I interviewed A/J on his (now released) album recently, and was genuinely astonished at the depth to which he has taken the concept of the concept album. Now, for most of us, concept album means 30-minute songs, extreme virtuosity and a poorly developed sense of restraint. Such is not the case with A/J. This is genuinely high concept to begin with. For a better idea of the thinking behind this album, read the interview. But in a nutshell it’s like this. Ordinarily, people associate colors with certain moods. Fine. But A/J goes one step further and connects the key of the piece to mood.
Since so much is dependent on individual tracks here, I will break from form and deal with the notable tracks one by one.
Green- the first track, as it says on the chart, is to establish balance. The first thing I can say is that, his approach is to establish personality. Melodically, he’s not always ‘on’. For others, that might mean he’s not fitting into the blues-rock straitjacket guitar players love so much. Praise whoever’s up there for that. However, I run into a problem that- unbeknownst to me- I would continue to run into throughout the album. The song lacks a melodic theme. By that I don’t mean the color green. I meant like a leading and a trailing melody, call it a hook if you will. I actually find the chord progression the hookiest.
Orange- starts of really well, but highlights some of the issues. It lacks a melodic theme I can really latch on to. However, what it misses out in all that it makes up for in intent. The ‘fun’ part of orange is communicated great. Success.
Pink- this one just fucking works. It’s my favourite track on the album. Pink represents femininity, and well, the romantic and sexy aspect of femininity is – I can attest- well represented.
Blue- this is another winner. Mercifully, it’s not the blues, ‘cause that’d just be lazy, but it’s A/J’s own interpretation of the color. The soothing aspect of blue in B Minor is, very well done. It’s the musical equivalent of getting a massage. No. Not that kind.
Grey- this is the ‘blues’ track on the album. It is genuinely sad, and basically nails it. There is chord change or something around the two minute mark, which reeks of genuine despair.
Black and White: the ‘black’ part is accurate, with the swirling organ chords invoking a suitably brooding intense atmosphere. Here, I have another bone to pick with the music. The bass is quite unfocussed, and doesn’t provide the bedrock that’s needed. This becomes particularly onerous in such cases, where a certain brooding intensity is needed. That said, there is a brilliant segue in there somewhere. A/J is good at transitions between sections, and he should employ them more.
Red – what characteristics would you put upon red? Passion? Fire? Yup, A/J agrees with you. Quite appropriately, this is the ‘rockiest’ track here, with a simple solid rhythm, and even half time drums! Looks like some Satriani chanelling is going on here.
So, on the final totting up, here is what I have to say. The lack of melodic themes/hooks/leading melodies tends to make the tracks –and the listener’s attention- wander. The bass playing is unfocussed and needs more balls. Finally, some inexperience in production shows up, but that can be understood in terms of adding character. That said, for a genuine concept album (not just a lame-ass fairy tale), this is a great achievement from an artist who is only at his sophomore effort. Besides, the approach to music and colors, and such a close intellectual tie between them has, I think, not been explored this rigourously before.That alone is commendable, besides the fact that he comes pretty damn close to hitting the emotional mark on a number of occasions. This sounds right.
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– El Bajista