Andrew Farstar – Memories – Album Review
Been a couple years since we last had Andrew on our pages – welcome back to ya brother-man!
He’s got me racing around all over the internet this time, trying to keep up to the guy in the lineup of cover-songs he’s got on his new album Memories…and throughout much of music’s history at that. With our natural taste in music being so radically different, but including all kinds of tunes that would naturally intersect in our own separate timelines & establish our common ground – Farstar’s latest record is stocked full of that “where on Earth do I know that song from?” feeling…you know, Memories!
So no – don’t expect me to get every one of these correct lol…if the credits were all there, I’d be happy to help ya out, but since they’re not, and I’m going pretty much from my own tattered memory here and a few clues at YouTube & Google, I’ll let ya know where things come from originally whenever I can…but keep your fingers crossed folks…he’s got me learning lots here, and I might not get all of this correct!
What I can tell ya for sure, is that based on the quality & heart Farstar has put into his music ever since I started listening back in 2017, it was more than fair to assume that his 2021 return to our pages would yield impressive results…Andrew’s always put his professionalism as an artist right into the spotlight with confidence. So even before pushing play, at this point having done about four reviews in between then & now on Farstar’s music, believe me…I know what to expect when it comes to what he can do & the high level of talent he possesses as a singer & artist; I’ll always find something well worth listening to in what he does & I love the way he’s approached so many of these songs on his new album Memories. The eclectic lineup of adult contemporary tunes suggests that he likely crushes it at karaoke, every time.
He’ll instantly impress with the smooth sound of his cover of Billy Joel’s “Just The Way You Are” – which, might very well be one of the most universally recognizable songs in this particular set he’s chosen to flow throughout Memories. Golden emotion, great energy, solid sincerity, bold tones…Andrew’s on-point right from the get-go, and he’s chosen wisely with an endearing song that’s quite likely to pull people in to listen to check out what he’s brought to this Joel tune. They’ll like what they go onto find if they’re fans of the song for sure, Andrew’s gentle jazzy & soulful style works really well, and he hits the strengths of this melody through both humming & singing with the full confidence in knowing a track like this is right in the sweet-spot for him. For myself personally in knowing this song fairly well, I can tell ya he’s put in a performance to be proud of…and I can also confirm that’s the case with this lineup of songs overall as well, because Andrew is always professional…that’s who he is. That being said, familiarity is a great thing for some out there, and especially as an opening to a record like this one – but for myself, I also found that I gravitated towards the tracks I didn’t know at all or not as much as I listened. There’s something really awesome about the way you can listen to Memories that I’ll go into more later on down the road, but suffice it to say for now that, an album like this can teach you tons.
On the very next track, this is where you realize just how widespread the range of covers he’s selected is going to really be – and I ain’t even lyin’ remotely when I say it’s a super impressive set you’ll find. If I’ve got this right, “Don’t Ask The Reason Why” is actually by Restless Heart, and fueled the soundtrack to The Secret Of My Success with Michael J. Fox, way back when he was at his healthy comedic best. And I probably haven’t heard this cut since back when I would have watched that…I would have been at least four or five years late to getting to see it from its theatrical release…so I’m gonna say that was probably around…like…1991-ish for me? I’m guessing. All I know for sure is that it has been a WHILE to say the least – but I truly love that Andrew has reached so far into the history of music throughout this whole record to pull out some real gems like this one here, dust’em off, and shine’em up like they’re all brand-new again. Dig the delicate guitars, love the presence of the bass…the music is superbly well-produced on this tune and always stands out to me…it really felt like Andrew tapped into the full potential of the melody, heart, and sincerity that this song has. Would I have forgotten that “Don’t Ask The Reason Why” and/or Restless Heart existed without this Farstar cover? Almost completely certainly. And personally, that makes me completely grateful that dudes like this guy exist & do what they do on albums like Memories, loading them up with covers that have me revisiting classic moments while we listen, but in an all-new light. It’s as adult contemporary as it gets, yes – but it’s also 100% beautiful.
Richard Sanderson’s “Reality” was not a track I was actually familiar with – and I felt like this came out as a significant highlight early on in the Memories set…I’d probably even be looking at this as a potential single for Farstar to be floating out there to generate interest in his latest record for sure, it’s highly inviting. Fantastic songwriting here…you listen to this and you definitely understand its appeal to Andrew and how well-suited it is for him, and he really nails the dreamy vibes that come along with the splendid beauty of “Reality” and its head-in-the-clouds feeling that it evokes. I also felt like there was a closer bond between this particular track & something like you’d find in the endearing-side of Indie-Pop as well, which gives “Reality” a bit more of an edge, albeit a delicate one, in reaching the masses out there right now. From what I can see, Andrew realized this song’s potential in that regard; it might not have been the first choice as a single, but “Reality” did end up receiving full video support about five months back in November of 2020, still advance of the record, which was officially released this year. Great tune though – this is one of those songs where you almost wonder how it did manage to escape you if you’re like me & you didn’t know it yet…and to me, in a world FILLED with cover songs, it’s these perhaps less universally known gems that often end up having the best second-chances at getting their due recognition for being the timeless & special tracks they are. Chances are there’s a whole bunch of people reading right now that know this song inside & out – and hey, cool – I’ve never claimed to know everything – I can just tell ya what works, and Farstar’s sparkling performance definitely hits the mark.
Dialing it back for an even more intimate moment in his performance on “We’re All Alone” – a track which…I believe is originally Rita Coolidge, yes? That’s the version I’m personally familiar with in any event…at least I think? Unsurprisingly, Andrew Farstar proves how his innate connection between melody & the microphone is an endless benefit to him & to us as listeners – and you can tell by the selection of songs & why they’d particularly appeal to him speaks volumes on behalf of what’s quite likely a naturally sensitive & empathic personality residing at the heart of this artist. He’s got such a wonderfully expressive voice and knows how to use it so insightfully well, bending his notes & tones with the slightest inflections that’ll evoke a totally different emotion from moment to moment. In tracks like “We’re All Alone” that explore a more complex & weighty set of emotions in that regard, this is where his skillset comes in the most handy – he can shift in between what sounds devastatingly sad, to uplifting, or caring & comforting, all simply by the tiniest transitions in the way he sings. I’ve said it before and I’m sure I’ll say it again plenty, Andrew is a high-caliber professional & continually proves it.
But in my opinion, you’ve got a couple of decidedly different ways you can listen to Memories, and of course, thanks to the ol’ repeat button, you can experience it in a variety of ways. You can listen to it on the surface-level for sure, and fully enjoy yourself, no problemo – Andrew was a born entertainer and he’s always going to give you his absolute best on every song, that’s simply his standard. But you can also go about it like I have been as well, in which case you’ll find all kinds of incredible facts & whatnot that will teach you even more about the music he’s chosen so wisely, and the stories those individual songs have been on to get here today in this new lineup on Farstar’s record. Like – many of you out there are probably fairly familiar with the Frank Sinatra version of “My Funny Valentine,” which I’d imagine is the most commercially successful cover of the song to-date still – and if you don’t know that version, you probably know Ella Fitzgerald doing it in 1956. FUN FACT for you all, however – even the most familiar with the song of the entire bunch of you reading this right now might still be shocked to learn the song’s history stretches even further back than that, all the way to 1937 where it was actually introduced to the world for the first time via child star Mitzi Green in a musical called Babes In Arms. What makes it perhaps even more interesting, is that you’ll find the selection of covers that have occurred over time and how this song is approached in terms of what key it is found in, is pretty much radically ever-changing – and that’s actually really rare to find in any tune out there. Love the smoky lounge sound he’s got goin’ on in his version though…it’s a fantastic combination of melody & mystery that brilliantly embraces the sly spirit of this song’s sultry vibe…tracks like this have undeniable artistic integrity, stunningly poetic words to listen to, and another spellbinding performance by our main hero.
“Never On Sunday” is an interesting tune that’s also got a ton of history to it, and here in the “Latin Dance Mix” that Andrew’s working with, you get that cultural hint that complements the Greek flavor, character, and design of the original songwriting really well. It has that…ohhh whaddya call it…calypso type sound…is that it? No…I don’t think that’s what I’m trying to say. Island vibes – how about that then? Whatever you feel like it sounds like, I’m sure we can all agree that it’s highly inviting, welcoming, and relentlessly sweet. “Never On Sunday” sounds like genuine escape…like if you were to de-board the plane to your next vacation one day, this is the song that should greet you upon landing, setting you instantly at ease to relax & just have yourself a good time. He’s done a beautiful job with his vocals here, and definitely gets to the heart of the soothing vibes that guide the melody, encouraging us to chill out for a bit on the ol’ universal day of rest, and mellow out for a moment…I’d fully admit, this wouldn’t normally be my jam, but I’m actually really enjoying myself with what Farstar’s done with this cover and the vibrant & colorful personality it all has.
You know…I don’t think that I actually knew that it was Carole King that wrote “You’ve Got A Friend” – I think I did assume that was James Taylor all this time, or at the very least, I’ve always been more familiar with his version I suppose. I’m sure that knowledge was tucked somewhere in the back of my mind perhaps…I’m a huge fan of King in just about every way I can think of, she’s a legendary songwriter. I’ve always said that the best of the best can write insightful material that’ll translate to all kinds of different styles, sounds, and genres – and take on separate lives of its own when a song is written just right. I’d argue that “You’ve Got A Friend” is definitely one of those timeless tunes that has the ability to lead multiple lives and will be around for centuries from here. Farstar treats this special cut with genuine respect and sticks pretty close to the script of the Taylor version I’ve grown up with myself – but there’s also no denying that he does an exceptional job on one of this album’s most delicate & tender moments. Usually there’s a bit of risk in dialing back the energy this noticeably in between the transition of songs like “Never On Sunday (Latin Dance Mix)” and the low-key vibes of “You’ve Got A Friend,” but I think the risk here is minimal, if not altogether non-existent, due completely through the charming & sweet vocals of Farstar in one of his true highlight performances when it comes to his own precision & control overall.
Now…just because I told ya upfront that Andrew & I have relatively different taste in tunes these days, doesn’t mean that I didn’t grow up with a massive respect for bands like Air Supply & many of these artists he’s selected to cover throughout this whole record…because I did, and I do still to this day. I might not personally seek out an Air Supply album or spin “I Can Wait Forever” as much as Andrew likely does himself – but it’s actually not an impossibility at all. I love ALL KINDS of music, and I have nothing but respect for the purest of melodies…and no matter who ya are, you gotta acknowledge a band like Air Supply’s contribution to the heartfelt side of history in that regard. “I Can Wait Forever” might not be my favorite of this particular set, but that by no means implies that Andrew has dropped the ball here – he does as great a job as he literally ALWAYS does…you don’t really hear mistakes or missteps from this guy, ever – he’s as professional as they come and refines his music extremely well from the performances to the production. I think if anything, “I Can Wait Forever” has the toughest spot in the entire lineup to make an impact from, coming between the subtle beauty of “You’ve Got A Friend,” and what’s undeniably an outstanding & spellbinding highlight to come right after on “Les Feuilles Mortes.” That being said, there’s a real uplifting thread of light, love, and hope that runs strong throughout the sentiment of this love-song, and you’ll find a beautiful guest-star singing in the mix on “I Can Wait Forever” as well towards its middle, which delivers a really unique moment on this cut you won’t find in any other. I’d be interested in listening to a duet album with Andrew Farstar as one half…that would be enjoyable for sure, given that he found the right partner – which it certainly sounds like he has here.
Taking you back to…the mid-to-late 40s, originally written by Jacques Prévert, I believe…you’ll find Farstar at his breathtaking best on “Les Feuilles Mortes” – which if I’m not mistaken, translates roughly to “Autumn Leaves,” which has even been covered by the legendary Eric Clapton in English as well. If you weren’t somehow already convinced by Andrew’s multiple layers of talent & depth as an artist already however – buckle up, because you’ll find this track alone is worth the full price of admission. The trumpet that starts this song out is stunningly gorgeous, and the string sounds & piano break through right after to reveal an immaculate level of beauty you can’t help but marvel at; combined with the outstanding performance that Farstar puts into every word, sung entirely in French – he’ll literally & audibly dazzle & charm you right outta your seat here. There’s not too much if anything at all I’d ever recommend the guy ever changes about what he does to begin with, but there’s a next-level perfection that comes along with the way he sings “Les Feuilles Mortes” that is as mesmerizing as it is entertaining. Love, love, love the way he’s put this cover together, and any more words I could say would never do this track enough justice…this is definitely one of those moments you have to experience yourself to fully understand just how remarkably powerful & engaging the subtle sound of Andrew Farstar can be.
Giving the additional Electro treatment to “Never On Sunday” was a genius move on his part – and I’d imagine the pepped-up second-version of this cut on Memories is probably gonna be the one that most end up gravitating towards. It’s actually an important cut to this lineup if you ask me – of the entire set, there’s an argument to be made that this final track might be the most relevant for what’s happening out there right now in music by comparison to the rest of the set with its more radiant and danceable vibes. Farstar packs this tune with playful sound between his vocals and the sensationally bright sound surrounding him, and gives “Never On Sunday” an even bigger thread of celebratory spirit to tie this cover song together. It’d ultimately be pretty hard to argue one tune as being better than the others on Memories, or even decide between the quality you’ll find between the two versions of this one song on it – but if we’re arguing on behalf of accessibility, there’s a good chance this final cut has the biggest potential gateway in for the people out there. While I’ll admit, I probably never would have found this song on my own or even been introduced to its original were it not for what Farstar does – I’d readily tell ya that “Never On Sunday” is a really well-written tune that hits all the right notes that strike that balance in between serious songwriting & upbeat entertainment, which you’ll find is translated strongly through many of the covers that are out there on the internet, and certainly including Andrew’s two here. This second-helping of “Never On Sunday” gave this memorable experience a significant boost of energy & sweetness right before the end, with a catchy cover that’ll definitely get ya singing along 100%.
Find out more about Andrew Farstar at his official homepage at: https://www.andrewfarstar.net
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