The Music Therapy Experiment – A Thousand Words – Album Review
Well sweet home Mobile, Alabama – what do we have here?
I dig these guys & what they stand for…just a quick read through their social-media pages & sifting through their postings will instantly reveal the passion & fun that the dynamic duo of John Kline and Mark Christianson bring to their songs in The Music Therapy Experiment. Reading’s cool & all…I mean, I suppose that’s even why a lot of you are here right now checking this out…but it’s always the music that speaks loudest – and listening to A Thousand Words will confirm that passion & fun are signature staples of The Music Therapy Experiment…these are songs designed to keep your mind, body, & soul balanced.
The point is, it ain’t just mere words…John & Mark clearly love making music. Can’t say I blame them one bit – if I had half the skill that these two have I’d be spending every day of my life making music. From the looks of things, we’ve got Mark handling his business on the drum throne, which leaves John to handle…well…the rest! It actually includes quite a lot…guitars, keys, harmonica, recorder, bass, vocals…even a djembe & a Tibetan bowl in the mix as well for ya. Believe it or not, while the duties might seem widespread with John also handling the engineering & production as well, it leads The Music Therapy Experiment to excellent results…Mark’s fully inventive with the way he hits the skins, while at the same time, really providing a solid platform for John to make the magic happen in the melody & lead-parts. You’ll get a true dose of musicianship straight out of the gate with “The Gospel Of Mark & John – Judgment” and the impressively colorful guitar-work from John stoking the fire quickly into A Thousand Words. Remarkable personality & punch in the way they play together, especially considering these first two cuts & many on this record are all-instrumental…you can still hear THEM in the music they make & it’s a factor that makes all the difference in the world. They’re invested & engaged in making these songs stand out – and for what it’s worth, I genuinely think you can hear that throughout this entire album. It starts with smart moves like how “The Gospel Of Mark And John – Judgment” flows so perfectly into “The Gospel Of Mark And John – Forgiveness” right afterwards…structurally, two different songs for sure, but with the efforts made to tie them together & merge these ideas so spot-on, you can tell the men behind the music are thinking about the moves they’re making, committed, focused, and completely delivering. “The Gospel Of Mark And John – Forgiveness” will offer you up even more colorful sound & uplifting melody, as well as a whole lot of innovative jazz technique, creative freedom, and beautifully expressive melody along the way. This second cut from A Thousand Words has about double the length of the opening tune to make its impact on ya, but credit to both of these opening instrumental tunes…strong on their own for sure, but definitely designed to be experienced together to get the full value out of how both halves of the song complement each other.
I have no objections to The Music Therapy Experiment’s cover of Elton John’s timeless classic “Your Song” – I think they do an admirable job. Ultimately, I’ll fully admit that the writing of “Your Song” is likely to always have me listening…and as long as those key elements of the melody are on display, usually I’m all for a different variation of the sound, whether it be the music or the main vocals. I think John brings a uniqueness to the vocals…there’s a slight fragility there, but a very pleasant vibe in his voice that gets to the heart of the sweetness in “Your Song” – there’s no doubt that this is a song that’s been covered by a countless many, but when you tie-in the sweetness you know & love in Elton’s heartfelt hit song with the intentions & ambitions of The Music Therapy Experiment, you kinda gotta give these guys some bonus points for such a wise selection. It’s got that soul soothing sweet sound we all wanna hear, it’s got enough of ‘them’ in it to warrant the cover for sure, the guitars sparkle & shine once again…I’m more than certain people will feel positive about the results of this cover. There’s always going to be an element of risk in climbing such a giant mountain like covering a massive Elton John song, but in my opinion, they’ve given us a variation that retains what we love most about “Your Song” while giving it just enough of their own spin, style, and sound to also make it a smooth transition & welcome adjustment into A Thousand Words when we get to hear the vocals for the very first time.
So yeah…definitely not complaining about the vocals, I think John holds his own pretty well. That being said – the way the guy speaks through his guitar…is relentlessly impressive…and…I mean…how can you not want a whole lot MORE of what you’ll hear in what John can do on a track like “Fixed Biscuit Overdrive” right after “Your Song?” To me, as much as I love a great cover just as much as the rest of you out there – what really makes me the happiest in listening to music in any genre by any band or artist, is when you can really hear they’re right where they’re meant to be. Listening to the STUNNING and gorgeously expressive sound & remarkable skill on display, the incredible soaring melody and the brilliant creativity that flows enthusiastically throughout “Fixed Biscuit Overdrive” is a straight-up treat for your ears. This is the sound of a band that’s locked right into the moment and making the music they were always meant to make together…”Fixed Biscuit Overdrive” has that audibly intangible X-factor on display all throughout the vibrant tones & noteworthy technique applied to this tune – it might be instrumental, yes – but don’t be surprised when you realize that this song is essentially built ENTIRELY of hooks & wildly expressive sound that will pull you right in, just as easily as any tune with vocals could. More bonus points to The Music Therapy Experiment for one of my favorite song titles of the year too.
On the title-track & centerpiece of the record, I felt like John’s vocals seemed to suit this vibe even more than what I’d heard on “Your Song” previously. He’s like…part Michael Hutchinson, part David Bowie, part The Righteous Brothers as he sings this tune. You’ve got a hint of flash & style via Hutchinson, an expressive & emotive vocal approach like Bowie, and a melody that gets about as ambitious as The Righteous Brothers ever were on The Music Therapy’s “A Thousand Words.” It might have a heavier, more emotionally-weighted movement & sound to it, maybe a bit more on the melancholy side in comparison to the brightness & heat that a track like “Fixed Biscuit Overdrive” provides right beforehand – but I fully believe they’ve got themselves a great tune that can’t be ignored here & a justifiable choice as their album’s centerpiece for sure. Songs like “A Thousand Words” might not be the songs that the people instantly gravitate towards due to the complexity of the emotions that run throughout the song or the more involved themes & ideas presented through the lyrics & vocals, or the slower-pace of this track…BUT…I’d be willing to bet this is the kind of strong tune that keeps listeners coming back. By the time I was on my third or fourth spin through “A Thousand Words,” they had me completely onboard…I wasn’t just convinced it was a good song, but a great one; fascinating & captivating, each time it came on in rotation as I listened, I felt more & more attached to this cut. I’m massively impressed by just how real & powerful the emotion & passion on display in the melody, writing, and performance of “A Thousand Words” becomes as the song plays on…it’s a title-worthy tune.
Credit to Mark for holding the fort so steadily throughout this experience…these two dude really create memorable stuff, whether it has vocals or not, there’s a gripping energy shared between them that’s certain to catch the attention of your ears and have these songs stick with you. “Passion And Inspiration” – it’s not just a clever title, it’s audibly what Mark and John are clearly all about, and they give you one of their best examples of that through what you’ll hear on this amazing instrumental tune. This is one of John’s most remarkable moments of the album as well – again, LISTEN to the expressive way this guy can play a guitar, it’s downright phenomenal at times & certainly is on “Passion And Inspiration.” Like at first, he packs in so much Pop-inspired sound as the song begins…almost like what you’d imagine if The Beatles became an instrumental band at first. Then you get that switch around the 1:20-mark for just a brief moment…the guitars, piano, and drums fit perfectly together as the song continues to build, expand, and evolve, revealing more dimensions to the melody about a minute later, so on & so forth – The Music Therapy Experiment never quits on the spectacular amount of versatility & diverse sound added into this structure! Right around the 3:30-mark, you’ll find one of my favorite moments on this album…just something about the guitars at that point & forward from here that absolutely capture this mix of mystery & melody in all the greatest of ways…”Passion And Inspiration” is extraordinarily adventurous and every bit worth taking the ride with them on this song. Downright epic at points really…by the end, they’re really flexing all kinds of impressive fills, solos, and colorful ideas everywhere.
I’m realistic about songs like “Dog And Radio,” which is ultimately a really well-written & performed tune, just a tougher sell to the masses out there for sure. I’ll put it to you this way – The Music Therapy Experiment is pretty much spoiled for choice when it comes to what songs they could put out there to entice people in to listen further…not every track on this record, or any record, has to aim for that mark constantly. There’s always more than one purpose for making music, always more than one motivation, always a ton of reasons that merit its worth on a record…”Dog And Radio” and “When Summer Comes” to follow offer a gentle reprieve from the wild & colorful instrumental-side of their sound and head in towards a more low-key Folk/Pop style. I think the songwriters out there will find a quick appreciation for what The Music Therapy Experiment creates in the soulful sound & tangible emotion throughout “Dog And Radio” – for others out there, they might need to be more ‘in the mood’ for this particular vibe, which is fine. I still think there’s a ton to be offered to listeners in this whole song if they’re ready to take a timeout & listen, great ideas in the harmonies, the ever-impressive guitar work as well…the piano melody that leads the way shines too…there’s lots to love about “Dog And Radio” even if its sleepier movement & slower pace will likely demand a bit more focus & attention from listeners out there. When it comes to the case of “When Summer Comes” – I think it’s almost the opposite effect; this is a beautifully pure, natural, and organic moment in time that sweetly invades your heart without an ounce of resistance. John reminds me of a classic singer like Burl Ives at times throughout this song – I’m sure there’s more modern & relevant examples you could cite & compare his vocals to here as well, whatever it is you feel it might sound like, “When Summer Comes” has that genuinely timeless melody that absolutely stops time & the world around you. The acoustic-based tenderness in the music, the sparkling sweetness & wisdom being shared in the lyrics…I mean…it’s a truly stunning tune; for as stripped-down as it is in comparison to the rest on the record with Mark taking a moment to chill-out & get some air, John takes a moment to dazzle us with the gentle sounds of “When The Summer Comes.”
Seriously impressive ambition shown throughout these songs and how many different styles, sounds, and dimensions they’ve got to offer ya. I dig a track like “Friends Anemones” for more than just the supremely awesome and clever title it’s got – I love that you can hear the passion, joy, and inspiration of The Music Therapy Experiment ALL OVER this song. Is it as perfect as the rest are? No! Does it need to be? No to that too! Songs like this celebrate the making of music…and you can hear both John and Mark making moves throughout this song that are as creative as they are ambitious – some really tough stuff to pull off all-around really…but I don’t feel like they played this one with the intentions of rounding every corner so much as they were in this one to create a moment in time that almost can’t be duplicated – you feel me? You get a lot of the heart of what drives & motivates this duo to do what they do on “Friends Anemones” – they’re challenging each other creatively, still coming up with vibrant & powerful parts along the way, and they keep you engaged & right on the edge of your seat while you listen to this tune, wondering how it’s actually all going to work out! Songs like this radiate sonic joy – that’s more than cool with me & these two have already fully proven their musicianship time & again throughout this album…they’re not exactly taking a moment off here, so much as once again providing you with audible insight into what The Music Therapy Experiment is really all about. Pay close attention.
I was born for “The ‘50s” – this is pretty much right where I’m at personally & I could sit & listen to this song all day long, every day, and never get tired of this. Melody shines like the sun on “The ‘50s” and brings out a highlight of pure audio sweetness in The Music Therapy Experiment unlike we’ve heard so far. All-around, beyond being the kind of sound & style I’m guaranteed to love – there’s a clever update at work here as well really…these are the classic moves of the golden era, combined with the wildness of the guitar-virtuosos out there…and I’m loving the results! “The ‘50s” is a hybrid of eras really, it’s that core melody that harkens back the farthest, but the innovative twists & technique applied to the execution here make this highly relevant for today. The opening seconds sound like they kind of just land, thump, and crunch into this gentle tune like they weren’t even expecting to find it themselves, but within moments, you’re locked into a tender moment in time that really hits the mark. From the familiar movement & reliably comforting sway of the bass-lines, to the brilliance shining from the guitar, to the steady beat and impressive ideas in both the mix & sound-selection…I honestly don’t quite know how anyone out there couldn’t love this tune! Personality & sweetness reign supreme here on The Music Therapy Experiment’s “The ‘50s” – definitely one of my own favorites from A Thousand Words.
I likely feel just as strongly about “AGA RAGA” – though for a whole completely different set of reasons. Heading back to that thread of passion in their music, you can hear the adventurous spirit of the band really spring to life on this song as they roam into a serene & spectacular space on “AGA RAGA.” For as quaint and unassuming as it sounds, there are some amazing & extraordinary things happening all throughout this song that can’t go unnoticed. From the technique applied, to the stunning choices in tone & sound-selection, to the remarkable percussion, low-end rhythm & groove, and the all-out organic vibe they’ve created on “AGA RAGA” – you simply can’t lose when it comes to this track, there’s so much to love and a truly unique moment on this record, or any other for that matter. Again, it’s cuts like this that sound like The Music Therapy Experiment is right in the place they should be, making the music they love making, letting it come out of them naturally, and discovering their creativity one tune at a time…it all sounds impressively real, unforced, and in situations like this, extraordinarily beautiful too.
Bringing back their title-track for a reprise towards the end of the album was a good move that I’m not regularly always in favor of, but I really like what they’ve chosen to do with this stripped-back version. “A Thousand Words Reprise” somehow seems to get even more out of John’s vocals than the original did…which is definitely something I wasn’t expecting. In the acoustic-based atmosphere with all this space surrounding him, The Music Therapy Experiment reaches another noteworthy highlight with this twist on their original song…by far one of the biggest surprises you’ll find on this album is the fact that this reprise ends up making as much of an impact as it does. Whereas we’re all kind of trained to expect a reprise to essentially take the hooks you’ve heard before and re-spin’em for a short amount of time, you get a fully different experience with the way that The Music Therapy Experiment approached this variation on their title-track. As far as those hooks go, of course they’re in there – and if they weren’t stuck right inside your head & heart beforehand, they certainly will be by the time this reprise is done. Loving the use of effects on the vocals, the harmonies, the entire sound of “A Thousand Words” comes to life in a whole new & exceptionally captivating way in this second version on the record; absolutely one of the highlights for the vocals and overall atmosphere they can create…this is spellbinding.
Mind you, there’s really not much that isn’t! “World Greeting” is filled with radiantly colorful vibes and warm, inviting tones soaring into the stratosphere, combining that signature element of expressive, inventive, and imaginative guitar with another subtle & steady percussion-based beat that hits the mark. I mean, Mark’s hitting the drums, but you get it, it hits the mark as well…the small m one, not the capital M Mark. Harmonica in the distance as well…great depth in the overall sound & space that each element & layer brings to the music, which allows you to really dig into “World Greeting” and fully absorb all the melody and creativity continually flowing out of them and surrounding YOU from the lefts to the rights. Not even kidding, it’s like The Music Therapy Experiment found a way to fit a full rainbow’s worth of sounds into this sweetly pleasant yet wildly expressive, all-around charming & uplifting tune. There’s no doubt that they do joy & celebration extremely well when it comes to the music they make – right down to the added chants in the vocals, they’re absolutely embracing the moment on “World Greeting” and getting the maximum results out of their potential & songwriting as a result.
Love the way the piano, drums, and guitar interact on the final song “Peace And Love” at the end of A Thousand Words. I’ll put it this way…it might not have been my favorite track on the album, but it still has plenty of moments that make it worthwhile and of course, a final message they want to leave you on with “Peace And Love.” I really dig the guitar solos found at the end of the record & the added keys in there to strengthen the atmosphere as the wander freely to the last seconds of “Peace And Love” and give you plenty of instrumentation in the finale to remind you once more of what’s made this record such a fun and fantastic experience from beginning to end. Part soulful-Blues, part Rock-ballad of sorts, the keep a gentle cadence & demeanor on their last song to ease you out of A Thousand Words delicately, giving your mind plenty to chew on through the thought-provoking lyrics and heartfelt sound that runs rampant through their final song. The Music Therapy Experiment definitely revealed a ton of truly brilliant magic in the music they’ve made on this album that deserves a listen from each and every one of you out there. Far more than an experiment of any kind other than by name alone, this duo has music running straight through their veins and we’re all lucky they’ve chosen to share their exceptional instrumentation, passion & inspired sound with us on their brand-new record – this is great stuff guys.
Find out more about The Music Therapy Experiment at their official page at Facebook here: https://www.facebook.com/musictherapyexperiment
Join the thousands of bands & artists reviewed at sleepingbagstudios by clicking here!