Sunday, October 01, 2006

We Will Meet Again

So in between cataloguing my predilections for the Dirty Sanchex and saving my house, I've been awful busy. (that, and I've had time to fix/upgrade my computers)

However, this month we will visit a somewhat reclusive guitar stylist named Jon Crosby. At the age of 13, he was heralded as an up-and-coming guitar prodigy by Guitar Player magazine. He formed VAST (Visual Audio Sensory Theatre) three years later, with the title album released on Elektra in 1998. By his 23rd year, in 2000, he had produced his second studio offering - a magnificent creation entitled Music for People. Some speak of the 'sophomore slump' in their music reviews, others of their maturation. Crosby most assuredly is the latter.

Music for People is so named for its accessibility. Although VAST has not (yet) made it as a truly national act - nor does it seek to - the content draws roots from Joe Satriani, Steve Vai, Ozzy Osbourne, and some Brian Transeau as well. Jon Crosby most likely wrote much of the album in contemplation of a painful breakup.

The opening track - The Last One Alive - sets a tone not only for the album, but for much of the music scene to follow. "Sweeping orchestral backdrops" had not yet come into sickening overuse in 2000, and we have VAST to thank for that, in part. This is one of my favorite tracks written by Crosby, however its placement as the album opener does not cause a musical premature ejaculation. (That is, the best track is the first) The music is uplifting - grandiose piano complemented by background strings; haunting, subtle bassline, familiar chord progressions - yet the lyrics are otherwise:

You left me high and dry it changed me
You lied to me now I am angry
And if the sun comes in your room
And awakens you from your vanity
You won't find me 'cause I'll be
On top a mountain pissing on your grave

Crosby takes time setting up the mood, drawing from Black Sabbath for the second track. Here we see his metal influence showing - I double-checked several times to ensure he didn't have a younger Ozzy overlaid on the vocal tracks. Again, he expresses his bitterness like so many young American males. He rocks out, proclaiming like a 16-year old in his new Camaro, that "you can't tell me what to do anymore." After I left my ex following a particularly nasty fight, I blasted this from car outside her window at midnight. Given that none of the neighbors complained or threw things at me, I took it as approval.

The album's intermezzo - Land of Shame - adopts a beat you can waltz to, with rock guitar interspersed, complimented by some of the best trombone I've heard on a rock album. If you like good trombone backups, you'll find Mighty Mighty Bosstones, Phat Phunktion, and Tower of Power high on my list. This is another one to add.

Coldplay, as far as I'm concerned, owes its cut-and-paste philosophy towards music to this entire album, particularly ninth track, Song Without a Name. Hard-charging piano, panoramic orchestrals, a background choir, and vocals that, admittedly, are sometimes hard to take seriously. Crosby occasionally chooses to shout, rather than sing, which does poor justice to his otherwise fine singing voice.

The album finishes with a quiet track, Lady of my Dreams. Appropriately, he tones things down to a lullaby. The scratch of a 33rpm LP slows us down, with classical guitar and violins to wind down after an album that may be interpreted as a marital feud.

I recommend this album particularly because Jon Crosby is a true student of music. He cares not for critical acclaim, national attention or money, hence his relative anonymity amongst the backdrop of the contemporary music scene. He quietly released a new album this year, after a three-year hiatus. After a thorough review of his discography over the summer, and in light of the study necessary for this review, I look forward to it eagerly.


In the interests of supporting the artist directly, I recommend visiting his online store, because going through middlemen means paying The Man, which is always a pain in my ass.

Even more of a pain in the ass than putting a finger in there.

Damn I love making my videos.


Blogger lunchbox said...

Nice disc selection. It is nice to have some ole-fashioned rock.

Plus I'm always a big fan of teen virtuosos gone awry: Shuggie Otis, Jaco Pastorius, John Frusciante, Johnny Lang, Kenny Wayne Sheppard, and Hanson.

Good to have you back in the group.

12:18 PM, October 02, 2006  
Blogger Screech said...

I'm not sure that Kenny Wayne Sheppard can be considered gone awry. I saw him up in U.P. Michigan at some second-rate Indian casino, and he rocked as well as Stevie Ray Vaughan, post coke phase. I was most impressed.

1:22 PM, October 02, 2006  

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