Thursday, 13 November 2008

The Album - Chenson's review

The 11th of November 2008, the album is born. There should be some sort of national holiday put in place like Christmas to commemorate this glorious day. I'm just kidding but for us David Archuleta fans, especially those who have been there since Day #1, its the realization of the dream. The dream to finally hear an album of original music from the protege himself and the dream for David to hit the mainstream music market with his first album. Overall, all things considered, I'm very pleased with the album. Its actually turned out better than I truly expected it would. One of the flaws with the American Idol system is its desire to 'strike while the irons hot' but what you essentially end up with is a generic pick and mix bag of whatever songs were available at that particular point in time thus leading to stylistic disconnects, haphazard production and often very poor songs. There is no real meticulous artistry in any post-Idol album. We didn't really find out who Kelly Clarkson was until her second album. The whole thing is a stark reminder of the corporate production line that it all falls under eventually and David is no escaper of the problems with trying to make it post American Idol. However, I do think much to my pleasant surprise, they are a very good set of songs.

I genuinely like every song on the album. There are not a whole lot of albums that I can honestly say that about, but why do I like them? The more I take it all in the more I realise that its because of David that im enjoying it so much. David has always had this amazing ability to make me like any song he sings, often completely reversing my opinion of a particular song completely. What a testament to his talent that is and it begs the question - Will I ever dislike anything he sings? The song would have to be terrible. My point is, David has the ability to make something out of song that wasn't even there on creation, to add something new and different - 'Barriers' probably being the best example of this. Everyone has heard 'Imagine' before a billion times but why does his version have so much impact? Its that new dimension he brings. The emotion in the singing in the bridge of Barriers is one of the highlights of the whole album, it really is terrific. Having said all this, the highlights of the album are in the less conventional and generic tracks, the tracks the feel like they are different place to the rest of the album. 'Desperate' is one of the finest recorded vocal performances ive heard in a a very, very long time and is the strongest song on the standard album (Desmond Child wrote this one - no surprises as to why its good then). This song was originally recorded by German rockers 'Stanfour' and I listened to that track a fair amount of times since the discovery of this track but now, I simply cannot ever go back to that version, ever. I do think that Stanfour's arrangement and production is more organic and in keeping with the tone of the song and it is ultimately the same song but its David that makes it so special. That sense of Desperation combined with one of the finest vocal climaxes I can recall at the songs conclusion, David makes this song more than Desmond Child, Stanfour and anyone else ever dreamed it could be, even if it does have a slightly incongruous accompaniment. Truly epic and the gem to be treasured from this album. For such a kind and calm person, intensity is something David excels at. Other highlights include the super cool and original 'Your Eyes Don't Lie' and the stripped back melodic 'You Can' and 'To Be With You' and finally the fantastically constructed pop tune 'A Little to Not over You' which gets my vote for the next single even though I know its not going to be. Tracks such as 'My Hands' and the similarly named 'Touch My Hand' definitely sound like winners for the live stage and with a tour coming up next year, we shall finally be able to hear all this where its supposed to be - the live stage. The album is a cut above anything else of a similar generic placement in todays music and by quite some distance too. Jive seem to think teens and parents are the primary demographic here but heck, Davids primary demographic seems to be girl teens, boy teens, parents, young adults, old adults, musicians, grandma's, grandpa's, aunty's, uncles, dogs and maybe even cats as well. Music is music and great music transcends age. David transcends age.

The flaws of the album are flaws I was expecting. No surprises here. My main issue with the album is the production. Why surround a rare organic voice with synthesized sounds and awful synthesized drum beats? Davids voice has always been at its best when supported by simple and subtle arrangements with organic instruments, often acoustic. I think its no coincidence I much prefer Crush with a normal band he is touring the TV shows with than a synth drum backing. No matter what song David is singing, Davids voice needs to be prominent but I sense it is just being surrounded at times by a wall of sound, much like you would hear in a lot of current top 40 radio artists. The tracks that expose Davids tone the best are the tracks with the simple arrangements (You Can and To Be With You) and allow his voice to soar and his tone to fill our ears. This was an issue I expected to be greater than it actually is however the nice variety and the fact there are some tracks where we get to hear David properly is comforting and refreshing. In an attempt by the label to make it appealing to the younger generation, they have sacrificed some of Davids quality at times but again, I can't say I wasnt expecting this.

The stock album with its good set of songs combined with 'Angels' and the hit 'Crush' combined with Davids exceptional vocal ability is an album I will be enjoying for some time but make no mistake, it is David that makes this album what it is. As much as I shall be listening to it, it is still a victim of corporate intervention and we only get to see glimpses of Davids artistry despite the songs all being amiable enough (The real artistry is in the bonus tracks which I shall post a separate review for). With a successful first album under his belt, im hoping David will be given the space to make the next album his own. Ive said it before, if David gets the space to write his own songs, craft it in the way he wants it without major label intervention, its the second album that is the one to watch.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I would love to hear your song by song review of all the tracks in his album. I love David's interpretation but sometimes I really don't know exactly why. Educate me.