CD Review of Ready to Play by Nils

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Buy your copy from Nils:
Ready to Play
starstarstarhalf starno star Label: Baja/TSR Records
Released: 2007
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Suspicion. It’s a dirty thing. It creeps into your mind and taints your taste. It makes you say “no” when you could be saying “yes.” It’s also valid when it comes to playing the rate-a-record game we like to call professional music reviewing. Anyone can make a CD these days. If you get into the music reviewing gig, you’ll find this out really fast. Everyone wants their disc reviewed. Especially those artists who, shall we say, look a little suspect at first glance. You review music long enough, and you can spot a suspect CD before you even take it out of the mailer in which it was sent.

This smooth jazz cat Nils has a suspicious looking CD. It looks like one of those things that was designed on anyone’s computer but then professionally printed up, rather than being cranked out on the local inkjet printer. The font used on the back of the CD for the track listing sets off all sorts of alarms that this is indeed a home-baked job. Ditto the amateur-looking Photoshop style of the layout of the photos in the CD’s booklet. But again, this thing was printed up professionally, so Nils has some contacts somewhere.

Nils’ website boasts that the title track of this CD “became instantly the most-added song the week of its release.” What does that mean? The most added song to his friends’ iPods? It’s okay to be suspicious. Remember that. Especially when the guy’s reviews on his site are the usual batch of faceless five-star ratings from Amazon users and a couple snippets from unspecified sources, aside from the author’s name. The internal alarms are all going off now. Is this guy for real, or just shoddily self-promoted? He apparently has done session work with George Benson and the Temptations, as well as worked on some music for the Showtime series “Weeds,” but then, a whole lot of other people have done those things as well, and you never heard of them, either.

And the cover photo is just super cheeseball.

Still, the CD gets put into the player during an outing for groceries. The next thing you know, your foot is tapping and you’re finding yourself grooving to Nils and his smoove jazz guitar style. The production lacks something. It sounds really sterile and there’s a lot of fake instrument sounding stuff going on in the mix, but overall Nils can really bust out a good lick from his gitbox. Still, the suspicion remains; this is the kind of stuff you might normally rally against, as it is teetering dangerously close to faceless fake jazz territory. The kind of music that people who aren’t really into jazz think is real jazz and appreciate while sipping their Folger’s crystals and trying not to let their lives get too exciting.

But Nils can perform and deliver. For some reason it’s hard to turn this shit off. Is it just the cold weather? No, man. Tracks like “Catnap” and “Sunrise on Sunset” have some kind of evil mind control subliminally recorded into the mix. Sure, maybe the overall disc is a little too laid back and on the verge of becoming dentist office music, but there’s a perverse appeal. Still, it’s not the kind of thing you’re going to be boasting about to your buddies about owning. You might keep it tucked safely away in that “sock drawer” along with your skin mags and adult movies. Nils is that sort of guilty pleasure, making you feel all dirty for liking it. Thankfully you know when to hit the stop button.

Thanks, Nils. Back into the drawer you go.

~Jason Thompson