CD Review of My First Posthumous Release by Al Rose
Recommended if you like
George Harrison, Bob Dylan,
Jerry Garcia
Label
Monkey Holding Peach Records
Al Rose:
My First Posthumous Release

Reviewed by Jason Thompson

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T
he first thing you’ll notice when listening to Al Rose is that his vocals sound like a strong cross between George Harrison and Jerry Garcia. He’s got Harrison’s nasally whine and Garcia’s psychedelic lilt, and together they make for a little bit of an unsettling experience. Not that anything Rose sings about here is off the chart, mind you, it’s just that it’s weird how (perhaps) unintentionally accurately he’s channeling the dead. Just listen to “Down the Mississippi,” with its Nashville Skyline-era Bob Dylan sound giving way to that distinctive voice – only that voice somehow belongs to two other deceased dudes. Perhaps this album’s title is more accurate than we might think.

All weirdness aside, Rose is a solid folkie with a bit of a country bent. He can also do some bizarre pop stuff, such as on the title track, which has a full string section that swoops in to make a rather dramatic and effective statement, thoroughly propelling him outside of the typical folk scene into some sort of neo-psychedelic freak vibe that eventually manages to approach Jeff Lynne territory. That probably shouldn’t be surprising, given the Lynne-related comparisons already made here so far; at least the damned production doesn’t sound like Jeff Lynne, though. Always a good thing.

“I’m Gonna Miss Me When I’m Gone” has a nifty New Orleans-style brass intro that unfortunately breaks down into something much more twee. It’s just a little too delicate for its own good. “All the Trains are Gone” veers between jam band guitar licks dotting the verses and then choruses that swing away at that Dylan influence once again, only this time falling somewhere either on the Self Portrait or Slow Train Coming side of the fence. Maybe it’s both. Then there’s “The Miracle of Pain,” which is about as enticing as its title, showcasing Rose as a tender acoustic balladeer with an echo-laden piano spilling notes somberly all over the mix in the background.

Rose’s voice is its most annoying on “Luck and Circumstance Blues,” in which he adds a strong vibrato to his vocals and causes the whole thing to sound like he’s sitting on an off-balance washing machine. You know how that goes; it’s never pretty. “Infectious Smile” is Al’s best Dylan impression vocally. Well, you knew it was going to happen at some point, since the guy was doing it musically up to now. However, Dylan wouldn’t ever sing a tune like this, even though he has had his own share of blunders through the decades. It just wouldn’t be his thing. Yet Rose goes at it with great gusto and verve, just like all the other tunes he manages to wrap his voice around and squeeze the love out of.

The rest of the album is based on the same blueprint. Channel the elders (“Guilty Pleasure,” “Mud on Mud”) and do the country thing whenever in doubt (“Soft Core Hope”). It would all be so much easier to digest if it wasn’t for Rose’s voice -- it seems so much like three other guys’ that it’s hard to get around. Yet this is the instrument Rose was born with, so perhaps too much credit shouldn’t be taken away. After all, he’s doing a crisp and clean bit of musical pondering here, and it’s far from bad. It’s just weird. Somehow it seems that this is the point, and Al Rose is having a good laugh back at home.

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