Good Advice, Bad Advice
[Cello Rock Records; 03/23/2009]
Oak and Gorski -- Good Advice, Bad Advice
I’ve been a huge fan of Ken Oak since I first heard End Credits in the earlier half of this decade. After seeing the Ken Oak Band a couple summers back in Anaheim, my appreciation for their sound and style only grew. The combination of Oak’s vocals & cello combined with Gorski’s acoustic guitar and back up vocals yielded a unique soothing sound that still remained catchy and engrossing. So now that the two musicians have re-branded themselves as Oak & Gorski how does their first major release in 3 yrs, entitled ‘Good Advice, Bad Advice’, hold up?
Let’s find out!
Little Miss Blue – This song serves as an almost gentle introduction to O&G’s change of style on this album. It contains some elements of their previous ‘cello rock’ mixed in with a bit of folksy/western flair. The stock sounding drums kind of distract me for some reason. I do like the tone of this track but not the overall sound. The bridge has a weird vocal filter that makes it seem out of place. It’s not exactly the best start to an album for me, maybe because the style change caught me so off guard.
Pretty Far Gone – Once again the song takes a folk/country type of vibe. It’s kind of like one of those songs you sing when you’re drunk… which is fitting considering the lyrics. I can’t say I like the song but the melody is defiantly catchy. The chorus is almost infectious in an unexpected way. The drums continue to be a distraction but don’t seem quite as out of place as they did in the last song. After a couple of listens I’ve developed a mild appreciation for this song… mild being the key word here.
Turn of Events – There is something about this track that makes it sound like it belongs on a 90′s teenage romantic comedy soundtrack. I think this song fits the group a little bit better than the first two on the album. It draws in more stylistic similarities to their previous work and ends up being a pretty decent track, if not sounding a bit dated as well. The string instrumentation & solo is a welcome addition and makes me wish they highlighted it a bit more as they have done in the past.
Sit With Me - Unfortunately, no matter how many times I listen to this I just can’t get into it. It’s got this weird semi-trippy, sit around the camp fire and sip whisky kind of feel. Yea, bizarre but I dunno how else to explain it. It’s a very sedated song with interesting instrumentation and heavily layered vocals. I do like the use of cellos though, and the instrumental break down in the middle is actually refreshing albeit way too short.
When The Evening Comes - I’m not completely sure why, but the vibe & sound of the intro of this song reminds me of the theme from the film ‘Chariots of Fire’. Random reference aside, I thought this was a pretty decent song. The instrumentation is simple and soothing and the melody is calmly engrossing. This style is what was prevalent in their other albums but missing in this one. It has a haunting nostalgic feel, but in a good way.
Messing Around - The hybrid folk western feel returns with this song, only its done a little bit better. Or maybe I’m just getting used to it. Either way I felt the instrumentation more on this track than their other western influenced numbers. Plus I really liked the use of what I can only guess is a xylophone at the end. I wouldn’t say this is a great song, but a pretty good one.
Suffocate Me - The cheesy drum machine percussion is back in full effect here, but it oddly sounds fitting for some reason. The cello gets heavy play on this song and it sounds great combined with the organ sounds. In terms of style, this song isn’t a whole lot different from some of the earlier tracks in this album but it’s executed much better somehow. One of the stronger songs.
Steady Heart - With a very acoustic rock type of sound this song brings a mild edge to what is an otherwise super gentle album. I’m not completely convinced Ken Oak’s vocals were the best fit for the short spurts of heavy instrumentation in the chorus but overall the song has a cool vibe. It almost makes you want to rock out at times.
One Last Thought - For once their use of percussion and drum programming is interesting in a good way. It still screams 80′s synthpop drums but its varied enough to offer some variety. The use of female backup adds a great layer to the song but overall I would only say this one was decent.
Age Old Refrain - Once again, simplicity brings out the best from this group. By slowing everything down and letting the instruments breathe a little, O&G creates a beautiful atmosphere with a touch of old european influence. It brings back a similar experience from their previous work and this style really seems to be their strong point. Probably the strongest song on the album.
Libretto – This is a very beautiful, instrumental-only track. Almost a shame considering how pretty it is but it closes the album out on a peaceful note.
Conclusion: It almost pains me to say this, but I didn’t enjoy this album nearly as much as I did their previous two (Symposium & Vienna to Venice). Their style change really threw me for a loop and I sorely missed their previous tone and sound. It may be a reason why I put off reviewing this one as I kept hoping it would grow on me. Now this may also mean I’m biased as I admit I’m a bit unfamiliar with their new genre but as a Ken Oak Band fan I can honestly say I’m not too crazy about the new direction. The album does have a few enjoyable songs in there, but the first half in particular is something I could never fully develop an appreciation for. And I really wonder why they chose to use the percussion sounds that they did. However I do have to praise their instrumental solos and breakdowns, they were almost unanimously very well done. Regardless, if you’re a fan of the country/western/folk/soft rock genre then you may want to give it a listen. If you’re a fan of the group, just know up front you may be disappointed. Everyone else… I hate to say this but you may want to skip this one.
Must Listen: When the Evening Comes; Age Old Refrain