Rich Anthony – Album Pre-release – Singles Review
We’re well in advance of the release date on this new album from Rich Anthony, which is due to come out sometime next year in 2018…so just keep in mind, anything/everything might change in between now & then – it’s always interesting to see where a project ends up after getting to objectively review it from a distance like this. We’ve got our hands on eight singles from the upcoming record along with one additional remix & bonus cut all within a theoretical track-listing that may/may-not also change – time will tell…let’s dig into this!
On first impressions, beginning with a song called “I Need Someone” – I had to check my teeth for new cavities…I don’t know if an artist or band could start out an album as syrupy-sweet that Rich Anthony is potentially starting his with. While it’s undeniably well-played and pleasant…he’s almost over-the-top in the level of sugar he’s put in to sweeten this tune…like as if there was a separate knob for that on his amplifiers or setting in production. Over the course of the record, it becomes undeniable that the element of sweetness is an arrow shot regularly from his quiver of sentiment; even on tunes that come out sounding more serious in style, sound or lyrics like “If I Had Your Love” or “I Wish I Never Met You” – you just can’t help but hear the joy that emanates from Rich as he performs his tunes. That’s admirable. I’m a firm believer that you SHOULD have passion & enthusiasm for the music you make. As to whether or not the opening rhythm & melody become too sweet & too easygoing for your own personal taste…that’s gonna be entirely up to you…the same reasons why we should all make our own ice-tea. While I think that “I Need Someone” helps to establish who Rich is & what he’s all about as a songwriter – what worries me if that it’s a fairly unique and extra-playful sound on this record…without the least bit of an attempt at being insulting, I think “I Need Someone” would be suitable for all ages in the sense that it could just as likely be a hit with the under-12 crowd as it could be with anyone older. Rich will have to make the decision on whether to keep this as a first cut on his record or perhaps even include it this time around with it being so different from the rest of the songs. Best way I can put it is that the kid in me thinks “I Need Someone” is fun, but the adult in me absolutely lives for moments like you find on the very next track, “If I Had Your Love.”
“If I Had Your Love” finds the control-knob for the sugar and dials Rich back just enough for him to retain his sincerity while still delivering something heartfelt and emotional. To me, it’s undeniable the difference between these first two songs; even though they deal with similar subjects of love, yearning, struggling with emotions as much of this album does in its examination of personal-feelings, I still think the added seriousness in the sound stands a much better chance of having people take notice for all the RIGHT reasons and get Rich’s music & songwriting the credit it deserves. Beautiful guitars and haunting, melodic approach to the vocals in the verse, Rich sings this one with smooth, calm emotions that sound in control and understood well by their owner…and as a result, he’s communicating at a top-notch level through his expressions of the lyrics on “If I Had Your Love.” Proving he’s got exceptional talent when it comes to writing powerful hooks that can rule a chorus, this track has one of my favorite vocal-flows & rhythms when he rolls through the structure of the melody on the chorus of “If I Had Your Love.” Exceptionally written and wonderfully performed – it also includes a breakdown that you can absolutely hear is designed for that perfect moment in a live-show to extend and have everyone clapping along…I think they’ll clap to the beat for this tune for sure & likely stand up to cheer at the end, it’s a great tune.
There are a few times where the soft-side of him might cost him a bit…I think “Will You Hold Me?” is probably one of the best examples of that. Personally I like the R.E.M.-esque sound to its gentle melody overall…I think the music and ideas of “Will You Hold Me?” work as well. I think there are times where as listeners we’ll feel like we want a bit more power in the vocals…almost like Rich makes the choice between the sweetness in his tone in a sacrifice for a bit more strength on the microphone, which I think you can hear on the opening verse of “Will You Hold Me?” a little. Maybe he’s holding back…maybe he’s focused on tone and clarity…I’m just saying I think he’s got a bit more to give there; by comparison to a track like “If I Had Your Love” you can hear the approach is almost more cautionary towards the melody and performance. There are a few spots where Rich is just keeping up with the metering of the melody in the verse where he knows that all he needs is just an extra word or syllable to keep the cadence & flow to the words he’s looking for…I’d say hammer that out before 2018 and find that missing word to make this one flow without trying to drag out a one-syllable word too far beyond its means. That being said, love the guitars, drums, piano and bass combination – the music sounds great and I think the chorus once again turned out exceptionally well for him. It’s a beautiful throwback pop/rock/60’s sound and Rich makes the atmosphere, mood and attitude of the song have real distinct charm & character you’ll easily respond to.
Okay, then like I mentioned before, all of a sudden Mr. Sweetness decides to just go on and get super-mean with “I Wish I Never Met You.” Okay for real – it’s hardly anything close to mean – this is Rich Anthony we’re talking about here! It’s a song about heartbreak and loss…you know, all the terrifying stuff about love that makes some people avoid the subject altogether. It’s like Rich is writing a musical equivalent or anthem to Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind – he’s done a solid job of expressing what a lot of us out there have certainly felt at times. Notably more energetic and ‘rock’ than what we’ve also heard by comparison so far in these singles – I would have thought his tender vocal-style would have had a tougher time fitting in to a song where it leans more towards rock or even risk being swallowed whole by the mix…surprisingly, I felt that assumption was way off – this works. The hooks of “I Wish I Never Met You” are definitely the kind that stick with you…and I love the way this song begins. His melancholy mood chills out but the themes remain heavy in the song to follow, “If Life Were Fair.” Here Rich reminds me of something closer to Ben Folds…I think the writing on “If Life Were Fair” is quite exceptional…it’s an intensely mature, introspective and personal song. Something about it really made me want to root for Rich even more…you can really hear the sincerity & connection between the vocals and words & feel the emotion in the air while “If Life Were Fair” is playing.
Part of me would say that “If I Had Your Love” would make for a great lead-single…but the majority of my thoughts of support for that honor are with “Wait For Ya.” This would be the song that Rich has got the most decisions to make…or at least perhaps…maybe the decision’s not as tough as he thinks, but there are two versions of this song at the moment and eventually, he’ll have to pick one for the record. Here’s what I know – you certainly can’t leave “Wait For Ya” out, there’s no question about it, this is one of the strongest tunes on the record. The major difference between its original version and its remix right now is a more electric-vibe to one over the other and the added clarity in its stunning production. “Wait For Ya” is a truly great tune no matter how you slice it – that pre-chorus is pure audio MAGIC and Rich sounds beautifully stunning as he sings that part…the whole tune he really sparkles and delivers the sweetness with immaculate melody & heart. I think as far as Rich’s vocals are concerned, you get that out of both versions – that comes through clearly and smoothly into the ears no matter which version you choose. All that being said – to me, there’s no contest here at all…not even remotely; the original mix is exactly how this song should sound. The remix might work a bit better for pop-radio…but it also kind of sounds like an attempt at such; as a result, I felt like the remix sapped a bit of the sincerity out of a tune that nailed it perfectly the first time around. That’s kind of how radio-remixes work though isn’t it? The thing is…any time you try to marginalize the intentions of the heart, you’ll feel it; if this is going to be a hit for Rich Anthony, then in my opinion let it be through its original mix – I think that’s the best road to success for this song. It’s honest, it’s humble, it’s sweet – and its more low-key approach through its original form seems to be the one that undeniably connects without effort; as much as I still liked the song…the added clarity in the production/mix on the remix of “Wait For Ya” seemed to take something away from what I really loved about it. And believe me – I love this tune – I’m freakin’ nuts about “Wait For Ya” and I’m looking happily forward to the weeks ahead with this whistling melody lodged safely in my musical-memory’s archives to drawn on and make my day better at any time. My vote is clearly for its original form, but truthfully I’d take it in any form – “Wait For Ya” is a massive highlight on this upcoming record from Rich.
Another one of my favorite tracks from this album is “I’m Happy With You” – although I’d caution Rich on word-choice. He’s got a couple spots on this record with words like ‘grand’ and ‘flight’ (?) which certainly aren’t wrong to use, but tend to sound a bit on the awkward side when you hear them in the imagery & vocal-flow. But I can get past a word or two…that’s no problem at all – Rich sings them well, he’s right on the borderline for that sugar-line again on his approach to the verse – BUT…I think this song still contains itself enough to truly be absorbed and taken seriously even with its bubbly sentiment. The world has plenty of super-depressing songs, we’ve all heard’em; it’s actually really hard to do ‘happy’ WELL for a ton of people out there – but this is clearly an area where Rich excels. Borderline on the sweetness or not, “I’m Happy With You” shifts gears really successfully to get to its eventual happy sound. The opening verse is a sad & sincere one…the song itself is really about finding home within one person I’d suppose…that’s how it sounded to me…I found it incredibly beautiful & the rhythmic approach to the wonderful melody in the chorus of this cut made it easily another winner for me.
The proposed ending of “Sunny Days” would be a great choice…I think he’s got a solid & memorable ending through this song. Another brilliant set of hooks in the vocals of the chorus, complete with another excellent whistling part in the call-and-answer style to the writing. I felt like Rich’s vocals on “Sunny Days” had that extra power and strength I was looking for way back on “Will You Hold Me?” – this is the Rich that we’re looking for when it comes to the microphone, in my opinion. You can hear the confidence and that the added power only adds to his control and tone – it’s absolutely one of his personal highlights for his vocal-performances throughout these tunes and “Sunny Days” really hits the mark overall, it’s a great tune. Love the stomping beat and spread-out atmosphere…”Sunny Days” almost plays like a music-box with a beat at times…there’s a fragile specialness to the uplifting sound of this tune that you can only get in a recording that draws from a real place of sincerity. Loved it.
I promised you that there was a bonus track here to talk about as well – and there is…it’s called “Our Rose Has Died.” Most of the time when I’m arranging files to listen to, I’m pretty confident in where I put them…I’ve got a system that works for me. Rich had me completely questioning that when “Our Rose Has Died” started up – I actually went back to the folder and original source to make sure that this was in fact the same person I was just hearing on the other eight songs we just discussed – it is THAT different from the rest of what I’d just heard. Then I decided to actually head out and take my dog for a walk with my wife to put some space between what I’d heard on the album and this bonus single. My consensus is that Rich has certainly made the right call in keeping this tune apart from the rest of the other record…I like what he’s doing on “Our Rose Has Died,” it’s like an orchestral-rock kind of sound…dramatic, big and much bolder than the isolated & intimate tunes that I’d been checking out only moments before & undeniably different from anything else we heard over the other eight songs. That kind of ability to self-edit and self-restrain is an important one…one that speaks to the level of judgment & critical evaluation that Rich has put into his music; he understands his material, ideas and sound very well…and that’s ultimately what will lead him towards a successful record.
If anything, I’d say potentially toss “I Need Someone” or at least re-examine its potential placement on the record and keep “Our Rose Has Died” as a separate single or save it for an upcoming release as planned; everything between those two poles was great-or-better to listen to and the cohesion between the sound & scope of the ideas exists strongly. I’m interested to see/hear what becomes of this album when it comes out in 2018…Rich’s music is unique in today’s world and his welcoming sound, thoughtful lyricism and sentimental sweetness are bound to pull many in to listen.
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