Steve Nick – Steve And Friends

 Steve Nick – Steve And Friends

Steve Nick – Steve And Friends – EP Review

There are some people in this world that I truly have respect for – and people like Steve Nick certainly fall into that category.  Why would that be, you ask?  Let me tell ya…

First of all, if you’re unfamiliar with Steve Nick’s music or my past feelings on what he’s come up with in the past – you can check out our previous reviews on his single “Shadow Of Your Eyes” or have a read through my thoughts on his Unplugged EP…have a read through those and ask yourself a question or two:  Could you have survived that?  Could you have taken that criticism, not let it beat you down, but actually somehow soldier on and continue forward with your head held high?  Would you change it up to satisfy some jerkoff reviewer out there…or would you stay the course despite any recommendations?

I respect Steve Nick…because I’m honestly shocked to have found him here at our site on several occasions now.  He generally knows how I feel about his approach, sound and music…and short of a complete change-up in direction – he’s already presumed what I’ll say about his new EP of cover songs, Steve And Friends.  And he’s STILL here.  He’s courageous, he’s unafraid, he’s able to accept criticism…but most importantly to me…I really don’t think he’s changed all too much.  He hasn’t catered to a damn thing I’ve said – and I LOVE that.  Why?  Cause fuck my opinion!  I mean that sincerely – that’s all it’s ever been…just another opinion out there in a whole sea of voices that all figure they have something important to say while the REAL musicians out there actually MAKE the music we comment on.  I wouldn’t claim anything I’ve ever said is anything more valuable than the advice you’d get from your nasty next-door neighbor…I’m just a music-fan at the end of the day and how we take in music is all based around our own perception of what music should be – but what does ANY reviewer really know?

With his Unplugged EP – Steve took on mammoth-songs that were mountain-sized in ambition.  Songs that the original writers and artists could barely keep up to themselves, let alone taking on the material second-hand and trying to come out just as strongly.  I even went as far as to mention that Steve must have to carry his own freakin NUTS in a wheelbarrow out in front of him just to get around town with the amount of ambition he possesses.

And wouldn’t you know it…nearly 100% as I’ve predicted…I’d have to bet that Steve is still out there wandering the streets and wheeling those nuts around in his barrow proudly still today.  He’s gone after equally gigantic songs on his new EP Steve And Friends…I’m not hearing any massive changes in approach, strategy, execution or performance…so I’d have to assume he’s still driving that barrow nuts-out and ready to take on the world no matter what is said of him or the music.  And I respect that.

Do whatever it is you love on planet earth…and do it while you can.  None of us are here forever – and whatever makes you happy is what’s worth doing.  In my humble opinion – there’s not really a whole lot else that ever would matter.

That being said…Steve man…what are you doing to me here brother?  You certainly know how to challenge a guy, straight-up.  I’ve already talked about not taking on gigantic songs whereby anyone’s cover would only serve as a watered-down version that would lack the strength of its original-form…because that’s exactly what I found had happened on the incredibly ambitious Unplugged EP he’d put out about a half-year back.  So…hmmm…how do I say this exactly…let’s just say I was surprised, shocked and still impressed that he’s completely ignored every word I’ve ever written in pursuit of what he wants to do and the music he wants to make here on his new EP Steve And Friends.  To be truthful – after observing the last set of five songs and the gigantic hits they were in their original releases – I was absolutely POSITIVE that he’d never be able to find five-songs that would be bigger than that ambitious effort.  I was so very, very, very wrong.  Somehow…what Steve seemed to take out of anything I might have said if anything at all…was to somehow find a way to go BIGGER…which, for the record, was not what I had implied or meant whatsoever.  I recommended stripping it back to slightly lesser-known hits if not doing his own originals…to give himself a shot at being able to bring up the level of a song rather than find the never-ending scoffs of disapproval from people comparing these tunes to their originals.

Yet here we are now…with Steve And Friends…and he’s decided to go after the larger than life tunes of our present day & age once again.  Insanity?  Bravery?  You decide.  Best of luck my friend – here we go!

You might not assume that I’m well-versed in the music of Robbie Williams…and you’d be dead-wrong.  My wife had him right up there when we first met…I’d say he’d have been about #1 or #2 on her list of favorites back then…so believe me – I’ve done my time and completed my sentence with the music of Williams.  But like any former convict – sometimes the past can come back to haunt you…and here it is.  As Steve Nick starts his record with Robbie’s massive hit “Angels” – I’m already thinking he’s going to find himself in trouble once again on this new EP.  I can safely say of the five covers – it’s probably one of the ones that turned out the closest to what I’d think people might grab onto…but other than that – again, he’s set himself up here to take some major beatdowns by comparison.  I’m not taking the bait.  I feel like I could unleash a barrage of ‘I told you sos’ – but I also feel like ‘why’ when I know that Steve isn’t listening to my advice so much as just seeking that next nod of approval on any of these new songs.  That’s when he’ll listen…but I’m not sure that by that time it won’t already be way, way too late.  “Angels” – as much as I’d hate to admit it to my Robbie-loving wife…really does require that smoothness of the signature Williams’ style…and to gruff it up here with the rasp of Nick is taking a major risk with anyone that’s familiar with the original.  Nuff said.

Where that gruff rasp SHOULD work in favor…is on the cover of The Cranberries massive-hit, “Zombie.”  Of all my personal internal-frustrations with this EP – I think this cover makes me see the most red.  That might be from the squeezing of the lifeblood out of one of The Cranberries most powerful songs…or the crushing of cranberries themselves…but it’s a full-on red that I’m seeing through my ears here on “Zombie.”  There are a few moments in time in music that I wish I could perhaps take back and go back to the moments just before the experience…and this might fall into that category.  I rarely, if ever, use the word ‘hate’ – because I rarely, if ever, feel that strongly towards something I dislike.  This…this is as close to the edge as I can personally go without tipping over.  I’m not coming at this track from the perspective of a guy that has The Cranberries on repeat and has since 1994 – that’s not the case either; the facts speak for themselves on “Zombie” – Steve has missed the mark as wide of the posts as you can go here, in my opinion.  You can hear him audibly struggle to find his bearings in the chorus…and the verse itself is all kinds of flat where the dynamics should pop-out with massive amounts of strength, vigor and straight-up animosity.  I listen to a cover like this…and I realize that the most important thing you can consider when taking on a song from someone else…more than ANYTHING else…is can you PROVE through the words you’re singing that you’ve made the actual connection to the meaning behind them?  And if you can’t come back answering that with a definitive YES…then my advice would be to run, not walk but RUN, in the opposite direction.  I do not feel that Steve has even remotely connected to the true vibe, meaning or intentions of the original version of “Zombie” and as a result, this second tune sounds about as disjointed and hollow of an imitation as you could get.  Seems harsh right?  Listen to it and judge for yourselves – you’ll discover I’ve been as tactful as an artist could ever hope to find in this scenario – promise ya.

Where things begin to slightly change in favor of our protagonist…is in his cover of “Heaven” by Bryan Adams.  I’m not going to claim anything wild like Steve’s got this one right in the pocket or that this cover is spot-on…but I’ll certainly say it’s about as close to a genuine connection to the original as I’ve heard from Steve on this new EP.  His rasp is a lot more suited to this song, whereby in its original, of course the Adams’ signature rasp exists as well…so that part makes sense.  Nick has also added some clever updates on this cover though – I like the added violin sounds quite a bit and I do like that you can hear he’s audibly giving it absolutely everything he’s got.  So…there’s that.  Whether or not you’ll find it hits the mark for you is going to be largely still a tough task of convincing your ears that this all fits as it should be, but I’d safely say it’s a lot closer than any of the rest by a fair margin.

He continues on this slight-roll with a cover of Saybia’s “The Second You Sleep” – which is by far and away the song I was least familiar with in its original form.  And if for a second here…if I can just take a quick time out again here in the review and attempt to breakthrough to Steve with my words, however futile that effort has proven to be…allow me to try again here and say to him directly:  Steve – you can hear how this cover works much more in your favor right?  The main reason being, it’s NOT a massive-hit.  It’s a big song and it’s certainly well-known and recognizable to many – but it’s not Bryan Adams, it’s not Robbie Williams, it’s not The Cranberries and thank the freakin’ lord it is NOT John Lennon – it’s Saybia, who some will know and others will not.  The added freedom of acceptance that comes along with hearing something you’re not instantly comparing it to can be an incredible thing.  It’s my gut feeling that for many, this cover of “The Second You Sleep” will be the song that people most remember or gravitate towards on Steve And Friends…simply because they’ll more than likely be able to identify it as Steve’s song just as much as they might recognize it to be from Saybia.  This is the level of hit-song that I’ve been attempting to express to Steve to go after; recognizable…but not so much that we know every single word and constantly compare it to the original.  Every other song he’s chosen on this EP leaves you without that option – you won’t even get that chance or that choice to make with the songs he’s chosen being as huge as they are.

Case in-point, “Imagine/Give Peace A Chance” by John Lennon (see previously mentioned wheelbarrow-balls in the opening paragraphs).  On the bright-side of life – I’m a firm believer that NO ONE can destroy this song worse than Maynard James Keenan and his crew of pretenders in A Perfect Circle – so there’s absolutely nothing to worry about here in my opinion…it couldn’t possibly be any worse than that mockery of a recorded-cover in what I’d consider to be one of the all-time worst decisions a band has collectively EVER made.  So no worries there Steve – you’re already head & shoulders above what I think of their version which I feel is about as lovable as trying to re-swallow my own vomit.

That being said…no…still not really a fan of this one either unfortunately.  Again, I like the added violin sounds into the music, I like the guitars well-enough…Steve maybe takes that tempo up just a notch or two past where I’d like it to be to communicate the sincerity of the melody, but not too far from where it should sit.  I was, to say the least, shocked to see that he took this song on…but I shouldn’t have been really.  Not only has he consistently proven to go against whatever grain is before him – but countless scores of people have played, covered and beaten this song to death already before he stepped into the studio-booth to record this…all because we all identify, know and love this song so dearly.  Again…not the worst version of the song I’ve heard, not even by a longshot…he’s done alright here on his cover of Lennon’s “Imagine/Give Peace A Chance” – but again, I keep coming back to song-choice and wondering why I’m hearing so many more covers than originals coming from Steve Nick.

My theory…is that he’s still searching for his voice.  You can hear that the love for music is certainly there…the will & the want to be a musician is a part of his very genetic makeup – and I can appreciate that.  I can’t help but believe however, that had Steve spent more time writing his own material that he’d have stumbled upon the directions that work best for him by now…whereas these cover EPs tend to still have him audibly wandering the streets of the history of music searching for a place to hang his hat.  By not attempting to conform to other people’s rhythms, writing and songs – he’ll find his own voice through his originals…and that will in-turn REALLY point him towards cover-tunes that will easily adapt to his strengths.  Until that point…he’s kind of using the same theory, only in reverse…and I just don’t know that it’s working or that he’s doing his music or career any favors by pursuing this direction.

It could just be me – let’s never forget that.  Again…I’m just a guy with an opinion and Steve alone here has proven that more often than not, those words just go sailing into the wind without really being absorbed whatsoever.  I stand by what I’ve said, as I always do…but the last thing I’d want you to infer from my writing would be that Steve is devoid of talent, because that’s not the case.  He’s audibly struggling and battling to find his place in music – and at one point or another, we all go through that in pursuit of what becomes ‘our’ sound.  With the incredibly strong work-ethic he has, his constant recordings and his ability to reach out into several genres and styles to find out what may/may-not work for him…well…all that experimentation will eventually find him a home where he sounds completely comfortable.  Right now…it’s all still searching for that comfort…which kind of results in an uncomfortable listening experience for us in return…but the efforts are all made with a sincerity you won’t find in many other artists out there.  Steve Nick truly loves music like no one else you know, and he’ll continue to be a part of it for years and years to come I’m sure.

And eventually…whether it’s through sheer chance or having tried every style under the sun…eventually he’ll find that place of comfort and we’ll really hear Steve Nick at his best; a place that’s genuine where the words are his own or at the very least resonate strongly within him to the point where he’ll have you believing he wrote each song he plays.  Still got a way to go before we get there I think…but I admire the determination, the effort and the conscious choices he’s clearly made to stay the course.  He doesn’t need me or anyone else out there to tell him he’s good or that he’s on the right path; as far as I’m concerned, he’s a champion for continuing to pursue what he loves – and if he’s happy with it, that’s all that would ever matter to me.

You can have a listen to anything you wanna from Steve Nick right here at his page at Spotify:

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