Andy Jackson – 73 Days at Sea (2016)

AndyJackson_73Days3 out of 5 Stars!

Being mostly unfamiliar with guitarist/composer Andy Jackson, either through his previous solo album (2014’s Signal to Noise) or his work with his band The Eden House, I wasn’t sure what to expect before sliding this CD into the computer. But then, after learning that Andy had engineered for Pink Floyd in the past, I finally had a clue as to what this CD might include. The music, I figured, would probably be of a similar nature to Pink Floyd, and to no great surprise, my presumption proved accurate.

Therefore, the collection of songs included on this album—indeed, the entire atmosphere, from beginning to end—is pure Pink Floyd, only with perhaps a more updated production quality. In fact, to my ears, this album is flawlessly produced, with the instruments blending together in a harmonious marriage of sound, with no instrument being too domineering or boisterous, but perfectly in sync with its partners. Both acoustic and electric guitars, synths and Mellotrons, bass and drums appear, providing a full and rich soundscape, quite spacey as expected, with the vocal lines drifting lazily across the top.

The ten individual tracks are a combination of both instrumentals and vocal pieces, with several lengthy numbers included. But in truth, the shorter tracks that dominate the first half of the album seamlessly meld into each other, actually creating one dreamy “experience.” Moreover, Prog-Rock lovers shouldn’t expect anything too jarring here. Like the music of Pink Floyd, there is nothing mind-blowing when it comes to soloing instruments, and no abrupt time changes popping up at unexpected moments. Additionally, there are no shocks when it comes to the vocal melodies either (apart from one enjoyable section in the middle of the seventeen-plus-minute “Drownings,” where a female vocalist provides some welcome differentiation). This, therefore, leads me to one of the problems I had with the album overall…

Certainly all the tracks offered here are pleasant enough, with the musicianship and (as previously mentioned) the production being outstanding. Yet many of the tracks (when it comes to either the general arrangements/orchestrations or even the atmosphere) are way too similar for my tastes. In fact, apart from that brief section in “Drownings” featuring the female vocals, nothing much stands out, or is altogether memorable. After listening to the album on approximately half a dozen occasions over the course of two days, I’m still hard-pressed to pinpoint any other instance that inspired me to pay closer attention, any other instance that provided me with another one of those “Ah-huh, I remember that!” moments. Instead, I’m left with only a general impression of a “mellow, spacey, rather enjoyable” listen when it comes to the album as a whole, but that’s it. And this, I’ve come to determine, is due to one particular element…the lead vocals.

In general, I found the vocal passages to be quite bland. In fact, the vocals are delivered in a low and extremely limited range, lacking any true diversity regarding melodies, and sometimes sound more than a tad “iffy” when it comes to accuracy. I’m also not a huge fan of the “talk-singing” style used throughout, which is why the appearance of the female vocalist popping up in that single song made the only lasting impression on me. I can’t help but feel that were Mr. Jackson to hire a singer with a wider range, a more emotional style of delivery and a flair for “the dramatics,” the music would benefit greatly. Unfortunately, when the lead vocals are “off,” it’s usually that single musical flaw that will ultimately make or break any album, regardless of the other performances contained throughout. And I’m sorry to say, this album does indeed suffer from this particular aspect, and for that, I couldn’t bring myself to rate it higher.

So to summarize, for Prog-Rock fans who are excited by music related in any fashion to Pink Floyd, there is certainly much here for you to savor. The problems I had with this album—the lack of variety when it comes to the “feel” of the tracks, or the uninspiring vocal performances—may not mean much to you, and I wholeheartedly respect that. Therefore, if you’re seeking a journey into some tranquil territory, a chance to drift on a sea of lush chord patterns, breezy rhythms, and soothing sound effects, then this just might be the album for you. It’s certainly worth a spin.

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