Andy Michaels – Revisited – Album Review
I tell ya…there’s no label out there that scares me more than the idea of something being called ‘adult contemporary’ – even if that’s what it truly is. I suppose that could just be me resisting the idea of growing-up, even as I’m approaching the 38-year mark at the end of this month. I think it’s about as INTENSE of a label for music that anyone can put on their stuff though when it comes right down to it – almost everyone I’ve met either makes a face or has SOME sort of reaction to the idea of what ‘adult contemporary’ might mean to them. Far too often – AC can equate to boring. Thankfully, this isn’t.
The term Adult Contemporary can also be a much slicker way of saying ‘singer/songwriter/band with the maturity required to write a song that isn’t going to fall apart over the course of three minutes or more, and has been around long enough to know what it is they want out of their sound at this point in their music,’ which as you can tell, doesn’t quite have the same ring to it. That definition’s not far off though!
While there’s an undeniably gentle, tender and melodic approach to Andy Michael’s style of Adult Contemporary music – there’s also no doubt at all about how well these tunes have been performed and put together. Like I was saying in my version of the definition…there’s a maturity here in the songwriting that gives each song its own personality, pull and captivating sound…and Andy really makes you WANT to keep listening to this record for its crystal clear production and stunning ideas. He’s is absolutely sounding golden on his own, which is the case for about half of his new album Revisited – the other half, he’s made a brilliant choice by selecting some absolutely incredible vocals from singers Kerrie Ironside and Sharon Court. Talent, interest and enthusiasm count for a TON when it comes to making music – they’re the kind of genuine qualities that attract the same in others and inspire them just as much; you can tell by the amazing caliber of artists that Andy is working with on Revisited that he’s surrounded by just as much talent as he has himself. Like minded hearts & minds always find each other and that certainly sounds like it’s the case on this new album from Andy Michaels – this sounds spectacular, sincere, honest and real.
For an album considered to be Adult Contemporary – I’m actually very excited about this! Every thought, emotion, feeling and sound is so beautifully expressed on Revisited…I think I’d be seriously shocked if people didn’t hear this record the same way I did. Pretty hard to fault something when every moment essentially comes out with an audible perfection and incredible balance, features amazing vocals and stunning music to go with it…and there are no faults to be had here…Andy Michaels has nailed Revisited and threaded real magic into the thirteen tracks you’ll find on his brand-new album.
What you don’t typically expect, is a combination of electro & acoustic in your Adult Contemporary, which is how Andy begins this record with the inspired sounds on “Today’s Tomorrow.” His vocal style, especially in the chorus, can remind me so much of Michael Stipe at times that I’m actually kind of overjoyed right now truthfully. The song has a great invitational energy to its melody, excellent structure that starts it out softly before the atmosphere brightens significantly for its up-tempo chorus. I’ll say this with certainty – this opening track has a great energy to it and a wonderful way of expanding its sound as the experience of Revisited begins. Not only is it more confirmation that pretty much everything from Australia is always full of audible awesomeness, but you get a solid introduction to Andy’s poetic approach to lyricism as well in the clever words that adorn the lines of “Today’s Tomorrow.” I’ll also say this…I think he does a good job of starting the record and still leaving it plenty of room to grow from there forward in terms of the dynamics of sound and writing you’ll hear on this record – BUT – and this is a big BUT – it should absolutely be noted that throughout the week as I was listening and writing this review, “Today’s Tomorrow” was also a song I got back out of bed with. You know what I mean? It was quite often the first melody & rhythm that came to my mind when I’d first open up my eyes to start a new day…it became my anthem to inspire me to tackle another 24 hours.
How to describe the first time you hear Kerrie Ironside’s voice…what words could honestly do this experience the justice she deserves? I’d challenge that Kerrie’s vocals aren’t just some of the best you’ll find on the record, she might very well be the best kept secret that I’ve ever heard in music – period. Make no mistake, Andy’s written a gorgeous tune here without question – but rest assured that the real genius to be had here is in the decision to bring her aboard to sing this song. She is as amazing as amazing can possibly get and absolutely captivating on the album’s second tune, “Angel.” There is such incredibly wisdom, texture and SOUL in the sound of Kerrie’s voice that it can only be described as sincerely breathtaking…I could listen to her sing the phonebook and be more than satisfied with my choice of what to listen to. She’ll be backed up by a full choir when “Angel” reappears at the end of the album for a second time – right now she’s the “Angel” we hear. The music is smooth, gentle, and sweet with piano, bass, strings and acoustic sounds floating dreamily through the mix before the inspired percussion beat joins in and Kerrie’s voice continues to rise in powerful notes along the way. I’m seriously impressed with a lot of the drum sounds, textures & tones you’ll hear on this record…”Angel” was kind of where that trend started for me…they add a lot to this tune and give it just that right amount of punch to liven-up this magical moment to that next-level.
“Just Because U Love Someone” also features Kerrie, who becomes a regular collaborator on Revisited. This time in a duet entwined with Andy – the way these two sets of sounds & vocalists complement each other once again speaks to the level of insight in the songwriting & vision itself. The string sounds are gorgeously emotional in the background, reflecting the lyricism that drifts between its melancholy-yet-realistic vibe. It took me about a week to pin it down…but Andy actually reminds me significantly of Peter Gabriel quite a bit when it comes to his tone and expression in his vocals. I love that he doesn’t feel the need to adhere to a rhyme-scheme on “Just Because U Love Someone” – it almost sounds like he’s written this tune from the free-flowing thoughts in his mind; the way that Kerrie & Andy trade the microphone between them and approach their lines gives the song the cadence it needs to sound right in our ears, providing that cohesion in the melody, even when the words don’t rhyme. Speaks a lot to the poetic composition of Andy’s lyrics, but also to the strength of the idea & performance on “Just Because U Love Someone,” because everything comes out sounding insightfully smooth as a result of the choices they make in how to sing this tune, how to alter the sounds in production with just the right effects, and tweak their lines with seriously professional insight that makes all the difference.
Andy’s technique will really blow you away sometimes, even in what seems like the simplest of settings. Listen to the harmonics and intricate melody-line of the guitar on “When I Close My Eyes” – listen to that technique! What I think is also truly impressive is that Andy is using a lot of modern-day twists that are applied to pop & R&B music currently…and they all seem to fit right into this gentle sound like they were meant to be. You can hear the auto-tuner at times, multi-layered like…vocoder-effect on the vocals as well, and at other times, you get the sweetness of Andy left to his own devices. No matter how you get him, he sounds great…he’s got this metered-out to the nth-degree and really works a stylistic & melodic approach to the rhythm and cadence of his words. It’s one of the more innocent & humble sounds you’ll hear in the music on Revisited…the gentle nature and sweet rhythm of “When I Close My Eyes” will likely sneak up on you long before you realize just how much you love this tune.
“I Just Want To Be The One” is likely the album’s most debatable moment. It’s another good tune…I’m pretty convinced of that because the instrumentation, beat and mix is so highly interesting. That being said…it’s almost a bit harder to tell by comparison to the rest of the record…in all honesty, I’m not quite sure that “I Just Want To Be The One” fit this particular record. Idea-wise & sound-wise, there was something about this track that never really felt like it fit the mold and standards of Revisited to me, leading me to believe this might have been one of the final additions to the record when it came time to make it all official. I could be wrong about that of course…but yeah, I might have gone with “I Just Want To Be The One” as a promotional single for the upcoming album, or maybe left it for the next record to come. Like I said…still a decent tune, but in this context, seemed almost like it asks a bit more from us as listeners to welcome it into the set by comparison to all the other stunning tunes surrounding it.
You know…it’s either that Andy is a lot closer to the sounds I love in indie/pop/rock/alternative or I need to start listening to a lot more Adult Contemporary…because I absolutely love what he’s doing on “I’ll Be Alright (Loving You)” – there are so many great ideas contained in this song from production to performance. The effects and textures in the vocals throughout this song are freakin’ brilliant…the melody that they follow, even better. I really like the way he’s chosen to sing “I’ll Be Alright (Loving You)” and the near whisper that brings the melody to our ears…there’s a beautiful sway and tender sound on this song that shifts through a hypnotic & captivating structure that immensely satisfies. The ideas in the backing vocals and the way they’ve been adding to the melody of “I’ll Be Alright (Loving You)” is impressive…you’ll notice that there IS music of course, but Andy’s not working with anything too complex here & kept it fairly stripped-down in the atmosphere surrounding his vocals on this tune; as a result, it’s up to him and the backing-vocals to really add that melody into this tune at its core – and I think this is a great example of another technique in his songwriting working out perfectly once again.
I’m tellin’ ya…LISTEN to that sparkling production on “Will There Be Love?” featuring Kerrie Ironside to start the beginning of the album’s second-half…you can hear the quality immediately and the texture & space that exists within each part of the song as it plays. “Will There Be Love” moves slowly and boldly at the same time; there is beautiful definition and sound in the structure of this song, leading Kerrie to an insightfully powerful performance that makes the most of every word. I like to go old-school in my mind sometimes…imagining “Will There Be Love?” as like, the first song you’d experience when you flip the tape over…that kind of thing…what an amazing experience that would be after so many good songs have been featured throughout the way already! As far as atmosphere in sound goes, this is as good as it gets! The way the percussion works – absolutely amazing…and the crashing cymbals make such an enormous impact as well. The incredible movements of the bass and guitars that join in…I mean…we’re talking EPIC when it comes to the sounds that weave the sonic-tapestry of “Will There Be Love?” – like, Lion King Soundtrack kind of epic, know what I mean? Kerrie glides on a cushion of air, gracefully, with an angelic sound that is so beautifully expressive that it truly blows my mind. The guitars that expand the song’s sound give her the cues to become even more alive on the microphone as the atmosphere surrounds her gorgeously. I simply cannot explain in words just what an incredible contribution she makes to this album and to Andy’s music – she’s one of the most giving artists I’ve ever heard sing when it comes to putting your all into a performance. The way she sings “Will There Be Love?” and the other songs she’s featured on from Revisited should have her phone ringing off the hook with interested artists, promoters and management trying to sign her on the dotted line for their next projects.
If you were paying close attention during the last episode of the SBS Podcast when we previewed this review on Andy Michaels’ music, you probably noticed the sweetness in the music playing in the background. You guessed it correctly, that was Andy’s music – it was the gorgeous, intricate and delicate melody of “Where Are You Now?” What’s not to be impressed about when it comes to this song? Quite honestly – this is a massively captivating moment on the record where you hear Andy at his best in every aspect. Best lyricism, best musicianship, best singing, best samples, best writing in the music…there would be every reason to support this as your favorite song on the record, because it all comes out sounding so incredibly cohesive & balanced between its sentiment, ambitions, and emotions. The falsetto notes that Andy sings on “Where Are You Now?” are some of my absolute favorite moments out of all his lead-vocal parts – that’s a serious gem inside of what is already a stunning track to begin with. It’s about as charming as a song can get when it comes right down to the sound of it…I loved how much of Andy’s personality seemed to shine through this track and right out of the speakers into our ears when it came to the music and HOW he sings this song…you can feel that attachment to every word here. And then you really start to listen to the words…or if you like, they’re available online & you can read them and I highly recommend you do; just be warned…because once you really get into the lyrical content of “Where Are You Now?” you’ll realize just how crushing and heartbreaking it truly IS. The whole while, disguised inside of some of the most exceptionally well-played music and sweet tones you’ll find on the record, line-after-line, Andy’s been going DEEP and getting incredibly personal on “Where Are You Now?” – these words are filled with powerful emotion that could bring tears to your eyes just by reading them alone. To hear the beautiful way he performs this tune and the fact that he can keep it together emotionally through this entire track is a testament to the man’s professionalism.
“Home (Radio Edit)” takes Andy into orbit, via a connection with Major Tom most likely, somewhere out in the distance, off behind the stars with David Bowie floating around in a tin can. I’d put this track probably closer to the fringe-sounds of what you’ll hear on Revisited, but close enough that I felt like this track wasn’t just a great inclusion on the record, but essential. Bold cello sounds, brilliant drums, great backing vocals in a chorus-like sound, all of it comes out sounding interesting and highly melodic – and not a thing can touch the song’s main star Andy, who puts in another one of his best performances here. I’ve seen his music compared to Pink Floyd in a press release out there somewhere too…I’ll admit, I can’t quite fully put my finger on it, but something about “Home (Radio Edit)” really made that comparison make sense to me; almost like…closer to the Barrett age in the writing, with the more modern PF approach to atmosphere and production. I could also understand a Collective Soul comparison when it comes to this tune…or for those that really know their stuff, you’d probably cite some of the early tunes from the UK’s alt-pop band Feeder and their more slowed-down, spaced-out melodies. To me, “Home (Radio Edit)” has a really beautiful, lonely, comforting sound to it…strange mix of emotions I know, but you really do end up taking a ride through your psyche while this tune plays. In terms of the other mix…the mix of the song itself, particularly the vocals of “Home (Radio Edit)” – it’s one of the real highlights on the record as far as I’m concerned…I love what Andy’s done to his own sound and the way that adjustment & adaptation works so well with the concept, ideas and music.
“Back To Me” reminded me of R.E.M. from their most melodic & adventurous points, not necessarily the hits for the band, but the songs that kept you coming back to their albums time & again in the middle-late part of their career…the artistic part…you know – the AMAZING part. Excellent use of the backing vocals…the amazing way that the music interacts with each element in its makeup is audibly extraordinary; the choices of sounds are massively interesting to the ears…you can feel “Back To Me” take you to another place entirely…a true journey & experience. It’s a great choice to come after “Home (Radio Edit)” as well…you’re tuned-in for a twist or two on the easy-listening/adult contemporary sound after the previous song, which makes “Back To Me” connect with us that much more readily. That melodic hook in the guitar sound…at least I think it’s a guitar…classical guitar perhaps…but that main hook in the chorus musically, is just as amazing as anything you’ll hear on the microphone. Andy continually rises to the occasion as the captivating & charismatic sounds of “Back To Me” play through the verse, brightening-up and becoming audibly more confident and unshakable throughout the chorus, as the lyrics echo the sentiment in his performance. Really clever stuff…it’s a highlight example of Andy’s music at its most diverse, creative and focused…the tones on the drum sounds of this tune would have been enough to keep me listening if I’m being truthful – and you get so much more beyond that. The best way I can explain “Back To Me” is to say it’s like the audio equivalent of a watching a movie or reading a full story; Andy’s got a sincerely extraordinary way with words, phrasing, pace, melody…all these elements continually lead him to success. When he gets right into it, like moments around the four minute mark…I mean, c’mon people – you just don’t get a performance out of an artist like this without them fully committing to the material and understanding it at its core…he’s nailing it.
All of you out there get the point by now surely, yes? Andy Michaels is an incredible songwriter.
I feel like Kerrie Ironside needs to be like, the new voice of Siri or our GPS guides…every single time her vocals have joined Andy’s music on this record, it’s been an absolute audible joy & pleasure to listen to. When she snaps into the melody in the chorus of “White Lies” – what else can be said? That’s about as much magic and impact that a switch between parts in a song can have…she sounds incredible. “White Lies” makes brilliant use of sparing elements in the music throughout the verse and brightening up the chorus in ways that only a true songwriter really could. It’s from a song like this that starts in such an unassuming manner, then expands into one of the most bold & beautiful melodies that you’ll find on the record that you can really hear just how well Andy understands his music, sound and writing overall. The brilliance of the accenting piano notes added into this melody cannot be overstated – that’s absolutely magic in the ears. No matter how many times I went through Revisited, I kept coming back to the chorus of “White Lies” likely being the absolute highlight moment on this entire record – that’s just purely immaculate…the mix of melancholy & beauty in the lyricism…the undeniably powerful emotion that Kerrie puts into every word…the way the chorus comes in to join her and the way she soars through the ending as the hooks continue…I’m at a loss for words, truly, that’s an amazing melody I’ll never forget hearing. The music is stunning at every turn…”White Lies” is pure audio magic, 100%…over time & repeat experiences listening to Revisited, even on an album full of impressive material, the heart & soul of the writing of this song and the incredible performances from Andy in the music & Kerrie on the mic always stood out as one of this album’s most exceptional highlights…if not THE most notable.
Title-wise, “Lucretia’s Eylandt” featuring Sharon Court certainly caught my eye. I had to look up what an ‘Eylandt’ was…I never claim to be the smartest guy in the room at any time, so kind of safe to say, if I have to look this up, there’s a few other people out there bound to feel the same way. The lyricism reflects much of what I’d assume are references towards trying to find a place where comfort or acceptance can exist…which, I’d assume is the ‘Eylandt’ of the song, metaphorically-speaking. There’s a good chance Andy has just straight-up out-written me here and I don’t get the connection between the title and the words or meaning behind this song at all…that’s quite possible. Maybe it’s just a clever title and that’s it…it’s hard to say. I tried Andy, I tried! What I can tell you, is that Sharon’s voice was also another welcome addition to the collaborative effort at work happening throughout Revisited on the microphone and does a stellar job with really bold tones that have a truly confident and professional approach. The poetic nature of the lyricism, regardless of whether or not I fully ‘get it’ from concept to each line he’s written, is entirely impressive…and once again, pretty heartbreaking. Were it not for the way that the chorus brings in an uplifting dose of melody into the structure, this would likely crush a few hearts through its tale of a sweet love long lost, perhaps even written from the other perspective this time around…I think there are a few clues in the lyrics that hint at Andy looking at love from the other side here. Love the way that Sharon sings the chorus of this cut…she’s great throughout, but she really shines in the hooks of this song…great ending to “Lucretia’s Eylandt” that leaves us with a sweet breakdown into melodic strings after bursting brightly through its most powerful moments.
Normally…my advice on having a song appear twice on a record is to just not do it. I understand the temptation of course; it’s also one of the best ways to underscore just how much that one song is the focal-point or a song that you want to make sure, without a doubt, that the people notice. That being said – in 99% of the cases I can think of, it also induces a burnout on the material…an unnatural wear & tear that sends the balance off and can make one of the best moments on a record become one that never needs repeating, because that’s taken care of for us. As a result, it can become less sought out.
Most of the time perhaps…but not this time.
“Angel” reappears at the end of Revisited, this time with a chorus in-tow, to add a little more magic to what’s already a completely winning sound. Does it make it any better? COULDN’T TELL YA. Honestly…I don’t think it becomes a matter of preference, both versions of this song are pure audio gold and I’d listen to it any way that I am able to do so. That’s no disrespect intended towards a chorus of voices that are spot-on and putting their hearts & souls into their performance on “Angel with Choir” – they’ve all done a fantastic job; it’s much more of a comment that this is a truly magical moment in time that is going to sparkle and shine in any situation you find it in. This is what timeless sounds like…that’s the strength of what Andy’s written and what he & Kerrie have achieved on “Angel” – it’s a flawless song that enriches your LIFE by having heard it…like being reunited with a love you didn’t even know you had.
Andy Michaels has the genuine songwriter’s gift, undeniable commitment to his music, and an audible love of the craft. Revisited is an extraordinary achievement…and one that he should be truly proud of.
Find out more about Andy Michaels and his new album Revisited from the official pages below!