds up & up over the album where its very possible one's head might explode when before the album is finished. HLS sings like he's having the time of his life & the feeling is undoubtedly infectious. Let it infect you.




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