Wednesday, December 19, 2007

The Living Years

Album Review: Declan Galbraith, Ego You

Trying to review albums performed by minors is difficult, especially when it's not their first, and when, as teenagers, their voices are constantly changing. So you can have songs on the same album with a voice that is an octave higher than others, depending on when they've been cut. And then there's the selection of music by those who are trying to manage the child singer's career. What do the fans want to hear? What will sell the most? What is the singer able to do? What songs are cheapest to get as far as royalties...etc... Inevitably, as a breakthrough artist grows up, and the voice changes and the "newness" wears off, money becomes harder to come by, the albums wan in quality.

An example... Billy Gilman. Whose first album was amazing, and following a Christmas album, a sophomore album, and an album project with the late Mattie Stepanek (Heartsongs fame), Billy was unexpectedly cut from Sony when the record companies merged and shed artists in order to cope with the loss of business (supposedly because of online downloading, which is another blog). All those previous albums were amazing in their own ways. Not all songs were listenable, but an easy re-edit, and you have albums with superb songs and an amazing talent which should have become the next superstar. Unfortunately, the people who supervised his career decided on Country ballads to woo young girls and their parents. So the next album, a self-titled one, was a major let down for me. The songs were safe, harmless, and full of instrumental fluffiness, background vocals which covered up his lowering voice (which wasn't as stable as it was earlier), and almost a desperate attempt to find a niche in the country scene, which is obviously not where he needed to go. My advice would be to get a new voice trainer, go to college, and emerge as a writer, maybe singing Christian or pop/rock songs, not country ballads which is only ruining his career in the way that those mindless movies did Elvis' acting career. I couldn't listen to it.

So enter Declan Galbraith, a nine year old with a voice as high and pure as an angel and the critical praise of his first album that gave him a very good record deal. Unfortunately for his fans, he waited a little too long for his second album, and his voice was changing by the time he recorded it. But still, there were wonderful tracks recorded with Declan's powerful voice. It seemed that he had mastered his changing voice and was being given songs that were ideal for his abilities.

Now he releases Ego You, an album full of pop ballads and covers of teenage wooing songs (i.e. the Partridge Family, I Think I Love You) with the same instrumental annoyances and background vocals that overshadow Declan's lowering voice. And I would totally write off the album and wait for him to gain independence and control over his career, except for a couple of things that makes this album worth looking on Itunes for.

There are four decent tracks. The title track, "Ego You" mixes a good rock background with some complex lyrics. "Sister Golden Hair", a cover from the band America, is great. I would almost rather hear him singing Eagles type music, maybe a country-rock blend. Declan does a great job of it. The unreleased track from the single EP is good, too.

What blew me away was track 15. "The Living Years," a cover from Mike and the Mechanics. the song is awesome by itself, the only hit for that group, and someone arrainged this cover for Declan and he hit a home run with it! I'm gonna put this one on my "repeat" album, a cd of songs that each one I can put on repeat and listen to repeatedly for hours.

The lyrics deserve mentioning... you can search for them easily by putting in the title. It deals with the difficulties of a father-son relationship, but I interpret it in a different way. If we broaden the perspective, it is the inability of the older generation to understand the fast moving, more liberal thinking philsophies of the computer generation. And I've seen countless examples of the quickening chasm between the technologies and lifestyles of older people and younger becoming an almost impossible hurdle to overcome. And yet... we are the children who are going to carry America on their shoulders, and so how damaging is it to let beliefs and traditions of a previous generation get in the way of supporting those who would make this world a better place for all to live in? The song speaks volumes for those that hurt within because of those differences, or who feel that those things that need to be said to those loved ones could never be said because of the walls between us (mixed metaphor, but it worked better.) I'll probably go into this later, when I have processed it more.


Okay, so this blog was probably boring, and I didn't say much, but that's okay. I'm resting from the constant retail zoo that is pre-Christmas shopping, and sometimes it's good just to let your mind be mush. I'll think later. Write now, I have to finish putting up the tree and wrapping my presents.

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