Aaron Cabott Jones – The Adventures Of Aaron Cabott Jones – Album Review
Interesting record for sure. If you have a quick read about The Adventures Of Aaron Cabott Jones, you’ll learn about the journey the man has been on in music and how this pivotal set of songs actually plays a huge role. It begins with the quick story on how the songs on this record came into existence and touches on the tragedy that could have taken it all away – a train accident that took the life of his friend/guitar-player Jim, yet after his friend’s parents gave him the guitar that their boy used to play, the act of kindness & closure actually ended up inspiring four decades of music instead. Word on the street is that Aaron Cabott Jones has been making music ever since and still continues on strongly today.
Of course, that’s only a mere paragraph to describe the event and get you caught up to speed. The idea of living that reality is of course much tougher. Most, if not all of these songs from what I’ve read, have been put away for years…that technically this is where the music of Aaron Cabott Jones truly began; and out of respect & to honor his fallen friend, he’s even playing the gifted 1963 Fender green guitar to honor the memory of where this story really started.
It’s the kind of sweetness in a story that pulls you right into a record before you even hear the first notes ain’t it? I think so. Otherwise I would have had to lead this whole review off with the story of a critical typo that exists on the playlist at the very beginning of the list where he’s dropped an A in Aaron, leaving that first impression on the opening tune to be from a one Aron Cabott Jones…and I’d have to admit that’s not quite as insightful as the real backstory is. Plus when you factor in the fact that Aaron will likely fix the credits on the opening cut “Feel It Shine” on his website before you even have a chance to see the mistake now, all of this will seem like fiction anyhow…so focus on the real story from earlier.
One by one, he pulled out songs from the past and wrote new ones to create this album. To read about the final assessment is actually quite interesting due to its phrasing – check this out, it says in Aaron’s bio: “For example, the snarling rave-up “Better Watch Out” could have been written by an early rock n’ roll-obsessed teen and bashed out with vitriolic political glee in his garage in the 1970s. But, in fact, that track was written in 2017, showcasing Aaron’s creativity is as vibrant now as it was back in the 1970s.” The statement is definitely accurate…but you’ll notice the emphasis is actually placed on the 1970’s rather than the here & now, comparing what’s going right about Cabott Jones’ music to the golden sounds of the 70’s era in the way that it’s written…you can tell from the wording that there’s a massive respect for that time-period of music’s history and assuredly, you can hear it in the sound of the writing.
Some more than others of course. “Feel It Shine” was originally written in the 1990’s and you can hear the more modern update on the Cabott Jones sound there…but the larger point that the pulled-quote from above is trying to make is that there’s a cohesion that boldly thrives and exists on this record that translates beyond the songs themselves into how they move and sound on a playlist together. With four decades of music that followed the original event that inspired it all, he’s certainly got a lot of experience to draw from…you’d almost expect a retrospective record like this to come out sounding a lot more scattered due to its ambitions. But that’s where Aaron comes in to guide this record to victory by adding in copious amounts of his own personality in the music, writing & performances that keep these songs tight in the set together, existing right where they belong on The Adventures Of Aaron Cabott Jones finally after all this time.
With a reversed beat coming through, “Feel It Shine” begins with an almost like…what was that song…”Right Here, Right Now,” by Jesus Jones-esque smoothness before bursting into a brighter-rock sound…which again, makes a lot of sense considering the year the song was written, in the good ol 90’s. Dig the downward progression of chords though, there’s a ton of hooks in the guitar sound alone…good crisp snap to the snare sound, great pace and movement on “Feel It Shine” and a humble, honest performance from Aaron on the mic that gives great doses of bold melody to the flow of the verse and harmonies to brighten-up the sound of the chorus. Pretty impossible to not instantly feel the uplifting vibe that he’s created for this first cut, making it a great choice to open The Adventures Of Cabott Jones and pull us into the album. It definitely has that mid-90’s good-time rock sound, like Collective Soul with its turned-up & stylistic guitars and smoothly slick vocal flow…”Feel It Shine” has good energy and makes for a great start.
A widespread sound and range of material, especially one that’s got songs written over the past four decades that appear throughout its flow, is definitely going to feature tunes you’ll identify with more than others…that’s natural. I’m not made of steel…so I’m not able to resist the hooks and sweetness of a song like “Feel It Shine” has any more than you are yourself – but if it comes right down to it, I’m probably more into what sounds like a meatier idea on “Chewing On The Bone” a bit more. I just have the feeling that “Chewing On The Bone” is the kind of slow bluesy-rock jam that’s going to last on a playlist year after year…there’s something really rad about this song that’s hard to put a finger on. Best way I can think to put it, is that it really IS like a modern-day perspective on the 60’s/70’s sound…so rather than just be a carbon-copy of old-school music, it’s more like Cabott Jones sounds like Chris Cornell’s solo stuff in the verse of “Chewing On The Bone” and takes a low-key Foo Fighters approach to the chorus. Get your head around THAT! Awesome tone in Aaron’s vocals here…I think he’s absolutely nailed one of his strongest performances on the microphone with “Chewing On The Bone” – rhythmic, stylistic, groovin’ – all incredibly accessible to listen to without overtly trying to flag down your attention. A track like “Chewing On The Bone” slides right into the ears without resistance.
“Wish Upon A Starfish” is a freakin’ masterpiece…we can argue or arm-wrestle about that opinion, just know that mine continues to last for all-time here in print for all to see…so I kinda win no matter what you might think. That being said…I can’t imagine anyone not agreeing with my assessment – “Wish Upon A Starfish” is the melodic trip back in time we all hope we’ll hear coming through the speakers one day, and now it’s here for you to enjoy. That day has come. Every time this song came on, the studio here went into pin-drop mode…you’d hear this song playing and ONLY this song playing, not even a thought in my mind floating to anything else other than the extraordinary melody of “Wish Upon A Starfish.” It’s definitely got that ambitious sound of melodies in tender moments you’d find from throughout the progressive 70’s in bands like Genesis or Yes, but also that combination of captivating melody that resonates right at our cores and pulls at the heartstrings like you’d find in The Beatles at their most serious & focused. The string-sounds…a combination of cellos & violins most likely…whatever it is that’s creating the complementary atmosphere alongside the emotionally-laden guitar notes…I mean, it’s just perfection…straight-up, this is an extraordinarily beautiful song.
Of course, having such a stunning highlight like “Wish Upon A Starfish” also makes it tougher for whatever that next song might be, if not having the odds stacked completely against it. I liked a lot of the guitars you’ll find on “Yes B Yes” in the intricate lead-parts you’ll hear thriving along this cut as it plays. Song on the whole, I’m probably more indifferent towards “Yes B Yes” than I was any of the other tracks on this record…I could take it or leave it. Good tune, but it’s not going to be what I remember about Aaron Cabott Jones. Dig the furious & subtle bass-rhythms that keep the low-end moving and groovin’ – the guitar gets more freedom to roam through its creativity as a result of the rhythm-section being so tightly locked down – but overall, “Yes B Yes” really has that modern-day country vibe running through its spirit as well. For some, that’s going to work and provide highlight entertainment on a Friday night when they need it most on the dance-floor – there’s always a time & place for a song like this…but that being said, it’s one of a vast many that would suit that need. A song like “Wish Upon A Starfish” for example, is a highlight & audible validation of what can separate his writing & sound from the rest of ANYTHING else that’s happening out there – that’s identifiable. A song like “Yes B Yes” is certainly well-played…I’d never argue that…but this is definitely more well-worn terrain in music from one end of its history to the present, and less identifiable to him as a singer, songwriter or sound altogether.
In a way, you could cite many of the same arguments about identification through music as I just did with “Yes B Yes” for “Better Watch Out” as well…but somehow this one seemed to work more for me and caught my interest more firmly, even though Aaron’s clearly reaching back even further in time to dig out the sound & style of this tune. It’s got that classic-era sound from the Presley & Lee Lewis time-period in its spirit & attitude, with a bit of that Chuck Berry vibe thrown in the mix for good measure. Overall, it’s a really short & sweet tune that might have a harder time standing out by comparison to some of the rest & more modern updates for the everyday listener out there – but I think for a lot of people, “Better Watch Out” is a noticeable & commendable tune. I mean, aside from the fact that Aaron may sound like one thing or another from track to track and you might not always know what to expect next – you have to compliment the transition, flow and versatility of the record. The fact that he can write and perform a song like “Wish Upon A Starfish” and one two-breaths later be making a song like “Better Watch Out” is a testament to the versatility of sound itself, but also to his tremendous ability to adapt to & thrive in different musical environments with successful & engaging results.
“More To Nothing” almost takes Aaron into like…Todd Rundgren, Robbie Nevil & Thomas Dolby terrain with its uncharted, exploratory style hitting on enigmatic pop/rock hooks along the way. I dig this track for the different vibes it puts into the record…it’s kind of remarkably spare when it comes right down to it, Aaron’s working the vibe of the beat more than any other aspect of the song when it comes to where to take his vocal-cues from. As a result, it’s his voice that provides the majority of the melody & rhythm on “More To Nothing” – and I dig the confidence in taking a chance artistically like he has here. I do think that there are moments where you’ll feel like “More To Nothing” could perhaps use a bit more to it – but I’d also suspect by the title itself, that there’s a statement being made here equivalent to ‘less is more’ – so as a concept itself, you kind of have to hand it to Aaron because that’s a tightly executed idea when it comes right down to it. As a song…if we’re talking hooks and traditional flow, the wandering nature of the ideas of “More To Nothing” drifting in and out are going to be tougher for people to stick with…no question about that. The real question about “More To Nothing” is whether or not that main hook is strong enough to keep the people’s interest & attention engaged…I suspect that it would.
There are a couple of instrumental cuts on this record that absolutely shine. I don’t want to take a thing away from Aaron’s vocals, because I think he suits his music, sound & style very well – but at the same time, it’s impossible not to acknowledge just how much the musicianship raises the stakes when he doesn’t have to concentrate on the singing as well. LISTEN to “A Moment In 1976” and tell me you don’t LOVE that! Especially if you’re a guitar player! Even MORE-so if you already know and love a song like say, “The Badger” by The Tea Party…you’ll get this kind of stuff for sure…it’s virtuoso-level good. Highly intricate, complex and unbelievably well-played, Aaron shines so bright in this instrumental song that it’s impossible to describe. The harmonics that he plays on this song are a pure joy to listen to…the skill, the melody, the beauty & the magic…it’s all so wonderfully combined here that it can’t possibly be ignored or stressed enough – “A Moment In 1976” is a moment you’ll want to exist for the rest of your life. Or at the very least, you SHOULD. There’s an excellent chance that this was the highlight cut on the entire album for me personally…I think Aaron’s musicianship and instrumentation here is absolutely spectacular and award-worthy; he’s played it flawlessly & passionately…it’s stunning at every turn. Considering the length, being over five & a half minutes long…I mean…”A Moment In 1976” just never gets any less interesting to the ears and the writing & structure continually lead to exceptional new parts of the song…there’s a beautiful evolution in this song that the ears simply cannot deny.
I felt like “A Moment In 1976” also plays a significant role in our appreciation for Aaron’s voice, because when it returns on the track to follow, “Time Has A Master,” you really notice how well it truly fits. It could very well be that time & again as I listened to this record, it began to seem like “Time Has A Master” was also the smartest fit for the lower-key energy of Aaron’s vocals…the whole song has a really humble, organic and honest approach that is really chilled-out, allowing him to get really thick, sweet & unwavering tones from his vocals that truly suit the melody. Loved the…hmm…whole thing? The hand-drums are absolutely awesome…Aaron really does sound at his best vocally as well, I’m convinced of it…the organ sounds are great…it’s a lot like a low-key R.E.M. kind of vibe here, and obviously if you know anything about me at all, you know that’s certainly appealing to me. Aaron brings a warmth to that R.E.M.-style sound of the music with his own unique vocal qualities that make it stand out as his own…but there’s a real comforting vibe that runs through “Time Has A Master” that’s so amazingly easy to welcome into the ears…a truly inviting and charming sound on this tune.
Again, no disrespect to the man’s voice – it’s just hard not to express the love I have for what Cabott Jones brings to his instrumentals. “A River Sunrise” is such a beautifully expressive piece of music…I think it’s stunning & exceptional, all the way through…a real captivating & breathtaking moment on the record. By comparison to “A Moment In 1976” there’s almost a more…I dunno…less dreamy & more matured sound to the writing, tone & flow here…but I think it finds its own incredibly appealing persona as a result. In a way, I felt like “A River Sunrise” was more ambitious in its structure & journey than “A Moment In 1976” was, but with perhaps a bit less universal appeal as a result hooks-wise in what we hear. I have no doubt that “A River Sunrise” will appeal to the musicians and melody-seekers out there – but for others, they might have a tougher time getting into this song as quickly as “A Moment In 1976.” Nothing wrong with that…hopefully, they’ll come around if that’s the case – they’re both great tunes and fantastic contributions that play significant roles on The Adventures Of Aaron Cabott Jones.
We should all take notes from Aaron on how to end a record though – “It’s Quiet Now” might be one of the most incredible endings I’ve heard to an album over the past couple years at the very least…I think it’s damn near the crown jewel of the record. Were it not for so much great material along the way throughout The Adventures Of Aaron Cabott Jones along the way, the choice would naturally be much clearer…on most records, a song like “It’s Quiet Now” would be the clear winner for me. Aaron’s done a great job on this entire album though…so it really does become more about what your own personal taste is suited for that’ll dictate which song resonates & connects with you more. For me, “It’s Quiet Now” checks just about every box I’m looking for with its insightfully dreamy melody & fantastic mix…vocally, it’s the largest departure from the rest as well, with Aaron taking his biggest chances on an artistic level right here at the end of the record. The verdict is IN – and in my own humble estimation, this is definitely an atmosphere, idea & sound that he should certainly consider exploring even further on whatever that next record may be…because this WORKS. To me…when you compare “It’s Quiet Now” to EVERYTHING else on the album, you can almost HEAR Aaron nervously wondering what people might think of such a massive departure from the rest of what we’ve heard along the way…wondering whether or not this was an idea that made sense to conclude the record after all.
I’m here to be the guy that says YES to that ending…because that’s the honest truth. The sweeter the melody and dreamier the idea, from “A Moment In 1976” to “Wish Upon A Starfish” to the ending here with “It’s Quiet Now” – the more Aaron reached for that exquisite melody he’s capable of writing, the more I connected to the music & material. As for the rest of the tunes, they’re solid too and likely to appeal to you on multiple levels in multiple ways – let’s face it, the man provides a great time & a great vibe throughout the entire record…I dig what this man does, that’s a fact.
Find out more from his official homepage at: https://www.aaroncabottjones.com/