Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Recently Released: The Great Escape (Independent - Oct 17, 2014)

Recently Released:
The Great Escape
(Independent - Oct 17, 2014)

Amie Miriello - Vocals
Malte Hagemeister - Guitar
Kristian Nord - Drums

Buy the CD

Art rock? Eclectic pop? Venice, CA trio The Great Escape defy categorization on their eponymous debut release. After honing their sound - anchored by strong vocals from Amie Miriello and a deft musical versatility from Malte Hagemeister (guitar) and Kristian Nord (drums).

Amie's got a voice that can be sweet or strident and she wields with a playful sense of inventiveness. The musicians are equally as tight.

Having first met while songwriting for other artists, the three L.A. transplants quickly realized they had a shared vision: Together, they wanted to create an update to that 60s, 70s sound when rock and pop music was still raw and unpolished.

The album kicks off with an inventive arrangement including a horn section on I'm a Rebel.

I wash my hair with champagne
I don't care - I'm a rebel

The world won't change
If you stay the same

It's typical lyrically of the rest of the album - rock rebellion with a little feel-good philosophy (they are from Cali after all) and romance thrown in here and there.

While they self-produced the release, they enlisted the help of some of the best studio hands in the business. Album guests include old studio hands such as Stanley Behrens on blues harp (Jimmy Smith, Canned Heat, War, Willie Dixon), Kevin Dorsey on vocals (Michael Jackson’s vocal director, Ray Charles, Santana, Aretha Franklin), Zac Rae on B3, piano and keys (Lana Del Rey, Norah Jones, Santana), as well as a shape shifting horns section comprised of Katja Riekermann (Rod Stewart, Al Green) and Marco Palos (Los Lobos, Louis Prima Jr).

There's a range of styles. The Secret Song is a country/pop song and Amie's voice turns sweet and girlish. On I Want It All, she delves into a vintage jazzy feel with keyboards, horns and backup vocals. There's a sense of theatricality about much of it that works well for the most part.

Don't Wake Me Up is a pop song in a slow, swingy folk mood with a rising chord progression - a personal favourite with its harmonies in a minor key. The track plays on her strength - the pure voice. Versatility is great but here she's really at her best - sweet and strong.

That track is contrasted by It's Getting Better, which veers from a little girl whine to a full-bodied tone, but the song actually only comes alive after the lyrics are over and the band rocks out. There's a cute ending where the refrain ends with her laugh - it's a bit too much of an in joke.

The one critique I'd level is that their versatility seems to be an end unto itself. They attempt much and venture into areas just because they can, as in Put It On Ice, clearly "The Funk Song". The notes are there but it's a bit of groove by the numbers rather than real, organic funkified feel.

The lyrics have a personal and often philosophical bent, as in Let's Go, a call to arms of sorts in a bright pop mode.

This will be our battlefield
This is where it's getting real
Together we cannot go wrong

It's not exactly revolutionary poetry, but it's catchy as she sings it. It's in tracks like I Just Can't Help Myself that she sounds entirely at home; a kind of quirky folk/pop mode where her voice is at its best.

It's an interesting listen from start to end and a voice that I'll look forward to hearing more of.

1. All I think about
2. Rebel
3. The secret song
4. I want it all
5. Don’t wake me up
6. It’s getting better
7. Let’s go
8. Put it on ice
9. I just can’t help myself

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